It was a colleague, a good and sensible Cape Bretoner, who said of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, that while she found him repellent, “at the heart of this story is freedom of speech and forcing sunlight into dark places; those are things I work for every day.”
I suppose she is right about that, at least on some level.
The problem with Assange is that the light he shone was so mercilessly and recklessly deployed and almost always ideologically driven by his loathing of America.
As Nick Cohen wrote eight years ago in The Guardian, in a conversation with the journalists who wrote a history of WikiLeaks, Assange was asked over a meal about putting U.S. secrets online without taking the basic precaution of removing the names of Afghans, who after all were fighting against the murderous Taliban and thus had co-operated with U.S. forces or spoken to U.S. diplomats.
“Well, they’re informants,” Assange told the journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding. “So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.”
As Cohen wrote, “A silence fell on the table as the reporters realized that the man the gullible hailed as the pioneer of a new age of transparency was willing to hand death lists to psychopaths.”
The reporters managed to persuade Assange to remove the names before publishing the U.S. State Department’s Afghanistan cables, though apparently he always rued that decision.
There’s the difference I like to imagine there is between the best of us — journalists — and Assange, and why I cringe every time I see or hear him described as a journalist.