How Julian Assange became what he hated: a TV guy

He’s using all the tricks of his hated mainstream media–and can’t get a headline

(Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo)

Confession: I watched Julian Assange’s TV show. I promised myself I’d ignore it, but curiosity got the better of me. I wish I’d stuck with my instinct, because it annoyed me to the extent that I’m now going to compound the problem by writing about him. Sorry everybody.

Before I unburden myself, a note to Assange’s supporters: I know you feel your guy has been unfairly maligned and mocked by an international conspiracy to defame, imprison, and possibly kill him, even though he may not have broken any laws. And I think you’re probably right–he has been. But that doesn’t mean he’s not an ass.

And let’s face it, he’s such an ass.  He establishes this in the first minute of the World Tomorrow, through an epically self-aggrandizing intro-montage that places Assange as some kind of messianic figurehead of both the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring. He overplays the victim card by running footage of a rabid Fox News commentator barking that the U.S. should just “illegally shoot the son of a bitch!” Let’s remember that U.S. senator Joe Lieberman called for Assange to be tried for treason against the American government, a fantastical suggestion given that Assange is not a U.S. citizen. And Lieberman came within inches of the Vice Presidency, so he’s by no means a cable news cartoon character. Lieberman’s is a much more telling clip of the actual persecution Assange faces at the hands of the powerful. But I guess it wouldn’t make for as good television.

The face-palms slap-on from there. Assange interviews Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, setting him up as a subject too hot for the mainstream media to handle. Of course, any Middle East correspondent would eagerly speak to Nasrallah if he would grant them the interview. The suggestion is that a mainstream media conspiracy stands between us and exposure to this figure. The truth is, Nasrallah hasn’t given an interview in six years, and likely chose Assange as the guy to break the embargo with because he could be assured a smooth ride.

He was right. Assange asks Nasrallah what kind of outcome he’d accept in Israel. Speaking in front of the rifles adorning the Hezbollah flag, Nasrallah says he’d gladly disarm for a one state-solution where Muslims and Jews lived together in harmony. Of course, Hezbollah’s charter calls explicitly for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic State, but Assange is satisfied with Nasrallah’s warm and fuzzy answer. He’s less forgiving when Nasrallah bluntly explains that Hezbollah won’t support the Arab Spring uprising in Syria due to a political alliance with the Assad regime.  But the lightweight Assange bizarrely suggests that Nasrallah is just the guy to broker peace between the revolutionaries and Assad, because “people trust you are not an agent of the United States or Israel.” You think?

Assange concludes with an embarrassing grad student level question, where he encourages Nasrallah to somehow reconcile being a supposed freedom fighter with being a fundamentalist religious zealot. Why won’t he also “liberate us from the totalitarianism of a monotheistic god?” Nasrallah looks at him curiously, and punts.

All of which is to say that none of this was worth mentioning. Which to me is the newsworthy part (bear with me a moment more…).

Consider Wikileaks, a news bomb of epic proportions. How many thousands of headlines were contained in their data dumps? Through the use of a new news delivery medium, it changed journalism forever.

Now consider poor Julian, creating trumped up schlock for a Kremlin-backed TV propaganda unit. Using all the sizzle tricks of his hated mainstream media, he dances in the spotlight as Mr. Controversy, yet can’t procure a single headline.

Click if you must, but I watched The Word Tomorrow so you don’t have to. There’s no data there.

Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown




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How Julian Assange became what he hated: a TV guy

    •  Now THAT one on Salon I’ll agree with.  Some of the western media is a wee bit jealous. I believe Assange openly called them ‘stenographers’.

  1. I watched the show and my impression was completely opposite to yours. So much so that I’m wondering if you really watched it. Mr Assange for a beginner did a fantastic job. He was cool and friendly, for a change, he let the guy speak his mind. He also asked some pretty tough questions. The one on God was unexpected and quite revealing about the nature of belief and religion. As for the introduction to the show, I don’t see at all where you get your comments from. Your article is just another smear job from an embedded journalist that can only write what his bosses tell him to write. 

  2. Mainstream journalists tolerate with difficulty innovative methods of generating News as an FMCG. Agreed, Mr. Assange is ahead of mainstream media persons because he likes to be seen as ‘The lord of codes’. His TV debut was not all that ‘mediocre and grad school gibberish’, seen from the vantage point of scholars and lay person who have deep rooted and sustained interest in Islam/right wing movements/Middle East etc. It might get tighter and murkier for the main stream journos out there!! Watch out! Kremlin is simply a transit zone.

  3. Didn’t watch the program, nor will watch any of the programs. However, it isn’t hard to disagree Assange scored an important interview. It is ironic that it was with a person who has refused to give any interviews. The attempt to pull it as being an interview with someone who the media hasn’t given a voice to was absurd. Reading a differencing perception is always refreshing.

  4. It does suck when one invests so much in an establishment journalism education and then someone like Assange comes along, using his superior knowledge of technology alone, dwarfs all of one’s past, present, and likely future efforts to speak truth to power. It’s a lot like being the head of a vast distribution empire and watching 14-year-old kids distribute movies to millions of people with zero overhead costs. The temptation must be overwhelming to point out the relatively trivial and unimportant things, like the fact that Assange does not interview like an insider and makes a rookie mistakes (so what?), or the fact that the 14-year-old’s massively popular YouTube entertainments have lousy camera work.

    You have a blindness to what is important about Assange and what is happening to the world of journalism technologically, Jesse. That is unusual for you. You balk at looking at the truth in the eye on this issue and this issue alone, and I think that is very telling since this is your profession. You wish to excommunicate Assange from the ways of respected journalists, but it is the ways of the “respected” journalists which are being excommunicated from the world. Naturally their earliest replacements will be pioneer-types and so will not behave wholly with the same level of polish and assurance as the old establishment types, but this is wholly irrelevant to what is going on and it’s too bad you just can’t see past it.

    • “Rookie mistakes”? The man has built a hero myth around himself, as the man who challenges the powers that be, but when it comes to Hezbollah, and other major players, he offers no challenge at all, so long as they’re anti-American and anti-Israel. Swedish sex-offence law is weird and one hopes for a just resolution, but the man’s limited viewpoint and usefulness have revealed themselves abundantly.

      • What hero myth? You’re just making it up as you go along. The people who keep trying to silence assange are making him in to a martyr more than anyone else.

        If Americans are so arrogant that they cannot imagine doing anything wrong then maybe they should shut up. If they think they have done nothing wrong, then maybe it’s about time Assange said otherwise.

         If you want Assange to be completely honest about everything, then maybe you should stop complaining when the US is out to destroy him because he revealed information on the REAL casuality reports in afghanistan.

  5. “The man has built a hero myth around himself, as the man who challenges
    the powers that be, but… he offers no challenge at all.”

    Are you talking about Julian Assange? Or Bob Woodward?

    What you’re facing is a generation who has stopped believing the hagiographic triangulating bullcrap of the Bob Woodwards of the world. People simple don’t care whether a journalist is ‘professional’ or maintains that old school (and entirely facetious) fiction of impartiality. (Going for balance is not truth — it’s cowardly triangulating — we all know that now. The world has taught us this.)

    ‘Professional’ journalism has a bad name, and the only people who can rescue it are people like Julian Assange. We are entering an era in which truth-telling is valued over establishment-style respectability. To attack Assange for being unprofessional is to compeltely miss what is going on here. We don’t want Assange to be professional because we have been lied to and misled by the professionals for many years.

    In fact, if I had any criticism for Assange, it’s that he is trying to become too professional, but it’s a minor point as I do not doubt his sincerity in wanting to reveal truth to power. I trust him with dispensing important information if he can get it — I trust him more with that than the entire staff of Maclean’s put together. The minute he loses that, he’s toast: but not a moment sooner.

  6. This is journalism at its worst: bombastic, self-pitying, and histrionic. The article is also riddled with typos. That the writer is pro-Israel is obvious, of course, but to be so stupidly transparent about it just goes to show that we need people like Assange in the media — desperately.

    Personally, I savored Assange’s interview style, so very unlike those the mainstream media presstitues, such as Brown, approve and display. I’m eagerly anticipating future productions from Assange on Russia Today. Readers may also be interested in checking out the astute and always entertaining Max Keiser on Russia Today, who, with his partner Stacy Herbert, skewers the bankers and other media elite weekly before interviewing the most interesting and progressive minds in economics and business today.

  7. I didn’t need to read anything past the title to know this was nothing more than egotistical, self-serving and hateful garbage predicated on absurd belief and rationalization.

    And then I read the article

    I was proved absolutely correct.

  8. “Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown”

    I rest my case.

  9. Assange is a Mossad agent and an actor.  He also plays Breivik.  Don’t be fooled by the charade.

    xdisciple.blogspot.com

  10. -1 Objective reporting is not your strong
    point!

    -2 Hatred = lack of evidence and
    debating skills!
    -3 Did Assange make any false claims? If he
    did give evidence of it!

  11. Well this article ONLY proves that its author is lackie propaganda merchant out of Harper’s backside !

  12. Nasrallah’s response was thoughtful, articulate, without hostility or resentment and with good humor. Try questioning Christ to a Fundamentalist Christian and they will go bloody mad on you and hate you forever.

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