Who challenges the challengers?

March 31, 2011 at 10:31 pm (anti-semitism, BBC, Middle East, Rosie B)

When the topic of Julian Assange comes up these days, thoughtful people say, “He’s not the story, what the material from Wikileaks reveals is. Wikileaks is bigger than one man ” The leaked cables were supposed to have been one of the levers that upturned dictatorships in the Middle East.   In an interview Assange said:-

“We started publishing cables about the region from early December. In particular, through our Arabic partners al-Akhbar and al-Masry al-Youm (Cairo). al-Akhbar, the most respected newspaper on-line in the region, published about nearly all the MENA countries, including Tunisia. A site, Tunisleaks, was set up, to also translate our material into French. The Tunisian government banned us and al-Akbar and a hacker war started, also involving Saudi Arabia. al-Akhbar was taken out three times, in what appears to be a state-sponsored attack. Hackers loyal to us, then redirected Tunisian government websites to WikiLeaks and the cables exposing the Ben Ali regime, then on December 16 a 26 year old computer technician in Tunis self-immolated, bringing a vital emotional and physical expression to the brewing outrage. Similar events happened with our involvement in Egypt.”

If this is right, it is heady and inspiring, that the truth will set you free. I haven’t the knowledge to assess how great a part Wikileaks played in the present upheavals. But I do wonder from where someone as brave and clever and dedicated as Assange has picked up his repugnant views, that leftist anti-Semitism, the embarrassing hanger on of anti-Zionism, which is hawking and spitting all over the Zeitgeist at the moment. A supposedly left wing outfit like Counterpunch will publish articles by the poisonous anti-Semite Israel Shamir. (See Bob for details).

Julian Assange is proud of inventing something he calls “scientific journalism”.

WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?

Showing how you got your information is what academics do by citing sources with references and footnotes, while bloggers prove their case with  links. With digital technology, it is now possible for a journalist to offer drill down routes to some of the sources of a story. For myself, I would have called this “drill down journalism”, or “data journalism” rather than the more pompous “scientific journalism” but it’s sound enough. Check the source of the story as far as you can, right to the horse‘s mouth.

But when it comes to following his own maxims, as so often with Assange it is Physician, heal thyself. Before a Panorama  programme which he guessed would be hostile towards him, he said in an interview with Francesco Piccinin for the French online magazine Agora Vox:-

What relationships did you with other Media UK ? Why do they accuse you of being anti-Semitic?

Our relationships are not looking good. Particularly with the BBC. Today I was verbally attacked a journalist at the exit of the station. It was John Sweeney’s Panorama program. The BBC is one of our biggest rivals. . .. They will make a show that will air on Monday (coincidentally during the first day of trial) and try and influence judges. We finally discovered that the wife of producer for this show was part of the Zionist movement in London.

(This is in French and translated by the internet and me. Neither of us is good at French)

Could he please give us the name and website of this London Zionist movement that the producer’s influential wife belongs to? Who is this “we” that thinks the BBC times programmes in order to influence the judiciary?

The producer of the Panorama programme is Jim Booth, who is quoted as saying: “. . .he can only be talking about me. I have got no idea why he said that. My wife is not Jewish, has nothing to do with Zionism or the Jewish community. It’s absolutely ridiculous and insulting for me as a producer. I do not set out with an agenda and he gave the sense there was a Jewish agenda. Assange is a pioneer and Wikileaks is a tremendous thing but I wish he had got his facts right.”

“Getting your facts right” is an old term for “scientific journalism”.

However Assange is inclined to see the Zionist hidden hand pulling strings. From the same interview:-

Are you more afraid of Israel or the U.S.?
It is the union of two countries that scares me the most .For an even better reason because they share a number of interests in the Iraqi conflict. Bush has supported Israel since it was surrounded by friends at the head of the oil companies. Israel, meanwhile, has strong ties with the east coast of the United States. Not only because of the presence of many Jews on American soil, but also because many Israeli passports were provided to the Jews of the east coast to strengthen their ties with their homeland. Russia has done the same with South Ossetia, distributing passports to the local population to promote the fight against Georgian nationalism.

He hasn’t used the words “Zionist entity” yet, but that will come. This meme of Israel controlling every darned thing is a few steps away from explaining media hostility towards you by some people in the media being Jewish, or their brothers-in-law being Jewish, as he said to Ian Hislop of Private Eye.  It’s an infection going round at the moment, so, for instance, a blog conversation about why Seven Jewish Children is a bit dodgy will soon have accusations of networks, lobbies, machines and other forces – never explicitly named or their members listed – but existing, somehow.

Assange has said of this conversation with Hislop that “Hislop has distorted, invented or misremembered almost every significant claim and phrase“ but Hislop says in Private Eye (issue 1284) that he took notes and typed it up immediately. “The content of the conversation was too bizarre to invent, too surprising to misremember and too weird to need distortion.” .

So in this instance we have conflicting sources. I’d go with Hislop myself. I can’t give the “scientific journalistic” reason for doing so, just the undocumentable sense that someone like Hislop wouldn’t make something like that up.

In the Vox Agora interview Assange says:-

This media has accused me of collaborating with the alleged anti-Semitic Israel Shamir who supports us. He is a journalist and writer born in Siberia and settled in Israel. Denying Judaism and becoming pro-Palestinian, he was later converted to Russian Orthodoxy. That is why he is hated in the same proportions as Salman Rushdie. He now lives in Sweden, and as he helped us for a while, the media accuse us our turn of being anti-Semitic, of having provided documents to the Russians and having relations with Lukashenka.

It’s easy enough to drill down to where Assange gets the totally off key idea that you can compare the hatred against the “alleged” anti-Semitic Israel Shamir with the hatred against Salman Rushdie- it’s what Shamir says about himself. (Google “israel shamir” “salman rushdie” if you want to check).

The Panorama programme got hold of an email that Assange had written to Shamir:-

Dear Israel/Adam

Someone wrote saying they refused to associate with an organisation that would work with an anti-Semite like Israel Shamir. . .

From a brief sampling of your writing I did not find the allegation borne out. I found the samples to be strong and compassionate.

I did a brief sampling of Shamir’s work myself and found stuff like this:-

David Irving was sentenced for denial of Jewish superiority. His doom seals the reign of (albeit limited) freedom that began with the fall of Bastille. European history went full circle: from rejecting the rule of Church and embracing free thought, to the new Jewish mind-control on a world scale. Not only is Western Christian civilisation dead, but even its successor, secular European civilisation, has met its demise only a few days after its proud and last celebration by the Danish scribes. It was short-lived: about two hundred years from beginning to the end, the Europeans may once have had the illusion that they can live without an ideological supremacy. Now this illusion is over; and the Jews came in the stead of the old and tired See of St Peter to rule over the minds and souls of Europeans.

I’m not going to link to the scabby-tailed rat so you can google that for yourself to read the whole thing.

Could Julian Assange quote the “strong and compassionate” writings he came across in Shamir? Also, if you are assessing someone’s views “a brief sampling” isn’t really enough. You have to read a fair amount and it isn’t a bad idea to google them and find what other people say about them as well. Where’s the “scientific journalism” when you need it?

Assange then suggested Shamir write for Wikileaks under another name.

I would say Assange had some fellow feeling with Shamir as a freebooter and shape shifter, what with his way of changing identities (the indulgent Dear Israel/Adam suggests that) and one who is persecuted, as he sees it. So he opened his arsenal of data and handed him one of the weapons, which Shamir has been using to support the regime in Belarus against its opposition.

Assange has said that Shamir’s association with Wikileaks was minimal but he hasn’t explained that email when asked (by Hislop for one). He has said that Shamir was merely given access to some of the diplomatic cables – whereas of course someone like him should not have been given access to any of them. If Assange stopped avoiding questions and showed himself to be aware of the implications that you can draw from his finding Shamir’s views congenial I would give him a pass. He could admit his dealings with Shamir were a big error of judgement. After all, Assange has been under great pressure and has a huge heap of data to shift, arrange and distribute. He may have handled the rest of it impeccably for all I know.

Assange, though, hates criticism and being called to account, which he regards as “betrayal“, or an “international conspiracy” (Private Eye, issue 1283 p8). He has been dedicated to laying the powerful open to view, but with his possession of sensitive data he has become powerful himself. When this power is challenged he starts talking like some of the Middle Eastern dictators that his work has supposedly helped to bring down – opponents must be of malevolent intent or part of some conspiracy, preferably “Zionist“.


  1. Rebecca said,

    Hmm, I’m an east coast of the US Jew. My Israeli passport has not yet dropped through the mailslot of my house. Where on earth did he get that particular idea?

    • Rosie said,

      I did a bit of “scientific journalism” i.e. googled to try and discover where that came up originally but couldn’t find anything..

  2. David Lieberman said,

    Shorter Assange:

    Q. Why do people accuse you of antisemitism?

    A. Because the Jews are out to get me.

    Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

  3. modernityblog said,

    Ta very much for the link…

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