Wednesday, January 5, 2011

WikiLeaks journalism is not a crime


By DICK DORWORTH

"Well, I mean, the real attack on truth is tabloid journalism in the United States."

Julian Assange

"If journalism is good, it is controversial, by its nature."

Julian Assange

Just to be clear, in my view some of the most significant, useful, socially redeeming and best journalism in the world in the last few years has come from, or at least through, WikiLeaks. Those people calling for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be indicted for espionage or treason, imprisoned, even murdered with official sanction (a near oxymoron known as extrajudicial murder used by those who favor government-sponsored assassinations of "bad guys") are not working in the best interests of truth, democracy, freedom, human rights, justice or, obviously, transparency in government.

Good journalism helps keep government transparent and accountable. Bad journalism is as dangerous as the secrecy in government that bad journalism condones and which always benefits a few at the expense of the many. It can and does lead to things like endless wars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, paid for by deaths, maiming and shattered lives of hundreds of thousands of people and the sum of more than one trillion ($1,000,000,000,000) U.S. tax dollars so far, paid by many to profit a few. One trillion dollars of your money could do a great deal of good for America's education system, health care, transportation needs and environmental cleanup, and paying off the national debt, among other things.

Assange critics, who would lock him up or worse, include politicos like former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Joseph Lieberman, John Ensign and Scott Brown and a variety of journalists of many stripes and hues, most notably Joe Klein of Time magazine. Those and other supporters of secrecy in government are not acting in the best interests of the majority of the American people.

Or, for that matter, the majority of all the people on earth.

One of the many invaluable services WikiLeaks has done for society is to shine a bit of light on some of the recipients of government secrecy beyond the doomed debacles that are Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the least publicized, more interesting and most consequential in the long run is the genetically modified or biotech food industry, dominated by Monsanto. WikiLeaks revealed that at least for the past few years, U.S. diplomats have been secretly promoting genetically modified foods through U.S. embassies in many countries, including the Vatican, where after a 2005 diplomatic meeting in Rome with Catholic leaders, the Vatican "signaled a cautious acceptance of biotech food despite active opposition among the faithful."

The leaked cables show that after the meeting U.S. officials "pledged to continue pushing GM foods as a 'moral imperative' to feed growing populations in order to counter opposition to the biotech food industry among Catholic activists and clergy."

Moral imperative is a weighty term meaning something that originates in the human mind that must be done regardless of the cost, opposition and difficulties because it is the right thing to do. It is not a term to use lightly. When government officials use it in a place like the Vatican, in the service of an enormous multinational agricultural corporation with deep political, economic and personnel ties to the U.S. government, it is not out of order to question the morality of the people and government using it—as well as the imperative that caused them to do so in secret. Other WikiLeaks cables show U.S. plans to counter anti-GM initiatives across Europe and that "in 2008, US diplomats declared the Monsanto MON-810 corn crop in the biotech stronghold of Spain as 'under threat' from a campaign to ban GM crops in Europe.

"Spain was the first European country to approve the MON-810 corn variety, and by 2009, Spanish farmers were responsible for 75 percent of the MON-810 crop in Europe."

Whether one believes Monsanto and GM biotech food and America's military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are saviors or disasters, the only reason we know the little we do about our government's moral imperative to secretly promote the interests of multinational corporations is because of good journalism, backed by the First Amendment. The more we know about a matter, the better will be our thinking about it.

It is rare that I have the same opinion as Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, but I agree with what he said about WikiLeaks: "Despite what is claimed, the information that has been so far released, though classified, has caused no known harm to any individual, but it has caused plenty of embarrassment to our government," he said. "Losing our grip on our empire is not welcomed by the neoconservatives in charge."

Democrat Rep. John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said, "There is no doubt that WikiLeaks is very unpopular right now. Many feel that the WikiLeaks publication was offensive. But being unpopular is not a crime, and publishing offensive information is not either. And the repeated calls from politicians, journalists and other so-called experts crying out for criminal prosecutions or other extreme measures make me very uncomfortable."

Me too.




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