Wikileaks in the spotlight at the National Conference for Media Reform

April 10, 2011 | By | 14 Replies More

I’m in Boston attending the National Conference for Media Reform – 2011, sponsored by Free Press. I’m one of 2,500 would-be reformers on hand, learning a lot about the state of the media, but there’s not enough good news about the news these days. Countless journalists are losing their jobs, newspapers are being shuttered and important stories are thus not getting adequate coverage. On the other hand, the attendees at the conference are, as a group, affable, intelligent and capable people, as are the presenters.

Yesterday I attended a panel discussion on Wikileaks, hosted by Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow. I’ll offer some of my observations below, before presenting several videos I shot during the discussions.  These videos include of all of the comments by’s Glenn Greenwald, who has made Wikileaks a strong focus of his work over the past year.  I’ve also included a video of Amy Goodman’s opening comments.

In addition to Glenn Greenwald, the panel included Greg Mitchell, who has created an ongoing and comprehensive Wikiweaks series of posts, in The Nation. Each day’s entry at his blog includes multiple items, and he’s up to at least Day 132. Mitchell has just published an excellent book, The Age of Wikileaks: From Collateral Murder to Cablegate (and Beyond) (2011); I bought a copy at the conference and I’m halfway through. Mitchell suggested early in the session that the federal government has been treating Bradley Manning inhumanely to discourage future whistle-blowers.  Why would that be?  Many of the answers are in Mitchell’s own book.  For instance, Mitchell reports that prior to the release of the “Collateral Murder” video, Julian Assange predicted:

The video shows what modern warfare has become and, I think, after seeing it, whenever people hear about a certain number of casualties that resulted during fighting with close air support, they will understand what is going on.  The video also makes clear that civilians are listed as insurgents automatically, unless they are children, and that bystanders who are killed are not even considered.

After reading Mitchell’s account and forcing myself to re-watch the U.S. helicopter attack video, I now realize how little I knew about the U.S. military’s willingness to hide and distort the truth regarding this incident. Until now.  It appears that the military destroyed some of the evidence, or at least claimed to have destroyed it, even though one might wonder whether this is true, and wonder whether the Washington Post had a copy of the video during the year prior to Wikileaks’ April 10, 2010 release, but sat on it (see p. 36 of Mitchell’s book).

Panelist Micah Sifry suggested that there is much more to the current phenomenon than Wikileaks itself, which is merely a symptom of a problem.  According to Sifry, what we are seeing is a bottom-up trans-national transparency movement.  The people formerly known as “the audience” are now putting together the show.   Those formerly known as those “in charge” are losing their grip. Further, the Wikileaks phenomenon has demonstrated that the New York Times is “clearly broken.”   Sifry alleged, “They have all the cables,” yet they are fumbling with them, evidenced by their failure to use the key word search “kleptocracy,” which would have yielded multiple poignant hits, including cables on Libya.   Sifry also offers that Wikileaks has revealed that the United States has two governments:  A) the one we elect, and B) the one that runs the government.  He commented that the U.S. hostility to Wikileaks reveals the fragility of the Internet.  What other conclusion can one draw, he asked, when a phone call from Senator Lieberman convinces Amazon to “kick out Wikileaks,” despite the lack of any criminal wrongdoing by Wikileaks.  This is a problem that goes “way beyond net neutrality.”

Australian Christopher Warren agrees that Wikileaks has disclosed a “great fault” in journalism.  Whereas the NYT works hard to distinguish itself from Wikileaks, Australian editors joined together to confront their own government’s accusations, arguing that Wikileaks was clearly engaged in journalism. Warren warns: “The American media needs to understand its duty to provide the truth.”

Though I have provided videos below with all of Glenn Greenwald’s comments, I will first highlight a few of his comments.

– The mission of Wikileaks is what journalism is supposed to be about:  exposing government secrets;  journalists want to maintain “this pretense that this is what they do.”

– It is already the consensus of the federal government that Wikileaks has committed crimes, but if the U.S. government criminally prosecutes Wikileaks, it would be the first time that someone who is not an employee of the government has been prosecuted for exposing government secrets.

– Why is the American media so hostile toward Wikileaks?  Greenwald mentioned “competitive jealousy” and the mindset of American Journalists that they are the “anointed gatekeepers,” but there is a more disturbing reason.  The American media has now been exposed as “being deferential to political power, versus being adversarial to political power.”  Greenwald mentioned the stunning admission by Bill Keller of the New York Times, that he “runs everything by the Obama administration before publishing.”   Apparently the NYT doesn’t understand that it shouldn’t brag about getting “petted on the head for good behavior” by the federal government.   Then again, what else would you expect from a paper that held onto the story about George W. Bush’s illegal warrantless eavesdropping program for one year, long enough to allow Bush to get re-elected. This is the same paper that did report on Bush’s extraordinary rendition program, but withheld the locations of the facilities “because it would prevent extraordinary rendition.”

Greenwald’s position, one that serves as the moral compass for all of his writings, is that journalism should hold politicians accountable; their allegiance should be to the truth.”  Wikileaks is important because secrecy is more than ever the lynchpin of much that our government does.  Real journalists know what side to take in the battle between “the government-corporate consortium versus the citizens.”   In fact, this struggle between journalists and the U.S. government could accurately be referred to as a “war.”

To conclude this post, I am posting a video of Amy Goodman’s excellent opening remarks, which include detailed commentary on the “Collateral Murder” videotape published by Wikileaks:



Category: Censorship, Journalism, Media, Orwellian, Propaganda, Secrecy

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.

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  1. Fresh From Twitter today | The Information wants to be Free | April 14, 2011
  1. myteeaphrodite says:


    You're a genius! How did you get this in a youtube format?

    Thank you for this!!!

    • Erich Vieth says:

      myteeaphrodite: I attended the conference with a small digital camcorder and a tripod. I shot my video from about 40 feet away. That night, I downloaded to the video from the camcorder to iMovie using a small apple notebook. iMovie has easy menu picks for transitions and titles, and also for uploading your finished product to Youtube. I already had a Youtube account.

      I sense that you are new to the process of uploading videos. I'm no genius. I made ordinary use of amazing technology. Oh, and I tried to take good notes with pen and a pad of paper during the panel discussion. I also made the excellent decision of buying Greg Mitchell's incredible book (The Age of Wikileaks), which kept me up until the wee hours last night. Thank goodness Mitchell has such passion for this issue and had the persistence to preserve the the essential story (gleaned from his many blog posts) in a 150-page book. On ready Mitchell's book, I saw that there is a powerful synergy between Mitchell and Glenn Greenwald. I was honored to have the opportunity to hear from both of them in the same session. And many thanks to Free Press for bringing them together, along with hundreds of other excellent commentators on media reform.

  2. Journowatch says:

    Videos from NCMR 2011 at

    – Malkia Cyril at NCMR Plenary

    – DN! roundtable with Craig Aaron, Sascha Meinrath and Malkia Cyril

    – Interview with Josh Stearns: The Solution To Crumbling Media

    – Jake Shapiro’s Podcasting Advice for Documentary Filmmakers

    – FCC National Town Hall: Mignon Clyburn (intro: Amalia Deloney)

    – Amalia Deloney: Building People Powered Movement for Net Freedom

    – Amy Goodman moderates the Wikileaks panel

    – Glenn Greenwald Discusses Wikileaks

    – Other random video tidbits

  3. c. says:

    Thanks for this very helpful summary.

  4. myteeaphrodite says:

    Thanks for the response Erich. I share your enthusiasm for Glenn and Greg.

    I assumed that you were able to convert the link from freespech to youtube. I heard that this is not easy to do.

    Peace on earth,

  5. Ed says:

    How about you all deserve "there’s not enough good news about the news these days."

    BECAUSE you pander to your paying advertisers

    BY IGNORING the serial herd behavior USA track record:

    "Real Homes, Real Dow" at

    PLEASE do remember the high road!

    Just saw … a worthy journalism phrasing, I thought

    Thursday, April 14, 2011 12:20 PM


    at the end, see

    “… what the media should be: an intelligence agency of the people, …”

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    (Reuters) – "WikiLeaks' Australian founder Julian Assange, who enraged Washington by publishing thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, was given a peace award on Tuesday for "exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights."

    Assange was awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation's gold medal in London, only the fourth to be handed out in its 14-year history. The not-for-profit organization associated with the University of Sydney, is supported by the City of Sydney."

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    "No one has come to harm as a result of WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of classified documents, the site's founder said Saturday, accusing his critics of opposing the revelations because of "middle-class squeamishness."

    Julian Assange told an audience at the Hay literary festival in Wales that "there are no official allegations in the public domain" of anyone being hurt by the secret-spilling site's disclosures.

    Assange said WikiLeaks had "played a significant role" in the uprisings sweeping the Arab world by publishing secret documents about those countries' authoritarian regimes. But he said the site was not the sole or even the major factor in the movements."

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    The Nation reports that the U.S. has meddled with and opposed democracy in Haiti for many years:

    US officials led a far-reaching international campaign aimed at keeping former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide exiled in South Africa, rendering him a virtual prisoner there for the last seven years, according to secret US State Department cables.

    A secret US Embassy cable describes how Haiti’s business elite armed and deployed police units in pro-Aristide strongholds like Bel Air and Cite Soleil after the 2004 coup. The cables show that high-level US and UN officials even discussed a politically motivated prosecution of Aristide to prevent him from “gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.”

    The secret cables, made available to the Haitian weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté by WikiLeaks, show how the political defeat of Aristide and his Lavalas movement has been the central pillar of US policy toward the Caribbean nation over the last two US administrations, even though—or perhaps because—US officials understood that he was the most popular political figure in Haiti.”

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    More on the Wikileaks revelations regarding Haiti, from Democracy Now!:

    “The WikiLeaks cables reveal just how closely Washington and the United Nations oversaw the formation of Haiti’s new police force and signed off on the integration of paramilitaries who had previously targeted Haiti’s poor majority and democratically elected governments.”

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    “As revealed by a State Department diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks last week, US forces committed a heinous war crime during a house raid in Iraq in 2006, wherein one man, four women, two children, and three infants were summarily executed.”

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    “You can donate to a pro-genocide neo-Nazi cult using Visa/Mastercard But not to #WikiLeaks Absurd.”!/rj_gallagher/status/133188652074405888

  12. Mike M. says:

    Well, of course you can donate to a US Presidential Campaign Fund with a Visa/Mastercard…er, wait. Oh, you’re talking about a DIFFERENT pro-genocide neo-nazi cult. Oops.

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