Why WikiLeaks is right about journalism

On 14 July 2010, a fluff-journalist called Stephen Moss padded the void-like pages of the Guardian with an interview with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, who made the following interesting comment:

‘”Journalism should be more like science,” [said Assange]…”As far as possible, facts should be verifiable. If journalists want long-term credibility for their profession, they have to go in that direction. Have more respect for readers.” He likes the idea of a 2,000-word article backed by 25,000 words of source material, and says there is no reason why you can’t provide that on the internet.’

The ‘proper’ press has fallen far behind in this regard. One can attempt to provide the reader with objectivity in the manner Assange recommends, but I’ll give you an example of a method more often employed by journalists. On 26 June 2010, Brian Boyd of the Irish Times wrote a profile of Assange, but hack Boyd, wanting to seem ‘objective’, apparently thought the best way to do it was to just make stuff up! Boyd wrote about the WikiLeaks video released in April:

‘…a classified military video showing a helicopter attack in Baghdad that resulted in 12 deaths – it shows the murder of Iraqi civilians and two Reuters reporters, according to Wikileaks. The US military disputes the claim and says it is investigating the incident.’

Although Boyd’s scribbling appears on the internet, it does not link to the video for the readers to make up their own minds (‘We trust Boyd! We trust Boyd!’), then paradoxically he writes in a tone so nondescriptive and unrevealing that it suggests he is the only person on Earth who has not seen the video. Where his imagination kicks in is where he states that the US military ‘says it is investigating the incident’. No, the US military never said that, and they are not investigating (if they did say that, where’s the link to their statement, Boyd?). If you look at, say, the Telegraph on 6 April 2010, the military position is actually this: ‘The Pentagon acknowledged the authenticity of the video but a spokesman insisted the video did not contradict the official finding [in 2007] that the helicopters’ crew acted within the rules of engagement.’ This is what’s been reported everywhere so I was quite surprised by Boyd’s ‘breaking news’.

In a hamfisted, clownish endeavour to treat Assange and the Pentagon even-handedly, Boyd came up with the sentence, ‘the US military disputes the claim and says it is investigating the incident’, a total fiction, and if the US military really did say it is investigating, mea-frakking-culpa, but I’ll apologize when I see the primary source, the goddam evidence! Otherwise, I will continue to pontificate from where I am standing, imagining this creature Boyd as some lazy drunk slumped in a darkened corner of the Irish Times office, leaning back in his swivel chair, one hand up his rectum and the other typing away at a keyboard with fat fingers, getting his quota of fluff written for the day, while his half-asleep editor keeps an eagle-eyed appointment with the oul’ internet pornography.

Assange (rightly in my opinion) had a go at fluff-Moss: ‘”I think it’s an international disgrace that so few western journalists have been killed in the course of duty, or have been arrested in the course of duty. How many journalists were arrested last year in the United States, a country of 300 million people? How many journalists were arrested in the UK last year?” Journalists, he says, let other people take the risks and then take the credit. They have been letting the state, big business, vested interests get away with it for too long, and a network of hackers and whistleblowers hunched over computers, making sense of complex data and with a mission to make it freely available, is now ready to do a better job.’

Have others effectively taken over the investigative job once done by journalists? Is all the stuff hitting the news desks now just so much second-hand info, investigated by someone else? What kind of people are writing for the papers, anyway? Anyone who has ever written a press release (I have) has often been amused to find it appearing in the press word for word! What’s up with the press these days? Look at a broadsheet like the Irish Independent, offering inane celebrity gossip alongside so-called serious news: why can’t they take themselves seriously, if they’re a broadsheet? It’s like going to a restaurant and looking at a menu that offers venison, roast duck etc., but it states ‘We also offer shit, straight from the toilet’. Why all the fluff and padding in newspapers? Why all the ‘100 best quotes from spaghetti westerns’ and ‘100 ways to discreetly fart in company’?

Assange’s prediction for the future: ‘”For the financial and specialist press, it’ll still look mostly the same – your daily briefing about what you need to know to run your business. But for political and social analysis, that’s going to be movements and networks. You can already see this happening.”‘

Barry Kavanagh writes fiction, and has made music, formerly with Dacianos.

Contact him here.

1 comment

  1. that binging you hear was the sound of a nail being hit squarely on the head. Nice piece.

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