Since I published my last article about about the idiotic “Assange isn’t a journalist” smear, this talking point has become more and more commonplace in online discourse. It’s very important to defenders of the political status quo for us all to believe that Assange is not a journalist, because otherwise that would mean they’re cheering for a dangerous precedent which would allow for the prosecution of journalists who exposed the truth about US government malfeasance. And that would mean cognitive dissonance, which all defenders of the political status quo spend most of their day-to-day mental energy running away from.
So in the past few days, editorials like this one from free press avatar Peter Greste have popped up all over the place with their own definitions of what journalism is in order to argue why that label can’t possibly apply to Assange. All of these definitions ultimately boil down to the argument that because Assange doesn’t publish leaks in a way that they feel journalism ought to be practiced, it isn’t journalism and therefore sets no legal precedent for journalists around the world. As though the US government is going to be consulting their feelings about what specifically constitutes journalism the next time they decide to imprison a journalist for doing what Assange did.
It doesn’t work that way, sugar tits. Assange is being prosecuted by the Trump administration for standard journalistic practices, he stands no chance of receiving a fair trial, and it is very likely that he will be hit with far more serious charges for his activities once on US soil. The next time the US government, under Trump or someone else, sees another journalist anywhere in the world doing something similar to what Assange did, there will be nothing stopping them from saying, “We need to lock that person up like we did Assange; they’re doing the same sort of thing.”
It’s just so amazingly arrogant how people imagine that the way their feelings feel will factor into this in any way. Like the US Attorney General might show up on their doorstep one day with a clipboard saying “Yes, hello, we wanted to imprison this journalist based on the precedent we set with the prosecution of Julian Assange, but before doing so we wanted to find out how your feelings feel about whether or not they’re a real journalist.”
You won’t get to define how the US government will interpret what constitutes journalism in the future. Only the US government will. It’s amazing that this isn’t more obvious to more people.
Also, the question "is X a 'journalist'?" – as though it's a credentialed, licensed status like being a doctor or lawyer – is deceitful. The First Amendment's press freedom protects *an activity* available to everyone – not just a designated priesthood called "journalists."
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 12, 2019
In reality, journalism has always been and will always be defined as an activity. It’s not like being a doctor. If you happen to witness a car crash and you give CPR on the scene, you are not a doctor in that moment, but if you take some photos and post them online with a summary of what you saw then you are engaging in the act of journalism and all the legalities and rules of journalism apply to you.
The particular journalistic activities that the US is currently trying to extradite Assange for is encouraging a source to give him more documents and conspiracy to help Manning hide her identity so that she would not be persecuted for her heroic act of whistleblowing. In other words, Assange was attempting to make sure Manning’s leaks had enough impact to justify the risk, and also to try and make sure she wasn’t caught and tortured for it.
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