Despite all that, it is impossible to conceive of any establishment media outlet in the U.S. uttering a peep of support for what those protesters did. The immediate consensus in the American political and media class was that these activists were engaged in pure, unmitigated destruction -- even evil -- and should be severely punished. That's because the greatest sin in our political culture is doing anything other than meekly submitting even to assertions of lawless and thuggish government and corporate power. If the Government and the largest corporations collaborate to lawlessly destroy WikiLeaks for the crime of engaging in threatening journalism, then you simply write polite letters to Congress or complain on your blog; what you don't do under any circumstances is resist or fight back using even symbolic gestures of disobedience. That's the authoritarian mentality pervading -- defining -- not only the establishment media but (as a result) much of the citizenry.
Just contrast the angry denunciations over these activists' simplistic, relatively innocuous denial of service attacks, with the apathy toward (or even support for) the far more sophisticated and damaging "cyber attacks" launched at WikiLeaks, which resulted in their permanent removal from any recognizable URL (and now can only be found through some impossible-to-remember numerical address). Whoever was responsible for those attacks aimed at WikiLeaks -- even if it were a government agency -- is acting every bit as lawlessly as the adolescent (though well-intentioned) activists responsible for shutting down MasterCard's website for a few hours. But it is only the latter transgressions that trigger any real anger.
Identically, note how few object to the fact that the DOJ is investigating the pro-WikiLeaks attacks, but not -- of course -- the ones directed at WikiLeaks. That's because we collectively believe -- with the establishment media leading the way -- that the most powerful authorities have the unfettered right to do whatever they want to anyone who is sufficiently demonized as Bad, while the worst sin is to do anything outside of approved (i.e., impotent) means to protest establishment power and authority, no matter how destructive and criminal the ends are to which that power and authority is being applied.
This is the same mentality that expresses such self-righteous outrage over the mere prospect that disclosures of the truth by WikiLeaks might hypothetically one day lead to the death of a single innocent person, while barely uttering any real anger over the massive numbers of innocents actually being killed right now by the U.S. Government. And it's the same mentality that purports to acknowledge the massive secrecy abuses, deceit and pervasive crimes of the U.S. Government, while demanding that one of the very few people who apparently risked something to do anything meaningful to stop all of that -- Bradley Manning -- be severely punished, or that Julian Assange be punished. This is authoritarianism in its classic form -- an instinctively servile loyalty to power even when it is acting corruptly, lawlessly and destructively -- and it finds its purest and most vigorous expression in those who most loudly claim devotion to checking it: our intrepid adversarial journalists.
UPDATE: For a slightly different but related service the establishment media dutifully provides to the Government, see this excellent Marcy Wheeler post from today, entitled: "Hatfill and Wen Ho Lee and Plame and al-Awlaki and Assange."
UPDATE II: CNN today spewed pure, absurd fear-mongering against WikiLeaks; Assange really is their new Saddam Hussein and WikiLeaks their new WMD. And just to underscore the contrast between how media outlets around the world behave, the French newspaper Liberation -- a mainstream center-left publication -- announced today that it was creating a "mirror-WikiLeaks" site and hosting it on their paper's website (its mirror site is here). It is even possible to conceive of a mainstream American newspaper doing that?
Friday, December 10, 2010
At Time Magazine, and elsewhere, covering Wikileaks--in Salon.com: