The TED interview below (video at the end of the post) was conducted in July 2010 with Julian Assange talking about the need for the public to keep an eye out for government conduct. Americans cherish freedom of the press, and by that, it is generally understood that the media’s job is to be the watchdog of the government and any other organization of power.
Do Americans have freedom of the press? I don’t think so. Or definitely not in function as how Americans understand their purpose to be. Assange is about to release a new documentary film criticizing the Western media. Referring to the New York Times, he said:
“Once a media group is powerful for long enough…It stops seeing itself as a group that holds powerful groups to account and starts seeing itself as part of the social network of the elite.”
For matters of foreign policy, we can much more easily see what he is saying. For example, the U.S. media virtually ignored coverage of the plight of the Iraqi’s – their death and destruction brought by the war. By purposefully not doing such coverage, Americans are desensitized and thus acquiesce to their government’s conduct. Government actors are actually proactive in their propaganda and U.S. media actively collaborate, as this Global Research report shows:
It is also important to address how the mainstream media is intertwined, often covertly and secretly, with the government. Carl Bernstein, one of the two Washington Post reporters who covered the Watergate scandal, revealed that there were over 400 American journalists who had “secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency.” Interestingly, “the use of journalists has been among the most productive means of intelligence-gathering employed by the CIA.” Among organizations which cooperated with the CIA were the “American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald-Tribune.”
By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc. The CIA even ran a training program “to teach its agents to be journalists,” who were “then placed in major news organizations with help from management.”
These types of relationships have continued in the decades since, although perhaps more covertly and quietly than before. For example, it was revealed in 2000 that during the NATO bombing of Kosovo, “several officers from the US Army’s 4th Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) Group at Ft. Bragg worked in the news division at CNN’s Atlanta headquarters.” This same Army Psyop outfit had “planted stories in the U.S. media supporting the Reagan Administration’s Central America policies,” which was described by the Miami Herald as a “vast psychological warfare operation of the kind the military conducts to influence a population in enemy territory.” These Army PSYOP officers also worked at National Public Radio (NPR) at the same time. The US military has, in fact, had a strong relationship with CNN.
Assange impinges upon us a number of thought provoking questions. Should governments be allowed to keep secrets? Is WikiLeaks a good solution to protecting victims?