HomeArticleIn Refusing To Defend Assange, Mainstream Media Exposes Its True Nature

In Refusing To Defend Assange, Mainstream Media Exposes Its True Nature

Last Tuesday a top lawyer for the New York Times named David McCraw warned a room full of judges that the prosecution of Julian Assange for WikiLeaks publications would set a very dangerous precedent which would end up hurting mainstream news media outlets like NYT, the Washington Post, and other outlets which publish secret government documents.

“I think the prosecution of him would be a very, very bad precedent for publishers,” McCraw said. “From that incident, from everything I know, he’s sort of in a classic publisher’s position and I think the law would have a very hard time drawing a distinction between The New York Times and WikiLeaks.”

Do you know where I read about this? Not in the New York Times.

“Curiously, as of this writing, McCraw’s words have found no mention in the Times itself,” activist Ray McGovern wrote for the alternative media outlet Consortium News. “In recent years, the newspaper has shown a marked proclivity to avoid printing anything that might risk its front row seat at the government trough.”

So let’s unpack that a bit. It is now public knowledge that the Ecuadorian government is actively seeking to turn Assange over to be arrested by the British government. This was initially reported by RT, then independently confirmed by The Intercept, and is today full mainstream public knowledge being reported by mainstream outlets like CNN. It is also public knowledge that Assange’s asylum was granted by the Ecuadorian government due to a feared attempt to extradite him to the United States and prosecute him for WikiLeaks publications. Everyone from President Donald Trump to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to now-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ranking House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff to Democratic members of the US Senate have made public statements clearly indicating that there is a US government interest in getting Assange out of the shelter of political asylum and into prison.

The New York Times is aware of this, and as evidenced by McCraw’s comments it is also aware of the dangerous precedent that such a prosecution would set for all news media publications. The New York Times editorial staff are aware that the US government prosecuting a publisher for publishing important documents that had been hidden from the public would make it impossible for the Times to publish the same kind of material without fear of the same legal repercussions. It is aware that the maneuvers being taken against Assange present a very real existential threat to the possibility of real journalism and holding power to account.

You might think, therefore, that we’d be seeing a flood of analyses and op-eds from the New York Times aggressively condemning any movement toward the prosecution of Julian Assange. You might expect all media outlets in America to be constantly sounding the alarm about this, especially since the threat is coming from the Trump administration, which outlets like the New York Times are always eager to circulate dire warnings about. You might expect every talking head on CNN and NBC to be ominously citing Assange as the clearest and most egregious case yet of Trump’s infamous “war on the free press”. Leaving aside the issues of morality, compassion and human rights that come with Assange’s case, you might think that if for no other reason than sheer unenlightened self interest they’d be loudly and aggressively defending him.

And yet, they don’t. And the fact that they don’t shows us what they really are.

Theoretically, journalism is meant to help create an informed populace and hold power to account. That’s why it’s the only profession explicitly named in the United States Constitution, and why freedom of the press has enjoyed such constitutional protections throughout US history. The press today is failing to protect Julian Assange because it has no intention of creating an informed populace or holding power to account.

This is not to suggest the existence of some grand, secret conspiracy among US journalists. It’s just a simple fact that plutocrats own most of the US news media and hire the people who run it, which has naturally created an environment where the best way to advance one’s career is to remain perpetually inoffensive to the establishment upon which plutocrats have built their respective empires. This is why you see ambitious reporters on Twitter falling all over themselves to be the first with a pithy line that advances establishment agendas whenever breaking news presents an opportunity to do so; they are aware that their social media presence is being assessed by potential employers and allies for establishment loyalism. This also why so many of those aspiring journalists attack Assange and WikiLeaks whenever possible.

Everyone hoping to gain admission to the cultural elite must now strenuously cultivate their social media so as to avoid controversy,” journalist Michael Tracey observed recently. “Eventually they will internalize controversy-avoidance as a virtue, not a societal imposition. Result: a more boring, conformist elite culture.”

A great way for an aspiring journalist to avoid controversy is to never, ever defend Assange or WikiLeaks on social media or in any media outlet, and certainly under no circumstances allow yourself to look like the sort of journo who might someday publish the sorts of materials that WikiLeaks publishes. An excellent way to prove yourself is to become yet another author of yet another one of the many, many smear pieces that have been written about Assange and WikiLeaks.

Mainstream media outlets and those who thrive within them have no intention of rocking the boat and losing their hard-earned privilege and access. Conservative mass media will continue to defend the US president, and liberal media will continue to defend the CIA and the FBI. Both will help advance war, ecocide, military expansionism, surveillance and police militarization, and none will leak anything that is damaging to the power structures that they have learned to serve. They will remain innocuous, uncontroversial defenders of the rich and powerful at all times.

Meanwhile, alternative media outlets are defending Assange ferociously. Just today I’ve seen articles from Consortium News, World Socialist Website, Disobedient Media, Antiwar and Common Dreams decrying the persecution of the most important government transparency advocate living today. Alternative media outlets and independent writers aren’t bound by establishment servitude, so the value of WikiLeaks is clear as day. One’s eyes are only blinded to the pernicious behaviors of power when power is signing one’s paycheck.

Mass media outlets in America and around the world have fully discredited themselves with their failure to defend a publisher who actually holds power to account and brings facts into the light of truth to create an informed populace. Every day that goes by where they don’t unequivocally condemn any attempt to prosecute Assange is another day in the pile of evidence that corporate media outlets serve power and not truth. Their silence is a tacit admission that they are nothing other than stenographers and propagandists for the most powerful forces on earth.


The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to get on the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My articles are entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, checking out my podcast, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypalor buying my book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Liked it? Take a second to support Caitlin Johnstone on Patreon!

Latest comments

  • The mainstream media long ago revealed that it serves the self-appointed masters. It was pre-ordained and warn of when the FCC began permitting more concentrated ownership of local media, so that the shares owned by the wealthy conservatives dominated. It is even the same reason why municipalities in the U.S. sign contracts with cable companies that prohibit significant competition, except with other equal strength members.
    In a free and open society, any company (small or large) wishing to do business, anywhere, would have the right if it can amass the necessary finances. I find much in the newspapers (yes, I still read them) to be fluff or sensationalism, but very little meat. tHe same goes for TV news, which is owned, pretty much, by the same people who own the newspapers. I asked in any article of yours, about a week ago, “Where’s the beef.” I’m still asking the same question, whether it is to TV, radio, internet providers, newspapers. I find myself asking that question more and more each day – and in reading or listening, equally commenting a glorious, huge “bullshit.”
    The reality is that the only real TV news I watch anymore is the local weather forecast (which is accurate and reliable about 60% of the time) and, when significant, reports on my favorite sports teams.
    That’s about it, since almost all of the news is filled with nauseating ‘interest’ pieces and murders.

  • The “main stream media” is utterly enmeshed in and part of “the system” and its function is to assist the system in functioning. Its appearance as “critique” is only to make modest corrections within the system, not to be outside the system and see it for what it is. Assange was outside the system, but had the means to expose what is inside the system and hence present a mortal danger. So, no, the NYTimes et al are not going to accurately describe him and what he has done and they are certainly not going to defend him. Once he is in custody of the US, expect him to be vilified. As Julian is demonstrating, there is no “safe haven” from US power – the US will use whatever leverage it can, financial, political and if need be military to obtain its desires. It would have been awkward to send a SEAL unit in to extract Assange in the middle of London, so another route has been chosen. Had he holed up in say Karachi, he would have been ZeroDarkThirtied and dumped in the Indian Ocean or something. His treatment is Uncle Sam’s cautionary note to everyone thinking of revealing the King’s secrets.

  • Any news or analysis site – mainstream or alternative – that isn’t aggressively speaking out in defense of Assange currently is not worth another look , IMO. I’ll be using this as a screening tool to direct my future browsing habits.

  • “Everyone from President Donald Trump to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to now-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ranking House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff to Democratic members of the US Senate have made public statements clearly indicating that there is a US government interest in getting Assange out of the shelter of political asylum and into prison.”

    Perhaps all of that may be true, but I’ve never heard Trump mention going after Assange. Why would he?!

    Really tired of all the Trump hating for cheap brownie points. All here should be well aware of the infrastructure of evil that is the Swamp he’s attempting to drain!

    Is he not going after child sex trafficking like never before?!

    • ” President Donald Trump says that if the Justice Department wants to charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, “it’s OK with me.”………Trump says he is not involved in that decision-making process, but would support Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he charged Assange with a crime. ”

      …… as reported in Caity’s link.

      • To which link are you referring, Marko?

        Seems very out of character for the ultimate ANTI-Fake News guy to have a gripe with Assange, especially in light of all the damaging DNC/Hillary revelations attained via Wikileaks?

        My opinion of Trump would change drastically if so. That being said, if CNN, MSNBC, NYT, la di da… all relentlessly rain HATE and LIES about the man, my gut tells me there’s a reason. And he can’t go after ALL the bad guys at once!


        Halting the New World Order Agenda?

        Other stuff?


  • Caitlin nails it in this article. Fantabulous journalists like I.F. Stone would already be in jail under this miscreant administration. We who support freedom of the press ought to be bombarding our congresseunuchs about following the Constitution they’re …..uh….they’re…..sworn to uphold…….like we don’t have enough issues to bombard them with every few hours. The OC (Orange Cabal) would love nothing better than to incarcerate….or poison….Assange. Just like I hope for Snowden, I hope someone steps up to rescue Assange since Ecuador lost their “huevos,” and that he never sets foot on American soil.

  • I adore you, Caity. BUT, this is He said, They said, Somebody said. WHAT does J.A. himself say? Nothing. Because he was silenced almost 2 years ago. The passion of supporters is well-founded, BUT J.A. is only an artifact at this point in time. I WEEP in facing this!! Please try to accept that all ‘News’ that is being flogged at present is controlled narrative about a missing unicorn. And you are feeding the narrative by not accepting that he is GONE. Much love to you.

      • I sincerely apologize if I am in error. I must have missed the person-to-person recorded interviews. I would LOVE to be wrong. So, if you have links to those interviews, can you PLEASE share them? I am literally Under Fire here in California so I have very probably missed something I should know, and you certainly have the better means to ferret out. I want to believe J.A. is alive and well and that his supporters are not being misled. Gratitude. P.S. WHAT MAIN$TREAM NARRATIVE agrees with ME??? I musta missed THAT, too.

        • P.P.S. Interviews dating anywhere in time after November 2016 would be spot-on for what I want to learn. Thank you, Caity!

          • ” I must have missed the person-to-person recorded interviews……. So, if you have links to those interviews, can you PLEASE share them? ”

            There are no person-to-person recorded interviews , nor did Caity say there were. You’re trying to create a straw-man to attack , and doing so politely makes it no less transparent.

  • For those who commented on a recent article that 4-letter words may limit who readers can share Caitlin’s work with, please note that this article is written in plain easy-to-understand expletive-free language. Even your granny or church leader can’t take offence at anything here. PLEASE share, Julian’s freedom is crucial to us all.

  • What are the charges against Assange? Your article doesn’t say. Is that because there are no pending charges? If there are no pending charges, what is there to defend against.

    If charges are brought against Assange in the US for doing what amounts to doing journalism, I am sure the mainstream media will come to his defense. If they don’t, then will be the time to call the mainstream media hypocrites for this particular transgression. Right now, you are just engaged in righteous indignation over breathless speculation, and it’s not a good look.

    P.S. The fact that an NYT in-house attorney is already thinking about the possibility of such an event coming to pass tells you there will be op-eds if and when such charges are brought.

    • Stop trolling. There is widespread mainstream media confirmation that the U.S. impaneled a grand jury to investigate Assange and Wikileaks, and a leaked email from a former US official at the private security company Stratfor that there has been a sealed indictment pending for some six years.

      The best way to prevent Assange from being convicted of journalism in the U.S. is to stop the U.S. from getting its hot little hands on him to try him in the first place. And nothing would help more in that endeavor than masthead editorials from the Post/Times/Journal crowd vigorously denouncing any thought of a prosecution. Oh, and maybe some actual investigative reporting to prove the existence and contents of the sealed indictment, you know, like the “breathless speculation” that accompanies every Robert Mueller burp.

      Now. Not when he’s rendered to the U.S., put in solitary confinement and on “suicide watch” for his own much needed “protection,” with his ever-so-solicitous guards making sure he never has a full night’s sleep for the rest of his life.

      And nobody gives a damn what you have to say about Caitlin’s “look.” It’s a bad look to be a smug shill for the CIA, NYT and Post.

    • To the US establishment it doesn’t matter right now – it will concoct the charges once it gets hold of Assange. Caitlin is right – there is a lot of noise from senior government people indicating a strong desire to prosecute him. As we all know, the US government doesn’t handle criticism well, and always seeks to punish those it brands as enemies.

      And it is wishful thinking to hope that the mainstream media will reverse its current position and come to his defence. So far, there is no indication that it will do so.

      It is not speculation at all. The mainstream media has shown its true colours, which are those of the elites that own them.

      The threat to Julian Assange’s safety is very real, and the mainstream media is doing nothing to defend him or his actions. The Ecuadorians want him out of their embassy, and the British will be pressurised by the US to extradite him.

  • Brilliant commentary with dire inescapable conclusions.

  • The CIA etc are missing from your piece. Appreciate your work.

  • The world prosecuted the United States government for crimes against humanity for enforcing a system of brutal slavery for 85 years from 1776 to 1861, found it guilty, and sentenced it to death.

  • This fine article is precisely on point! The powers that be want to lock up Julian Assange and have kept him confined to the Ecuadoran Embassy almost to the point of ruining his health for these past years! Not because he did anything illegal, but they are not used to having ordinary people like us pay attention to just how corrupt and harmful our own government is for all of us! They are scared shitless that we will challenge their rule over us and will do anything to prevent that from happening! Julian Assange is NOT a criminal, those who would persecute him further ARE! Rise up and be counted, if they do this to him, who do you think their next victim will be? Certainly not one of our many corrupt politicians, no, they are safe because the power structure needs worker bees to obfuscate the truth! Bless you for writing this, you are a truth teller!

  • Support independent journalism

  • We live in a “Hypocracy”, a new term for the obviously accurate reflection of a political system where truth and honesty and honor are utterly irrelevant. Where collaborating in fooling ourselves is described as “liberal”. Where real heroes are vilified and villains are deemed victims.

    • Very nice new term!! Not to be confused with the Hippocratic Oath. Nice alliteration also. Thanks Guillermo and MANY Thanks to Caitlin!!!

Post a Reply to jon jost Cancel Reply