Professional jealousy; dogmatic institutionalism; craven loyalty to power. Glenn Greenwald fires a devastating salvo at the British and American press for their dogged campaign of “disgusting slander” against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“[L]et us pause to reflect on a truly amazing and revealing fact, one that calls for formal study in several academic fields of discipline,” Greenwald writes.
“Is it not remarkable that one of the very few individuals over the past decade to risk his welfare, liberty and even life to meaningfully challenge the secrecy regime on which the American national security state (and those of its obedient allies) depends just so happens to have become—long before he sought asylum from Ecuador—the most intensely and personally despised figure among the American and British media class and the British ‘liberal’ intelligentsia?”
There are several obvious reasons why Assange provokes such unhinged media contempt. The most obvious among them is competition: the resentment generated by watching someone outside their profession generate more critical scoops in a year than all other media outlets combined (see this brilliant 2008 post, in the context of the Clintons, about how professional and ego-based competition produces personal hatred like nothing else can).
Other causes are more subtle though substantive. Many journalists (and liberals) like to wear the costume of outsider-insurgent, but are, at their core, devoted institutionalists, faithful believers in the goodness of their society’s power centers, and thus resent those (like Assange) who actually and deliberately place themselves outside of it. By putting his own liberty and security at risk to oppose the world’s most powerful factions, Assange has clearly demonstrated what happens to real adversarial dissidents and insurgents – they’re persecuted, demonized, and threatened, not befriended by and invited to parties within the halls of imperial power – and he thus causes many journalists to stand revealed as posers, servants to power, and courtiers.
Then there’s the ideological cause. As one long-time British journalist told me this week when discussing the vitriol of the British press toward Assange: “Nothing delights British former lefties more than an opportunity to defend power while pretending it is a brave stance in defence of a left liberal principle.” That’s the warped mindset that led to so many of these self-styled liberal journalists to support the attack on Iraq and other acts of Western aggression in the name of liberal values. And it’s why nothing triggers their rage like fundamental critiques of, and especially meaningful opposition to, the institutions of power to which they are unfailingly loyal.