More thoughts about Wikileaks and the First Amendment

January 12, 2011 | By | 7 Replies More

Glenn Greenwald is one of my most trusted self-critical sources of information. He writes for Check out this post (and explore his other recent writings) and consider viewing the short video interview at CNN, and you’ll see why I’m so cynical about the mainstream media, including host Jessica Yellin of CNN (BTW, the ex-Bush adviser on this clip is really a piece of work).

And then check out this post and the following comments, where Yellin tries to redeem herself:

The following comment to the video sums up Yellin’s alleged even-handedness nicely:

Jesse Frederik December 28th, 2010 7:33 pm ET
Compare the questioning of Fran Townsend:
“[After showing a video of Joe Biden calling Assange a high-tech terrorist] Is it fair to call him a terrorist?”
“Is there anything good that can come from what Assange is doing?”
To the questioning of Glenn Greenwald:
“Shouldn’t he go to jail in defense of his beliefs?”
“Any qualms about that he is essentially profiting of classified information?” [Bob Woodward anyone?] And do you see any irony in the fact that he’s making money of a corporate publisher?’
“What is his ultimate goal, beyond embarrassing and disrupting the US government? What good do his supporters hope will really come from everything he’s doing?”
“Do you think [the rape charges] are part of a smear campaign? And beyond that do you think it hurts his credibility?”
Is the difference in the questioning not obvious?

My feelings about Wikileaks and the person(s) that leaked the most recent cables are inextricably woven with the many disturbing revelations disclosed by Wikileaks. This is not the sterilized slow drip of information that you get from the mainstream media, such that we only really learn what was going on 30 years after we could have done something about it. Wikileaks has enabled a torrent of important and often disturbing information and it is causing massive embarrassment to the elites that run this country, and they run it far too often in secret.

Yes, I live in the U.S., but it is no longer my country. The leaders of the U.S. rarely speak for me anymore because they don’t treasure the First Amendment, they are crushing our children with debt and they are xenophobic and unapologetic warmongers and torturers. I’m tired of waking up to ever more of their shameful behavior, but making myself seek out real news is necessary medicine. When I repeat the disturbing things II know to many people, they don’t want know–they’d rather use Facebook only for lite chat, talking about their favorite new movie or a cool new restaurant. I do think I understand why many people resist getting serious. It’s a lot of work and it causes lots of stress. Once one understands the magnitude of the situation, it will cause massive cognitive dissonance to those who would rather sit back and enjoy their lives. It causes much less anxiety to trust government and media—it’s much less distracting to one’s ability to have fun, to be happy. It allows us to teevee, including endless streams of sporting events and reality shows, in good conscience.

I hope Julian Assange can pull off his huge leak of Wall Street banks, because it was the threat of these bank leaks (likely to embarrass BOA, it has been suggested) that seems to have caused the U.S. and its bevy of big banks to ramp up its efforts to shut down Wikileaks throughout the U.S. And this shutdown has gone on despite the fact that Wikileaks has not been charged with any crime. Nor should it be charged with a crime, based on what I have heard and read, because Wikileaks does what the New York Times does, except that Wikileaks does it in a more intense primary-source driven way.

Beware the lies that Wikileaks has indiscriminately dumped its documents—Glenn Greenwald has repeatedly harpooned that bald-faced lie in the above video and in other recent writings and appearances. Pretty amazing that we have a government of thugs, and yet this is not reported in these stark terms, except ever so rarely. And pretty amazing (as Greenwald points out) that journalists have so exuberantly attacked Assange, willingly picking up the propaganda lines spewed by so many conservatives, but also by the Obama Administration (and see here).  Recent events are giving me a bout of PTSD, triggering old feelings about the lack of responsible journalism during the 2003 run-up to the unwarranted Iraq invasion, which has killed, injured and displaced many tens of thousands of people. The United States did that needless damage in my name and in your name.

Here’s a damning list of many of the recent Wikileaks revelations, this list compiled by Greenwald . Carefully consider this long list of corruption and wrongdoing by the U.S. and by many other countries and entities. You’ll rarely if ever see any comparable list published by most media organizations that claim to do “journalism.” They would rather not deal with the substance of these recent revelations. If they did, people would wonder: “What the hell have YOU been doing for the past ten years? Are you really journalists?

As Greenwald points out, the media defends itself in an incredibly muddled way:

Meanwhile, the American establishment media — even in the face of all these revelations — continues to insist on the contradictory, Orwellian platitudes that (a) there is Nothing New™ in anything disclosed by WikiLeaks and (b) WikiLeaks has done Grave Harm to American National Security™ through its disclosures.

We are at a critical fork in the road. Are we going to give up on factually based criticism of our government? If so, lets make it official by renaming “news” shows “Not News” and by repealing most of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble [in cyberspace], and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Without a vigorous and free exchange of ideas through unbridled media and citizen journalism, none of these paper rights found in the First Amendment mean anything at all.  Without a vigorously enforced First Amendment, we are a body politic stumbling around without a collective brain. Without journalism that causes discomfort to our government and to those powerful corporations for the most part control it through their confiscation of the electoral process, our country is no longer, as Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “[a] government of the people, by the people, for the people . . . .”


Category: Civil Rights, Corruption, Journalism, Media, Politics, populism, Social justice

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    The U.S. Department of Justice has subpoenaed the internet company Twitter for personal information from several people linked to the online whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The subpoena asks Twitter for all records and correspondence relating to their accounts. Icelandic parliament member Birgitta Jónsdóttir, who has collaborated with WikiLeaks, is one of the five people targeted by the subpoenas. "I think it opens up a whole can of worms when it comes to parliamentary immunity worldwide," Jónsdóttir says. "Icelandic authorities are taking this very seriously."

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    And now this on a diplomatic cable recently released by Wikileaks:

    "The single most significant revelation of the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks is that U.S. policy is actually increasing the danger of a nuclear incident. The U.S. has so alienated the Pakistani people that their government fears cooperating with Washington on nuclear matters: The U.S. signed a nuclear energy agreement with India that has convinced Pakistani officials to enlarge their already unstable nuclear stockpile, and Washington has expanded U.S. military operations into Pakistan in a way that Ambassador Anne Patterson herself secretly admitted “risks destabilizing the Pakistani state” (9-23-09 cable). These newly disclosed official U.S. cables, which strongly point to the growing threat to Americans from mismanaged U.S. policy, require urgent congressional hearings, greater media investigation and public protest."

    and consider this:

    "Incredibly, U.S. leaders have only escalated the very operations their own officials believe risk destabilizing the Pakistani state. They have vastly increased U.S. drone strikes and stationed both U.S. assassins and U.S.-supported local assassins on Pakistani soil—even though the Pakistani government has not extended its “writ” in FATA as reported in November. These unilateral operations have thus increased the public’s hatred of the United States, to the point where a Pew poll in July found that 59 percent of Pakistanis regard the U.S. as an “enemy” and only 11 percent view America as a “partner."

    Don't U.S. citizens have the right to know these disturbing revelations? We got into this terrible situation because we trusted our leaders, so don't tell me that we need to keep trusting our leaders.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    The new 17-year old Miss America, Teresa Scanlan, has Wikileaks all figured out:

    "You know when it came to that situation it was actually based on espionage, and when it comes to the security of our nation, we have to focus on security first and then people's right to know, because it's so important that everybody who's in our borders is safe and so we can't let things like that happen and they must be handled properly," she said.

    Excuse me, Ms. Scanlan. So the government has the right to operate in secret until we are perfectly safe? And what if government secrecy is allowing our government to wage secret wars and to make bone-headed foreign policy decisions that endanger our country?

  4. Karl says:

    Why haven't more of the people who actually leaked the information to wiki-leaks given their names and who they worked for?

    When whitle-blowing becomes a non risky matter, you can be assured that public and/or private organized crime has ceased to exist.

    I believe whistle-blowers are only given protective rights by the business and/or courts under specific conditions, not just because they have some political, economic or social agenda in mind.

    If one can claim that anything is just whistle-blowing then soon even the National Enquirer will be seen as a source of intimidation.

  5. Dan Klarmann says:

    Why would one consider political advice from a teenager whose claim to fame (and presumably primary life's work) is being pretty?

  6. Ben says:

    One other important effect of wikileaks will be seen in our interactions with middle eastern countries such as the Iraq.

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