The Ecuadorian embassy in London cut off Julian Assange’s internet access in October of 2016, but the WikiLeaks Twitter account kept posting about leak drops uninterrupted. The embassy’s action made headlines all across mainstream media. It is common knowledge for anyone who was paying attention to WikiLeaks during that time. The Intercept‘s editors are unquestionably aware of this.
They are aware of this, and yet they allowed an article to be published about allegedly leaked Direct Messages on Twitter which continuously, pervasively and fundamentally assumes that the WikiLeaks account is controlled by Assange and Assange only.
The account is referred to as “Assange” throughout the entire article.
“Throughout this article,” the latest establishment effort at undermining public opinion of WikiLeaks states, “The Intercept assumes that the WikiLeaks account is controlled by Julian Assange himself, as is widely understood, and that he is the author of the messages, referring to himself in the third person majestic plural, as he often does.”
There is no basis whatsoever for The Intercept to assume this. In addition to the obvious implications of the WikiLeaks account continuing to tweet despite Assange’s lack of internet, WikiLeaks has made repeated public statements that it is a shared staff Twitter account. There is absolutely no excuse for such a spectacular journalistic failure to be interwoven without apology throughout an entire article of a widely esteemed publication. Even if The Intercept does end up retracting this grotesque embarrassment and extensively editing the article to reflect fact instead of fiction, there will be no reason to believe that this was due to anything other than public outcry, and the damage is already irreparable.
This matters because the article shows some DMs made by the WikiLeaks account which in the limited context provided are, quite frankly, kind of gross. There’s nothing damning in them about the way WikiLeaks operates, nor anything confirming Russia ties, nor indeed anything whatsoever that should give anyone pause when trusting in the nature of the documents that WikiLeaks publishes, but there are some remarks which, if you can attribute them to the head of the organization, necessarily make that organization look sleazy. There are joking remarks about women and trans people that are cringey, and there’s an antisemitic comment in there that in my opinion is particularly yuck.
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But The Intercept couldn’t allow its readership to view these remarks as potentially belonging to one of WikiLeaks’ staff members, the personal shortcomings of a talented and indispensable asset to the team whose bigotry can be made harmless to WikiLeaks’ greater mission by the guidance of its leadership. They knowingly and deliberately pinned attribution onto the face of the organization, knowing that Assange couldn’t directly deny it without giving away more information about the account, and they did that with the intention of harming WikiLeaks’ public reputation.
WikiLeaks operates by bringing truth to the people. That is its entire mission. The unelected transnational Orwellian empire which stands the most to lose from their releases understands that the less people like and trust WikiLeaks, the less damage they can do to the ecocidal, omnicidal oligarchy that is driving our species toward extinction. By attempting to paint Assange as an evil Nazi, they are minimizing the impact the next leak drop will have on the public, thereby neutering WikiLeaks by that much.
WikiLeaks poses no threat to the public. The only people who stand to suffer any harm from WikiLeaks are the powerful and corrupt, which The Intercept‘s Pierre Omidyar most certainly is. Omidyar voiced ridiculous criticisms of WikiLeaks after The Atlantic ran an article featuring deceitfully edited quotes from leaked DMs between Donald Trump Jr and the WikiLeaks account, including the claim that WikiLeaks could “lose” its First Amendment protection (not a thing). Never trust a billionaire.
Beyond this deliberately misleading attribution, independent journalist Suzie Dawson has also documented how the article reversed timelines, downplayed and omitted conflicts of interest in its “disclosure”, including the extent of the author Micah Lee’s deeply personal beef with Assange, and other key distortions. Much like The Atlantic‘s November article, this was a blatant smear piece disguised as a promotion of transparency.
As noted by Intercept co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald, people are already ripping the published DMs out of context and reporting on them falsely, which Greenwald seems to depict as an irresponsible and unfortunate response to the publication. But come on now. Anyone who knows anything about America’s current political climate, as Greenwald surely does, could have predicted that people would be doing this. It was not only known that partisan hacks and empire loyalists would be running around making ridiculous claims about Assange supporting the Republican party because of this publication, it was intended. The deliberate distortions and omissions in the article make this abundantly clear.
Unlike others in my field I’m not willing at this point to say that Greenwald himself is actively complicit in this deliberate manipulation on the part of his employer, but at best he’s certainly turning a blind eye to it.
Back in September, The Intercept ran an article trying to conflate opposition to Syrian interventionism with white nationalism, and I said back then things were getting increasingly shady with this particularly outlet. The repeated WikiLeaks smears, which have no place outside mainstream media, mean that people like me are going to be distancing ourselves from that publication and ceasing to look at it as a reliable outlet. There is already a multibillion-dollar mainstream media empire that is fully dedicated to slandering and disrupting government transparency activists, and if The Interceptchooses to stand with that lot, we should let them.
Last year comedian Jimmy Dore called out Washington Post reporters for having ceased to function as guard dogs for the establishment, merely protecting and promoting the preferred narratives of the oligarchic empire, and having become instead attack dogs for the establishment, actively chasing down and smearing anyone who speaks out against that empire. We are seeing the mainstream media function in this way more and more, and let’s not kid ourselves: The Intercept has joined them.
Top Photo | Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, top left, appears via video link with Glenn Greenwald, right, during a political forum at a town hall in Auckland, New Zealand, Sept. 15, 2014. (AP/New Zealand Herald, Brett Phibbs)
Caitlin Johnstone is entirely reader-funded, if you enjoy her work please consider sharing it, liking her on Facebook, following her on Twitter, bookmarking her website, checking out her podcast, throwing some money into her hat on Patreon or Paypal, or buying her new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.