2010: The Best and the Worst

Last year, around this time, I initiated what I called the Antiwar.com Awards – a year end tribute to the best, and the worst, people and institutions that impact our lives and the life of our nation and the world. And what good is a tradition unless one endeavors to keep it going? So here’s the 2010 edition, for your delectation:

Man of the Year – This is really Men of the Year, because it’s a joint award: Pfc. and political prisoner Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks and Public Enemy Number One of the Powers That Be. Much has been said and written about the pros and cons of Assange’s project to inject a little transparency into the opaque mysteries of how and why US foreign policy is formulated and carried out the way it is, and I won’t repeat much of that here.

Suffice to say that I fully subscribe to Assange’s theory of the state [.pdf] as a criminal conspiracy, and thoroughly approve of his strategy to bring the current gang to heel. What’s interesting, however, is how polarizing his persona has become, and how quickly it has been detached from his considerable accomplishments. The propaganda campaign against him – directed, no doubt [.pdf], from here – has been quite successful, and quite a show, bearing all the hallmarks of a distinctively American operation (it’s all about sex). And, again typically, it involves the eager “mainstream” media to a great extent – thank you Kevin Poulsen, John F. Burns, and all the Little People who made this award possible. By targeting Assange you have underscored his value to the world’s peoples, and reminded us what shills you are.

Speaking of the media-government complex, no one has done more to expose its workings and the damage it does to our national discourse than Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for Salon.com. With his clear, concise, just-the-facts-please style of speaking and writing, Greenwald has proved to be more than a match for the various “mainstream” media shills deployed by the Hate Assange campaign: in television segment after radio interview, and in written exchanges with the chief perpetrators of the media-driven smear campaign against WikiLeaks. He has bested the best and flattened the worst.

No one can go through such an experience without having his outlook profoundly affected, and, although I have no personal knowledge of any incipient transformation of his ostensibly left-of-center politics, if anyone is a candidate for conversion to the libertarian cause, it is Glenn: in any case, he more than any other non-libertarian media figure with a sizable audience, has done the most to educate the public about the dangers of the current assault on our civil liberties – and the key role played in this tragedy by our compliant and criminally complacent “news” media. Glenn gets the Good Guy of the Year Award (non-libertarian category), and it is much-deserved.

In stark contrast to Greenwald, we have an ostensibly “libertarian” writer for a supposedly “libertarian” publication who has done more to undermine the cause of liberty (and discredit the organized libertarian movement) than any other single person – although I have to admit it was a very close contest. In “honor” of his consistent shilling for the State and his readiness to smear anyone who opposes the depredations of US foreign policy with the epithet of “anti-Americanism,” Michael Moynihan, senior editor at Reason magazine, gets the Government Shill of the Year Award – to be known, henceforth, as the “Shilly” – especially for his efforts to smear Julian Assange and set him up for legal prosecution.

Moynihan’s essay averring that Assange is not a “real” journalist, and WikiLeaks is not a journalistic enterprise that ought to enjoy First Amendment protection, is especially noteworthy in this regard: Of course, there have been others – plenty of them – who have labored mightily to curry favor with the feds by anticipating and creatively prefiguring Assange’s coming indictment, but Moynihan deserves special “credit” on account of the mental gymnastics required to target Assange in the pages of an allegedly “libertarian” periodical. Bravo!

Of course, Kevin Poulsen, a reporter for Wired – another magazine with an ostensible, albeit vague and “non-ideological” connection to libertarianism – deserves to share this award with Moynihan. As a reliable megaphone for every bit of derogatory “spin” put out by the Hate WikiLeaks, Hate Assange crowd, Poulsen’s refusal to release the transcripts of the Bradley Manning-Adrian Lamo dialogue that got Bradley busted is just the most glaringly sleazy aspect of the apparent marriage of American “journalism” and the National Security State. Poulsen’s very close relationship with Lamo – the government snitch whose testimony is key to the case against Assange – is perhaps only partially explained by their status as felons convicted on similar charges. Criminals tend to hang out together, and these two have been holding hands for years, but this peculiar symbiosis of a “reporter” and his source is given an extra frisson by Lamo’s role as a government informant. Just as Moynihan’s Reason opinion pieces make the intellectual case against Assange as a “legitimate” journalist, so Poulsen’s “reporting” in Wired makes the legal case against the WikiLeaks founder as Manning’s “co-conspirator” in the “theft” of government secrets.

To the Poulsen-Moynihan tag team goes the Judy Miller Journalist-as-Servitor-of-Power Award. Never has an “honor” been so richly deserved.

As long as we’re targeting “journalists,” let no list of journalistic crimes be written without at least mentioning Andrew Sullivan, whose special talents deserve recognition. And by talents I don’t mean his pedestrian writing style, or his incontestable knack for self-promotion, but rather his uncanny ability to channel the conventional Washington “wisdom,” whatever regime may be in power.

When Bush and the neocons were in the White House, Sullivan took up the role as the administration’s aggressive and even vehement defender, the Boadicea of the War Party whose jeremiads against the “fifth column” on both coasts first put him in the blogospheric spotlight. As the chief intellectual enforcer of the neocons’ domestic “war on terrorism,” he excoriated poets (like this obscure guy) and intellectuals like Susan Sontag and Noam Chomsky, who questioned the war hysteria that followed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks – the “fifth column,” in his words.

As Bush and his policies became more unpopular, Sullivan began to turn on his former heroes, and his anguished confession of guilt and complicity came at about the time when the American public had quite clearly had enough of the neocons and their wars. It was such a smoothly executed turnabout, of such professional quality, that it was nearly seamless in its credibility. The torture issue, says Sullivan, was the turning point for him, and if one forgets his earlier call for the nuking of Iraq – on the grounds that Saddam was responsible for the anthrax attacks – this narrative might almost pass muster. Yet what is the torture of a few Guantanamo detainees against the incineration of millions of Iraqis, openly advocated by Sullivan?

Today, Sullivan has swung completely around in the other partisan direction, and spends his blogging hours doggedly defending every move and mishap of the current administration. Every blip on his radar screen, every twist and turn in the Washington Game is evidence of the Dear Leader’s superior wisdom, every presidential burp is a the Breath of Heaven, and the Republicans and “Christianists” are the new “fifth column” undermining the moral and social fabric of the United States of Obama. No one deserves the “honor” of being awarded the Andrew Sullivan Prize for Obsequious Blogging more than Sullivan himself, and so he gets it for the second year in a row.

Sullivan really has pioneered a whole new literary genre, the specialty sub-genre of court-blogging. The court blogger, like the court historian and the court jester, is the servant of the king, and his job is to glorify the ruler as the jester’s is to provoke royal laughter. Court-blogging is a thriving business, as the success of the Talking Points Memo site, dailykos.com, and Media Matters attests: but none of these command Sullivan’s audience or his talent as an apologist and attorney for Power. Indeed, perhaps court-blogging will lead to a new government position, the latest addition to the burgeoning federal bureaucracy: the Office of Court Blogger, headed up by the Blogger to the Royal Court.

Speaking of the King and his Court, the Interventionist of the Year award can only go to Barack Obama, who has managed to keep the United States involved in more major simultaneous military conflicts than any President in US history – and is actively seeking to break his own record. In spite of our much-vaunted “withdrawal,” we’re still in Iraq, and it doesn’t look like we’re leaving any time soon – which is why Prime Minister Maliki has lately reminded us of our self-imposed “deadline.” We’re hip-deep in Afghanistan, and will soon be in over our heads – but that hasn’t stopped this administration from wading into Pakistan proper, not to mention Yemen and Somalia, where we’re knee deep in vicious internecine conflicts that have little to do with a serious “terrorist” threat to America. Here is an ideological chameleon who managed to shut down the antiwar movement by adopting their colors and lulling much of the “progressive” antiwar left to sleep. And what he didn’t shut down by persuasion he’s intent on shutting down by means of legal persecution, as the arrests of antiwar activists in Minneapolis, Chicago, and North Carolina, and the grand jury investigation into their activities, makes all too clear. Remember, it was a “progressive” president named Woodrow Wilson who ruthlessly crushed dissent during the Great War, and it was the Wilson administration that originated the same Espionage Act Eric Holder’s Justice Department will use to prosecute Julian Assange, if they ever get their hands on him.

God willing, they will not, but I’m pessimistic. The US government cannot afford to let Assange stay free: his successful defiance is proof of their weakness, which – if WikiLeaks isn’t stopped – will prove fatal to their regime of secrecy and plunder. 2011 is the year this issue – the issue of a free media, and whether real dissent is going to be allowed – is going to be resolved, one way or the other.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].