Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government’s brazen duplicity concerning Julian Assange

What Assange and WikiLeaks said about Australia, https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/what-assange-and-wikileaks-said-about-australia-20210129-p56xyo.html

By Jessie Tu  February 4, 2021 He has been called “truth-telling hero”, “evil and perverted traitor”, “heroic, trickster, mythical – reviled”. Robert Manne called him the “most consequential Australian of the present time”. The new US President has called him a “high-tech terrorist”.

The protean narratives of Julian Assange, who will be 50 in July, have been brewing since 2010, when his website published “The Afghan War Diaries”, “Iraq War Logs” and “Collateral Murder”, a video showing the US military killing two Reuters employees in Iraq.

December marked 10 years since Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” in Britain, according to Felicity Ruby and Peter Cronau in their introduction to A Secret Australia – a collection of 18 essays that survey the impact WikiLeaks has had on Australia’s media landscape and the consequences of our government’s attraction towards America’s intelligence and military empire.

The potpourri of authors and thinkers includes Julian Burnside, Antony Loewenstein, Scott Ludlam and Helen Razer, who critique “the powers opposed to openness and transparency” and examine the evidence, “not the likelihoods, the probabilities, the suspicions, and assumptions” around the “subversive, technology-based publishing house”.

WikiLeaks invented a “pioneering model of journalism” – one that embodied the “contemporary spirit of resistance to imperial power”, says Richard Tanter, from the school of political and social sciences at the University of Melbourne. It brought renewed debates on free speech, digital encryption and questions around the management and protection of whistleblowers who risk their lives to expose covert, deceitful actions by governments.

The documents exposed the “brazen duplicity” of the Australian government towards its citizens and presented “off-stage alliance management conversations”, Tanter writes. They invited the layperson into the green room of the performance that is politics and international diplomacy.
WikiLeaks unmasked reports that showed governments recommending media strategies to deceive the public, demonstrating their unethically utilitarian approach to international diplomacy and governance and “enlightened the public on the dark corners of wars”, writes journalist and author Antony Loewenstein.

Assange is still in a cell at London’s Belmarsh Prison, facing an appeal by the United States in its bid to extradite him to face charges for the 2010 publications. He is continuing to be “denied adequate medical care” and “denied emergency bail in light of the COVID-19″, says Lissa Johnson, a clinical psychologist and writer for New Matilda – one of the few Australian publications that have paid genuine attention to the WikiLeaks saga.

In Australia, there’s been a “striking absence of a solid debate on WikiLeaks in the mainstream public discourse”, according to Benedetta Brevini, a journalist and media activist who insists that our concerning “lack of a thorough and sustained debate” is incomprehensible. Loewenstein calls Australia’s lack of journalistic solidarity with Assange “deeply shameful”. He says we have an “anodyne media environment” – perhaps not unsurprising, considering our highly concentrated media market, one of the most severe in the world.

Most of the essays expostulate on the same things: Assange is a journalist, not a hacker. He’s won a Walkley Award (at least six mentions of this). We have an undeniable legal obligation to him. His persecution is a “gruesome legal experiment in criminalising journalism” – a long and tortured legal process that Ludlam declares “has degenerated into an unworkable shit-show”.

The standout essays come from Guy Rundle and Helen Razer – whose amusing voice cuts through the somewhat parched tenor of cold academic-speak that lightly threads through the other essays. Her addition is a breath of fresh air in the middle of a chain of same-same arguments.

The most useful essay is Rundle’s take on the historical basis for WikiLeaks. He surveys the swirling currents of Australian history that led to its founding, identifying WikiLeaks as a continuation of political activist Albert Langer’s resistance to capital.

“We need a whole new organisation of how recent Australian history is told,” Rundle concludes, seconding Lissa Johnson’s opinion that we demand citizens who “cut across the acquiescence and consent, remove the deadbolt on the torture chamber door, turn down the music and expose what is going on inside”. This collection of polemics, though at times repetitive, takes us closer to a future where these demands no longer seem beyond reality.

A Secret Australia: Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposes,  Eds., Felicity Ruby & Peter Cronau, Monash University Publishing, $29.95

February 14, 2021 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, politics international, secrets and lies

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