On 3 March, the Guardian announced that Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks would be making “an investigative thriller in the mould of All the President’s Men out of its book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy. I asked David Leigh, who wrote the book with Luke Harding, how much DreamWorks had paid the Guardian for the screen rights and what he expected to make personally. “No idea,” was the puzzling reply of the Guardian’s “investigations editor”. The paper paid WikiLeaks nothing for its treasure trove of leaks. Assange and WikiLeaks – not Leigh or Harding – were responsible for what the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, has called “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years”.
[To do these parasites justice, they did have to read masses of fragmentary documentation and make some kind of sense of it.]
The Guardian has made it clear that it has no further use for Assange. He is a loose cannon who did not fit Guardianworld, who proved a tough, unclubbable negotiator. And brave. In the Guardian’s self-regarding book, Assange’s extraordinary bravery is excised. He becomes a figure of petty bemusement, an “unusual Australian” with a “frizzy-haired” mother; he is gratuitously abused as “callous” and a “damaged personality” who was “on the autistic spectrum”. How will Spielberg deal with this childish character assassination?
[Actually, the book says a lot about Assange’s courage, brilliant brain and indifference to comfort and material possessions. When I’d finished reading it I admired Assange more than I had before.]
On the BBC’s Panorama, Leigh indulged hearsay that Assange did not care about the lives of those named in the leaks.
Assange‘s indifference to the lives of those named in the link turns up on p111 of the book. The Afghan war logs in Wikileaks’ possession mentioned “names of informants or those who had collaborated with US troops. . .”
I [Declan Walsh, one of the Guardian team sifting through the leaks] told David Leigh I was worried about the repercussions of publishing these names, who could easily be killed by the Taliban or other militant groups if identified. David agreed it was a concern and said he’d raised the issue with Julian, but he didn’t seem concerned. That night, we went out to a Moorish restaurant, Moro, with the two German reporters. David broached the problem again with Julian. The response floored me. ‘Well, they’re informants,’ he said. ‘So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.’ There was, for a moment, silence around the table. I think everyone was struck by what a callous thing that was to say.
In the event the names were redacted.
As some commenters in the thread point out, Pilger misuses the word “hearsay“. David Leigh heard these remarks of Assange with his own ears. It wasn’t reported to him by someone else, which is what “hearsay” means. There were three other witnesses there who heard this as well, and in the thread David Leigh names them. However Pilger has been indulging in “hearsay” himself since he presumably is going by what Assange has told him what was said at this dinner.
As always with Assange and Wikileaks, there is a lovely irony in this. The creed of St Julian says “We believe in raw data, unmediated and unchannelled. Cover us with data, oh Lord, so we can save our souls.” In this instance Leigh is the man who holds the raw data bleeding and dripping in his hands, Pilger has had it cooked and processed.
Pilger also says:-
As for the claim that he had complained of a “Jewish conspiracy”, which followed a torrent of internet nonsense that he was an evil agent of Mossad, Assange rejected this as “completely false, in spirit and word”.
[Pilger, once a courageous reporter who would travel to war zones, evidently hasn’t been around the internet much. It’s perfectly possible that you will be attacked as an evil agent of Mossad because your leaks don’t deal much with the insanity-inducing obsession, Israel, while you agree with a view that has a fairly broad consensus, that the world is ruled by a Zionist entity via its partner, the USA.]
Pilger does not address the most damning charge against Asange’s political and moral judgement in the Panorama programme, his dealings with the obsessive anti-semite and general loon, Israel Shamir. A useful summary of this association can be found here by Nathalie Rothschild, though no doubt many will find her surname suspect.
The words “Julian Assange” are as reliable a nutter magnet as “Israel and Palestine“. In the Liberal Conspiracy thread on Private Eye’s revelations about Assange’s belief in a Jewish media conspiracy people turn up to say that (a) Private Eye must have been hoaxed or is telling lies; (b) Assange was only saying what’s true anyway. The same calibre of commenter turns up at John Pilger‘s thread saying (a) David Leigh was telling lies; (b) what’s wrong with killing informants anyway?
Last night I went to a debate between Laurie Penny and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (“AWL”). Others can write about what went on in the meeting, I just wish to rant about one point, an elaboration of the one I made from the floor: the redundancy of the printed newspaper for revolutionary socialist organisations.
Looking back over the last quarter of a century, Marxist parties have not grown: they have either become smaller or struggled to remain the same size. This is despite the fact that the key aim for a Trotskyist party is to build the party for the forthcoming revolution.
A standard method for recruitment, one that has remained unchanged since prior to the Russian Revolution in 1917, is that of publishing a newspaper and selling it. The acceptance for the need of the newspaper to spread ideas about the party and the revolution is unquestioned. The party is as wedded to the newspaper as a heroin addict to a syringe. Arguably more so: heroin addicts have been known to break their addiction.
Last night it appeared accepted by the majority that the revolution could not happen by anarchists on Twitter, those dubbed “Anarcho-Tweeters” by Laurie Penny. A vanguard party was needed for, if nothing else, to produce placards for demonstrations. I do not wish to discuss the need for a vanguard party, but simply whether the vanguard party needs a newspaper.
I list below some of the objections to doing away with a newspaper that I have heard, including some from last night, together with my own retorts:
1: Not everyone has access to the internet.
This is true, but most people do. In fact far more people have access to the internet than have access to the newspaper. This is because AWL do not have newspaper sellers all across the country. Far from it: the coverage of the country by AWL newspaper sellers is miniscule.
2: You need a newspaper for those without access to the internet.
If one were to take that argument to the extreme, then one could say that you need to produce a newspaper in numerous other languages for those that do not speak English and an audio version for the partially sighted and for those that cannot read and write.
3: Not everyone can afford to have an Internet connection.
This is certainly true. But what makes one think that if someone cannot afford an Internet connection that they can afford to purchase a newspaper. Yes, it is true that the cost of a subscription to a weekly produced revolutionary newspaper is a lot lower than the cost an internet connection, but it is not massively so. If finances are so tough then items likely to be cut from weekly budget are likely to include the newspaper. This is aside from the fact that by the end of this year all libraries should have free internet access. I very much doubt that all libraries subscribe to Solidarity, the weekly newspaper of the AWL.
4: People do not read articles on the Internet.
This is a myth, they do. One can consider the Guardian’s Comment is Free web site where not only are the articles widely read but thousands of comments are left per day on the Internet published articles. It is aside that I believe that if AWL spent some time redesigning its web site it might pick up more readers. A simple change for the better could be ensuring that instead of articles having over 25 words per line as they currently do, a more standard 12-15 words per line were used.
5: People are more likely to read an article if they pay for it.
I am not sure there is any good current evidence for this for articles that someone is interested in and are brought to their attention. I read far more articles that are free to me on the Internet than ones that I pay for. Besides, how many people take a subscription to a journal and get so behind in their reading that copies remain unopened from one week to the next to the point where the backdated copies are simply thrown away?
6: Selling newspapers is an excuse to chat to people about politics.
I have news for those who make that claim. I, like many people, have spoken for numerous years to different people about politics and have never once tried to sell any of them a newspaper.
7: When the revolution comes, the ruling class will cut off access to mobile phones and the Internet.
This argument was provided from the floor last night. By this logic I should use candles to read with because come the electricity strike my electric lights will not work. It is a ridiculous argument. Even revolutionary socialists must accept that the conditions are far away from the working class starting a revolution. Besides, just as I can keep candles in a bottom draw to be prepared for an electricity strike, revolutionary parties can keep their printing presses on standby for the eventuality that the Internet is switched off.
8: You cannot express complex ideas in a Tweet that is restricted to 140 characters.
This was another argument from the floor last night. This is true but Twitter allows links. As such, in less than 140 characters, a Tweet can be written suggesting an article is read with a link provided to that article. As an example: “Read this article on the UK Uncut campaign. Great Interview with activists. http://tinyurl.com/ukuncutinterview #ukuncut”
9: Selling newspapers is a discipline. Party members need to be disciplined and selling newspapers, tough as it is, shows commitment.
One former leading activist within AWL informed me of a fact that makes logical sense—selling papers costs more members than it gains. For every new member attracted to the movement as a result of purchasing a newspaper, more than one drops out as they get fed up spending their Saturday afternoons standing outside Sainsbury’s or knocking on doors trying to sell the blasted things. The revolutionary parties could make the revolution fun, but that is not what they want to do—they want to make it miserable. Perhaps the revolutionary parties could ponder this point.
In so far as discipline, members can be encouraged to engage in politics on line by writing blogs, commenting on other people’s blogs, entering into debates on Facebook and Twitter, things that many members possibly do already and do not mind doing. In such discussions, members can encourage others interested to attend a party meeting and potentially even join the party.
10: Both can be done. We can produce and sell a newspaper and encourage members to have an online presence.
I do not think you get the key point above—people do not enjoy selling newspapers. They might enjoy talking to people about politics, but they do not need to sell them a newspaper to do that. It is not a necessity of a political conversation that a newspaper changes hands.
It is true that people could spend, for example, four hours a week involved in on line debates and two hours a week selling newspapers, but if you cut out the time selling newspapers they could spend six hours a week in on line debates. Two hours of on line time I would think should be much more productive than two hours knocking on doors.
None of what I am saying stops the party asking members to hand out free flyers to people on a demonstration inviting them to attend a party meeting on a given subject; it just removes the dreaded paper sale. I know, I expect to get a comment on this article from the one person who loves going out in the snow and selling newspapers for the party they devote their life to. I ask them to consider not just themselves but all the other party members. Unsold newspapers stacking up under the beds of party members have been a long running truism for many in Trotskyist parties.
Laurie Penny has over 12,000 followers on Twitter. Her high profile cannot simply be put down to the fact that she is a journalist for the “bourgeois press.” There are plenty of other journalists for that press, including senior journalists who have nowhere near the amount of followers that she has. Part of the reason that she has gained so many followers is, without the benefit of a party, she has been very active tweeting about anti government demonstrations for the benefit of activists.
The official Workers’ Liberty Twitter account currently has a grand sum of 65 followers. Had less time been spent on producing and selling a newspaper and more time on developing an Internet presence, this sorry state of affairs might not have occurred. Someone might even have found the time to use the account to send a Tweet advertising last night’s debate.
Labourstart, probably the world’s leading trade union website, has been around so long that many of of take it for granted. But we need to actively support this unique and irreplaceable service, and here are four ways of doing so (from Eric Lee, founder of Labourstart):
The social network for trade unionists – a LabourStart project.
A message to all members of UnionBook
|To all UnionBook members -First of all, a very happy new year to you all.
I’d like to ask for your help with four things — and doing all four will only take a few moments of your time:
1. If you’ve not yet filled in our annual survey of trade union use of the net, please do so today:
2. If you’re a member of Facebook but have not yet joined the LabourStart group there, please sign up now:
3. You can help LabourStart by signing up as a volunteer correspondent so that you can post news about your country and your union. More details are here:
4. Finally, please recruit others — share this email message with friends, co-workers and your fellow union members.
Thanks very much!
Visit UnionBook at: http://www.unionbook.org/?xg_source=msg_mes_network
There’s an interesting fault line opening up on the left between Julian Assange the Wikileaks hero and Julian Assange the potential rapist. Cath Elliott makes some good points in response to John Band’s nasty, dismissive piece about the Assange rape allegations. Of course we know that leftwing males will indulge misogyny when it suits them – we know that from their response to female dissidents from the Islamic world. The point here is that LibCon writers could just say ‘I applaud Wikileaks commitment to freedom of information, but I don’t trust Assange the man.’ Unfortunately there’s still a tendency to hero worship that gets in the way of rational judgements.
Assange over recent months has become a celebrity in his own right. He’s like a Benny Hill version of the Scarlett Pimpernel. Possibly it has gone to his head. Serious reports suggest that all is not well at Wikileaks Towers. The Independent‘s sources paint a picture of a transparency organisation hijacked by one man’s ideological crusade. An Icelandic freedom of information campaigner and ex-Wikileaks volunteer told the paper that ‘Key people have become very concerned about the direction of Wikileaks with regard to its strong focus on US military files at the expense of ignoring everything else’ – particularly ‘the dramatic increase in submissions from whistleblowers within closed countries, dictatorships and corporations.’
Assange also doesn’t seem to understand the potential consequences of simply releasing everything you find into the public domain. We need to know about NATO crimes in Afghanistan. We don’t need Assange to write the Taliban’s hit list for them. The decision to publish the names of Afghans working with NATO was apparently Assange’s alone – and condemned by Amnesty, Reporters without Borders and many Wikileaks staffers. Icelandic parliamentarian and Wikileaks colleague Birgitta Jonsdottir said ‘We were very, very upset with that, and with the way he spoke about it afterwards… If he could just focus on the important things he does, it would be better.’ The Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr asked Assange in person: ‘What about these named sources? Might [you] have endangered their lives?’
‘If there are innocent Afghans being revealed, which was our concern, which was why we kept back 15,000 files, then of course we take that seriously.’
But what if it’s too late?
‘Well, we will review our procedures.’
Too late for the individuals, I say. Dead.
You can see Assange’s cavalier regard for human life when he boasts about an expose of a corrupt Kenyan politician that apparently influenced the extremely violent 2007 election. ”1,300 people were eventually killed, and 350,000 were displaced. That was a result of our leak,’ says Assange.’
Of course Wikileaks is here to stay and over time it will become one source of valuable information among many. But reading through his petulant and tyrannical response to criticism from within Wikileaks and without (not to mention his Vogon poetry) it’s clear that Assange the man is an embarrassment who is rapidly bringing the organisation into disrepute. As I write, Assange is on remand in Wandsworth. God knows what his fate is. But whatever happens, I think Wikileaks would prosper if it had a figurehead with a little more steadiness and self-awareness.
Also: read Christopher Hitchens and David Allen Green. And don’t miss this Zionist conspiracy theory, via Martin Bright, from a guy called Tariq Shahid of the Palestine Think Tank who notices one glaring omission in the cables:
Browse through all the news sources available on the latest Wikileaks revelation, and try to find even only one revelation that actually damages Israel, even though so many of the revealed documents are directly or indirectly connected to Middle East politics, and to a large extent to Israeli affairs. Did you find any document among them that either creates difficulties for the government of the Zionist entity, or even slightly embarrasses it? Think about it well, you will find that the answer is a very simple ‘No’.
The plot thickens!
Update: Loads of recommended reading here. Alastair Campbell on Wikispin. US feminist Amy Siskind responds to a weak, stupid satire by Naomi Wolf. Anyone who still doubts the misogyny of many Assange groupies should read Esther Addley’s essential piece.
Amanda Marcotte gets to the heart of it for me.
It’s possible both that Wikileaks is a necessary curative for government overreach and that its leader is out to serve his own ego needs above all. Anyone who thinks that’s impossible needs to think harder about what’s going on when politicians get sentimental on the campaign trail.
Why can’t the left piss and whistle at the same time?
More: Jim Denham highlights a letter in the Guardian that denounces the ‘dubious charges’ against Assange, and is signed by the usual establishment-left, pro-totalitarian scum.
An attractive blonde, Sarah was already a well-known ‘radical feminist’. In her 30s, she had travelled the world following various fashionable causes.
While a research assistant at a local university she had not only been the protegee of a militant feminist academic, but held the post of ‘campus sexual equity officer’. Fighting male discrimination in all forms, including sexual harassment, was her forte.
well at least two of the women who have commented here are radical feminists, who have highly negative views of all men; and one of them has a vendetta against tommy Sheridan.
Eric Lee of Labourstart sends news of a promising new initiative:
This weekend will see the public launch of UnionBook – the social networking site for trade unionists, sponsored by LabourStart.
I wanted to make sure that all our correspondents knew about this in advance, in the hope that you will sign up and spread the word in your unions.
* Blogs – build your own blog today. Free, with no ads.
* Groups – create a group to support your union and your campaigns. Groups can have discussion forums and shared documents. They can be public or closed. They’re a very powerful tool.
* Post your profile and sign up your friends – just like in any other social network (with certain subtle differences).
We’re adding more features all the time, fixing and tweaking things, but with over 500 users already using our beta version, we think it’s time to go live and to recruit thousands more trade unionists. UnionBook will never be as big as the giant commercial networks like Facebook, but once we have several thousand trade unionists using it, I’m confident that it will become a powerful tool for our movement worldwide.
We’re not telling anyone to stop using other social networks. If you are active in Facebook or any of the others, that’s fine. But use UnionBook for your trade union activities and see how easy it is to build and form groups, and to publish content online.
How the hell is it that in the course of today no less than three people have linked to Shiraz from…here?
Dave’s Part: what is to be done?
[NB: having been warned by one 'Ms Stroppy' that this piece might confuse the hard-of-thinking, let me make it clear that what follows is about the blog 'Dave's Part', with which we at 'Shiraz' have comradely relations / rivalry, but no more than that... so it's not about us. OK? All clear now?- Charlie].
After being upbraided by a couple of regular readers – in the comments box on the post below – for increasingly frequent lapses into ‘cringeworthy’ populism, I’ve been pondering the issue of whether my current blogging style and strategy is actually the right one.The idea has been for Dave’s Part to mix fairly straightforward serious coverage of politics, international relations and economics with forays into such areas as the Bridgend suicides, the Bellfield, Wright and Dixie murders and knife crime.
The justification in the latter instance is that these are matters that the left media traditionally rarely touches, but really should do more often. Such topics are what people discuss in workplaces and pubs every day, and raise important political issues about the social relationships that obtain under capitalism. Not the least consideration is that they attract new people to this website.
I have frequently pledged to myself to give up completely on far left sectariana. But I keep going back there, because I secretly love it really, and so – I suspect – do the core readership. Look at the number of comments such posts attract.
Usually I do know what I am talking about. Believe it or not, there is sometimes some erudition behind the words I type. Now and then, I make it up as I go along, as all journalists do to some extent. But because posts tend to be knocked out in my lunch break, detailed research is usually precluded.
I presume I am doing something right, because the number of hits continues to rise steadily. But all media outlets benefit from feedback. You lot are Joe Public in this instance.
So, let’s have your comments please. What do you like about Dave’s Part? What do you dislike? Where do I come a cropper and make myself look a prat? Are the humourous posts actually pretty unfunny? What do you want to see more of, and what should be scrapped?
Oh, and don’t hold back. I can take it. I think.
And I thought the internet had sunk as low as it could go. I was wrong. That is, right up until yesterday when the following search was made, which (inexplixably) led the intrepid googlenaut in question to this site:
best sex with ian donovan
Gospel truth, I swear on me dead Granny’s grave, someone really did a search on that. It’s so wrong, on so many levels, that I may never sleep soundly again for knowing s/he is still at large.
Sir/Madam, I can only suggest you seek treatment. Immediately. Preferably somewhere a very long way away from the rest of us.
Martin Bright, in the latest edition of the New Statesman, discusses “how the left and Israel fell out of love“. It’s not a particularly profound or insightful piece, but it’s worth noting because it’s a rare example of a liberal/left publication admitting that there might – just might – be such a thing as anti-semitism on the “left”:
“The internet has flushed out a whole subculture of left-wing hostility to Israel that should make even Marqusee (Mike Marqusee - an anti Zionist who makes much of the fact that he’s Jewish – JD) uncomfortable. This has a regular and willing outlet on the Guardian‘s Comment is Free website and the New Statesman also suffers from it whenever we publish articles on Israel. Postings on our blog casually link Zionism to fascism or South African Apartheid. The language is so unpleasant that it is difficult not to draw the conclusion that many of the comments are driven by anti-semitism.”
And sure enough: visit the New Statesman’s website and you’ll see some choice examples of just what Bright is on about. You can, of course, comment there yourselves, but you have to register.
Another example of what he’s on about appears on the page following Bright’s article: a full-page ad from these people, who appear to deny Israel’s right to exist, and who seek to introduce a “long-overdue phrase into the English language:
“nakba denial: the act of denying, including legal and moral responsibility for, the on-going, systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestine that was waged in order to create the State of Israel.”
A classic example of people whose primary motivation appears not to be solidarity with the Palestinians, but visceral hatred of Israel. No doubt they consider themselves “left wing” and would furiously deny being anti-semitic (as opposed to being “anti Zionist”).