HomeArticle“Assange Is Not A Journalist!” Yes He Is, Idiot.

“Assange Is Not A Journalist!” Yes He Is, Idiot.

As we discussed yesterday, whenever Assange is in the news and people are defending him you always see a bunch of hyper-emotional empire loyalists running around online trying to manage the narrative about him. One of the most common talking points which comes up is that Assange is “not a journalist”.

The reason this talking point comes up, of course, is because the WikiLeaks founder is besieged by powerful forces who are attempting to imprison him for publishing inconvenient facts about them, and his defenders often voice their concerns about what this means for the future of press freedoms. The completely baseless claim that Assange is “not a journalist” is used in an attempt to defuse the argument that his prosecution by the US government could lead to the same fate for any news media outlet which publishes leaks on the US government anywhere in the world. If he’s not a journalist, then his prosecution sets no precedent for real journalists.

This argument, if you can call it that, is fallacious for a number of reasons. For starters, as The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald explained last year, there’s not any legal distinction in the US Constitution between news media outlets like the New York Times and an outlet which solely focuses on publishing leaks. If you set the precedent with any publisher, you’re necessarily setting it for all of them. Greenwald writes the following:

To begin with, the press freedom guarantee of the First Amendment isn’t confined to “legitimate news outlets” – whatever that might mean. The First Amendment isn’t available only to a certain class of people licensed as “journalists.” It protects not a privileged group of people called “professional journalists” but rather an activity: namely, using the press (which at the time of the First Amendment’s enactment meant the literal printing press) to inform the public about what the government was doing. Everyone is entitled to that constitutional protection equally: there is no cogent way to justify why the Guardian, ex-DOJ-officials-turned-bloggers, or Marcy Wheeler are free to publish classified information but Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are not.

Secondly, anyone with a functioning brain can see that Julian Assange is indeed a journalist. Publishing facts so that the citizenry can inform themselves about what’s going on in their world and what’s happening with their government is the thing that journalism is. Duh. The need for an informed citizenry is the entire reason why press freedoms are protected so explicitly under the US Constitution, and publishing facts about the most powerful institutions on earth indisputably does create a more informed citizenry.

You can look at any conventional dictionary definition of the word and come to the same conclusion. Merriam-Webster offers “the public press” and “the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media”. The Oxford English Dictionary offers “The activity or profession of writing for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or preparing news to be broadcast.” Your Dictionary offers ” the work of finding, creating, editing and publishing news, or material written and presented for a newspaper, magazine or broadcast news source.” These are activities that WikiLeaks is undeniably involved in; they collect and publish newsworthy information to be circulated by themselves and other news sources. The fact that they do their part differently (and better) than other outlets doesn’t change that.

Which explains why the WikiLeaks team has racked up numerous awards for journalism over the years, including the Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism (2011), the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism (2011), the International Piero Passetti Journalism Prize of the National Union of Italian Journalists (2011), the Jose Couso Press Freedom Award (2011), the Brazillian Press Association Human Rights Award (2013), and the Kazakstan Union of Journalists Top Prize (2014).

The claim that Assange is “not a journalist” is both an irrelevant red herring and a self-evident falsehood. It is made not by people with an interest in maintaining a small and specific linguistic understanding of what the word journalism means, but by people who want to see Julian Assange imprisoned by the same government which tortured Chelsea Manning because he made them feel emotionally upset. It’s a fact-free argument made entirely in bad faith for inexcusable motives: the desire to see a journalist imprisoned for telling the truth.

When someone says “Assange isn’t a journalist”, they aren’t telling you what Assange is. They’re showing you what they are.

____________________

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Latest comments

  • Those who forget history are doomed to eternal condemnation.

    These government hacks that claim Julian Assange is not a journalist need to keep a few points in mind.

    What do Thomas Paine, Sam Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all have in common, besides the time period? They were all journalists! Paine created pamphlets to inform his fellow citizens; Adams worked for a functioning newspaper; Franklin owned a newspaper. But each of them wrote material to inform their fellow Americans of what the British government was doing to them! And each had their own way of distributing the news.

    To put the word, “professional” in front of the title of journalist is meaningless. And it is certainly an argument that has no legal or Constitutional basis whatsoever.

    A few years ago, the detestable Chuck Schumer (D-People’s Democratic State of New York) proposed an idea that was eagerly accepted by two of the other most ardent anti-freedom Senators then alive, Diane Feinstein (D-People’s Republic of California) and John McCain (RINO-Arizona) that would strip all First Amendment protections from those writers not affiliated with “professional” news outlets. And they wanted to place the government in the position of determining which was a professional news outlet!

    Think about that for a moment before criticizing the actions of a hero like Julian Assange.

  • To satisfy the naysayers, perhaps all Assange needs to do — if he hasn’t already – is join the Australian journalists’ union, and end the petty quibbling about whether he’s a reporter, sub-editor, editor, or publisher. [Probably all, at some time or another.]
    As someone who has spent his working life as newspaper reporter, I rub shoulders at the journalists’ association’s club bar with members wearing hats of public relations manipulators, government speech writers, advertising copy-writers, caption-writers and of course sporting pundits. To prevaricate in Assange’s case is ludicrous.

  • I’d be reluctant associate with Greenwald. on any level ~ this little snake . Looking for a pc he wrote in ’05 that shook this nat’l group of Impeach Bush & Cheney !
    Do not be lead astray by this Amy Goodman twit.

  • You can call informed people idiots if you want, but the Masses out there are not so well informed and for them name calling will not win any favours. Name calling will not win Julian support.

    I have explained elsewhere that while I am 100% in support of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, I have nevertheless never felt entirely comfortable with the description by elite supporters of Julian Assange, such as Caitlin Johnstone, of Julian as a journalist.

    I am not arguing with that description, but Julian is not what the Majority of people out there would recognise as a journalist. He does not write copy for a newspaper or for a blog.

    This means that his detractors can successfully argue against this label made by his prominent supporters and that can sow the seeds of doubt about Julian’s integrity in the minds of Ordinary People. This confusion caused to the General Public – the Masses whose support he needs – will lose him vital support.

    I would personally recommend, rather than ad-hominem name calling of people with whom you disagree, a description of Julian which no-one can challenge.

    Julian is a PUBLISHER of sensitive material donated to him by people in confidence and which he publishes in the public interest.

    Julian is not a journalist. Julian is not a hacker. Julian is a publisher.

    • Publisher / Journalist.. In Assange’s this is a distinction without a difference.
      “Idiot” ,though, in regards to the elite caste who deny him, is right on target and to call them anything else would be disingenuous.

    • He publishes the unadulterated facts…a.k.a. the TRUTH…That will certainly get anyone “offed” in a world governed by lies and deception…

  • . . .
    Some CRIMINALS commit war-crimes – and some other CRIMALS defend those CRIMINALS – and THAT is exactly what DALE RUFF is doing!
    .
    Julian Assange is our ANGEL of freedom – when it comes to FREE information – which is the HEART & the SOUL of JOURNALISM & our FREEDOM.
    .
    It is a silly conspiracy-theory – to try to create a new & FALSE label for TRUTHFULLY REPORTING HORRIBLE WAR-CRIMES BY AMERICA’S PERVERTED WAR-MACHINE – when other journalists are frightened to death, from this US-WAR-MONGER, which only knows CRIMINAL SUPPRESSION, where in REALITY a new NUREMBERG-TRIAL II is needed for George W. Bush and the rest of the criminal gang!
    .
    THOSE WAR-CRIMINALS ARE BEHAVING AS TRUE NAZI’S – AND THEY SHOULD BE JUDGED AS TRUE NAZI’S – AS THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE IN TRUTH UNDERNEATH THEIR CAMOUFLAGE MAKING BELIEVE THEY CARE FOR FREEDOM . . .
    .
    In Germany we call those insane & ANTI-social monsters – PSYCHOPATH’s – that are hooked to bloddy wars, as others are hooked to cocaine . . .

  • Julian Assange is a hero who stand up for the truth and fights against lies. He is an honest journalist,
    who who doesn’t sell himself. But in this world there is an army of journalists, and not only journalists who betray the truth for money. West media is part of this armi.

  • Assange has betrayed his mission to be an objective journalist by joining the Russian campaign to influence the US election (serving as conduit for the material on Clinton but not on Trump, as Assange told Megyn Kelly on Fox News) and by forming relatgionshiips with Russophobe Rohrbacher, Fox news “journalist” Sean Hannity, and then contacting Trump Jr. seeking his help. A journalist who joins an election campaign becomes a hack, not a journalist.

    Assange has used Fox News as his media outlet: “Kelly also questioned Assange about WikiLeaks’ involvement with the Russians in American politics and his view of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, including what information he may have on Trump and if it will ever be released.”
    And he has been interviewed by several other Fox “news” people including Hannity.

    If this doesn’t throw up a red flag, nothing will.

    Journalists do not join election campaigns. Assange helped bring us Trump, and he has lost respect from many of us who admired him when he was an objective journalist. But the power he gained in that role was spent defeating Clinton, whom he despised, and now he must be the keeper of secrets, a total betrayal of the mission to expose secrets that brought him the power he fantasized about in an earlier interview where he mused about how Wikileaks could change the outcome of an election by publishing damaging material.

    Those defending him are ignoring his partisan role in the last election. This defense only serves the illegitimate and unjust rule of Trump, the man Assange got elected by keeping secret the material he has on Trump while using strategic timing of his releases on Clinton. For instance, WikiLeaks dumped Podesta emails one hour after Trump “pussy grab” video surfaced. This clearly shows that Assange was working to protect Trump and to elect him President.

    The three Wikileaks dumps reduced the Clinton lead of 15 points to 8 points…and the FBI intervention 10 days before the election was the coup de grace. Without Assange choosing to harm Clinton and protect Trump, today Trump would be back firing people on his fake reality TV show.

    • The information from the DNC was leaked by an insider and nothing to do with the Russians, as was proven by forensic evidence. To still be spouting the nonsense of Russian interference and collusion with the Trump campaign demonstrates your ignorance or dishonesty..

    • Rather than regurgitating old Clinton campaign charges and longstanding grievances, why don’t you read Wikileaks’ published statement on the matter? Here: https://wikileaks.org/Assange-Statement-on-the-US-Election.html
      At least that will give you something solid to refute.

    • To say Assange is not a journalist because he is partisan means the writer thinks the likes of Hannity on Fox are not journalists either. Lock ‘Em Up?

    • What should really matter is what was in the DNC/Podesta/Hillary and others EMAILs wherever they happen to come from. The EMAILS and Hillary’s speeches on Wall Street are what doomed her. The DNC lawyers in court hearings admitted that the DNC establishment rigged the 2016 Primaries . They claim that the DNC has no obligation to run fair and democratic Primaries. The EMAIL showed a coordinated campaign to smear Bernie Sanders and his supporters . They also admitted to their hostility to Bernie supporters at the convention . Hillary admitted in her speeches on Wall street that she presents her honest opinion to the people on Wall Street but offers a different though insincere opinion to the public at large whom she claims are too stupid to understand Big Business and financial environment on Wall street. She has also said the same about Monsanto, fracking, big Pharma , private prison industry , the Pentagon and on and on . These are the groups she and the Democratic Establishment claim to proudly represent as they at times dumb down their opinions to fit with Average Americans who are slow on the uptake and so do not know what is good for them so it is up to the Democratic Establishment and their Big Donors to steer the Ship of State.
      Maybe if Assange detractors and the Russia- Gaters were to read the Wikileaks and Intercept and other leaked documents they might see that there is a case to be made against Hillary and the DNC . But no over and over they refuse to read the documents . Meanwhile Jake Tapper on CNN wrongfully told US voters it was illegal for average citizens to read the docs found on the Wikileaks website . But after all they need to blame someone for Hillary’s loss ie Bernie, Jill Stein, the Green Party, environmentalists, Tulsi Gabbard , Russia, Putin , socialists, communists, progressives, unions , The Democratic Party has been working to undermine all vestiges it appears of FDR’s New Deal of the 1930’s in order to benefit their biggest donors .

    • so clearly the ‘idiot’ in the title is referring to you

      none of that’s real

      idiot

    • Re: DALE RUFF
      Your comment appears to be parroting a smorgasbord of debunked talking points and unsubstantiated “alternative facts” promulgated over the past several years by an assortment of corporate media talking heads, print media tabloid hacks, and U.S. government propaganda.
      I agree with fellow commenter S. Black that, if you indeed have ever been a supporter of Julian Assange and his work, you need to read his definitive and cogent (factual) “statement on the matter” at https://wikileaks.org/Assange-Statement-on-the-US-Election.html
      As Usual,
      EA

    • Really!!? you’re somehow a self-willed purveyor of tripe yourself. And i suppose you’re here to clear away all doubt and stand up for Hillary eh. Eeuuuuuuu

    • Dale Ruff – Sorry, and according to you Hillary should have been won the elections? If Assange supported Trump where is his support for Assange now? For me, Trump and Hillary are the two faces of the same coin, both are serving the deep state. So one have to choose the less worse between two psychopats. That’s democracy???

  • “The difference between a journalist and a reporter is a little like the difference between a police officer and a homicide detective; the second is just a specific instance of the first. While there are many different kinds of careers in journalism, a reporter’s job covers a narrower scope and requires a specific skill set.” https://work.chron.com/difference-between-journalist-reporter-2868.html

    To this I would add that Assange is both a publisher and an editor. As a responsible editor, he takes a very light hand, redacting only names and personal information that could jeopardize innocent parties.

    • Re: S. Black posting of April 8, 2019
      There is no mention, in the topical article, of any confusion or imagined distinction between a journalist and a reporter, and the convoluted police metaphor quoted in your comment.. (see below)..appears to convey an inverted understanding.

      “The difference between a journalist and a reporter is a little like the difference between a police officer and a homicide detective; the second is just a specific instance of the first. While there are many different kinds of careers in journalism, a reporter’s job covers a narrower scope and requires a specific skill set.”</blockquote
      The url you cited as a reference for your quotation does not work, and does not seem to be searchable via Google. It would be helpful if you can provide a searchable source for your quote.
      “Work is love made visible.” KG
      As Usual,
      EA

      • Sorry the link doesn’t work for you, Ethan Allen; it works fine for me. The article introduced by the quote is also coherent.
        The concept should be perfectly clear. It translates quite nicely into a Venn diagram.

    • In his 1971 opinion in the Pentagon Papers case, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.”
      That’s what WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been doing since 2006: censuring governments with governments’ own words pried from secrecy by WikiLeak’s sources—whistleblowers. In other words, WikiLeaks has been doing the job the U.S. constitution intended the press to do. – Joe Lauria, ConsortiumNews.com

  • AN OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON: PLEASE USE THE POWERS VESTED IN YOU TO END JULIAN ASSANGE’S CRUEL ORDEAL

    https://candobetter.net/node/5742

    Dear Prime Minister Scott Morrison,

    I write to ask you to act to bring to an end circumstances faced by Julian Assange which certainly have already harmed his health and may well end his life if those circumstances are not rectified soon.

    An investigation into by the Australian Federal Police into Julian Assange ordered by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2010, found that he had committed no crime.

    In spite of that, he was threatened with extradition to the United States to face, in its rigged court system – as attested to by former CIA officer John Kiriakou, amongst others – charges that the United States is not even prepared to reveal to the public. Julian Assange, who is not even a United States’ citizen, could face many years of imprisonment – or worse – for merely having made known, through Wikileaks, information that the public should know about world events of recent years.

    Surely, neither the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, nor his continued confinement under the degrading conditions he has been made to endure for so long, are alternatives that should be acceptable to an Australian government showing a basic duty of care to each and every one of its citizens.

    I therefore urgently request that you act now to end the illegal detention of Julian Assange. You could despatch today a contingent of Federal Police to fly to London, go to the Ecuadorian embassy and escort Julian Assange back to Heathrow Airport and thence back to Tullamarine Airport. I doubt if any British government authority would dare obstruct a contingent of Federal Police clearly acting to uphold the law and to end such a cruel denial of basic human rights.

    Yours faithfully,

    James Sinnamon

  • Your article began with a picture of Julian Assange holding a journalism award. Perfect. For in these times, those with the ability/means/goals to do so will, beyond what is absolute written documentation, attempt to even override what is pictured, or currently available to the masses as filmed evidence of truth. In direct relation to these stages of their planned steps:

    Nevada Judge Orders Online Journalist to Reveal Sources, Not Protected by Shield Law https://pressfreedomtracker.us/all-incidents/nevada-judges-orders-online-journalist-reveal-sources-says-not-protected-shield-law/

    “A Nevada state court judge issued an order on March 4 to compel an online journalist to reveal his confidential sources, ruling that because he did not work for a print publication he did not qualify as a journalist—and was thus not covered by Nevada’s shield law at the time.” “Wilson ruled that because the Storey Teller is an ONLINE-ONLY publication, it ‘is not a newspaper and, therefore the news media privilege is not available to Toll under the ‘reporter of a newspaper’ provision of [Nevada’s shield law].”

    Online-Only? In this day and age? When the whole modern world is transformed or transforming to. . . . Is that clear enough?

    It is. And, to certain degrees, they want each step to be.

  • Re:Caitlin Johnstone –
    Yes, of course, Julian Assange is a journalist; as is virtually anyone and everyone who conveys information in written form. The “freedom of the press” as annotated in the Bill of Rights and affixed to the U.S. Constitution is the legal expression of an express protected right of every citizen to compose, publish, and/or distribute their writings and/or those of others of their choice; This‘express protected right’, like all the others enshrined in The Bill of Rights and Constitution, can not be denied or violated by any act of government or private entity.
    A cursory study of the efforts of Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson at the time of the Constitutional Convention will provide an enlightening insight into how the “freedom of the press” language was included to encourage the free sharing of truth and knowledge as well as the artful writings of prose and poetry without compromising either interest is an express right of citizenship.
    We need more of this type of uncompromised moral courage in our current times, lest cultural and ethical decay cast humanity into a decline that rivals previous “dark ages”.
    As Usual,
    EA

  • Miriam-Webster says: “the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media” about journalism. It is the “and editing” part that Julian doesn’t fool with. He is a fountainhead of truth. Totally unfiltered truth with no comments, no opinions, no distortion. This is more important than mere journalism. Julian Assange is like a wholesale outlet for those with a hunger for facts. He is a major source for information that journalists can use to write about, adding context and relevant facts to produce something more valuable than just paraphrasing government press releases. The way Assange has been treated should be a wake-up call that we are living in a nightmare.

  • It is the accuracy of what someone writes, and possibly their motive, that defined them as a journalist.

    Not a degree, because it seems that most mainstream journalists seem to have degrees but can’t produce legitimate journalism

    I do not have anything more than a slight distaste for Assange (and that is based on his appearances, and Bernard Cumberbatch’s portrayal of him). But he appears to be, by any rules, someone to be awarded the title of “journalist.”

    He is being vilified simply because he is “leaking” what too many want hidden.

    • Wikileaks doesn’t ‘leak’ – it publishes leaked information which is entrusted to them. Julian is being punished in a modern version of ‘kill the messenger’. And as an example to others who might be tempted to disclose the truth about TPTB.

  • report the truth about crimes, and you’re a criminal.

    lie, cover up, distort, spin, and copy only the narratives of the powers that be, and you’re a professional journalist.

  • Neil Sheehan was a journalist, he published The Pentagon Papers in the NYT.
    https://www.cjr.org/the_feature/did_the_pentagon_papers_matter.php

    Any changes or reinterpretations since then is because somebody wants to hide the weinie.
    Of course, as compared to Sheehan, Julian Assange is a journalist too.

  • Another grand slam. Thanks for doing this, Caitlin. Can’t wait to share this one too with full attribution to you.

  • If the United States government ever gets its dirty hands on Mr. Assange he will be transported to our torture chamber ” Gitmo ” in Cuba where he will be tortured every day for the rest of his life!!!

  • What amazes me are the people that believe there’s something more wrong with whistle blowing than the improprieties that are are being reported.

  • The obvious rejoinder is to assert that Mr. Assange has cried fire in a theater so often that he lost the protections of a publisher. And that will stand as the powers that be (judges) will agree.

    Every great power has done what USA is doing. They believe we do less of the bad. I have my doubts that we are less than average because none have had the insanity of doing so everywhere.

    • > “The obvious rejoinder is to assert that Mr. Assange has cried fire in a theater so often that he lost the protections of a publisher. And that will stand”

      Excuse me? I was about to ask what corner of the “Deep State” you just rolled in from were it not for the latter part of your comment. However, perhaps you are not aware of how famously Wikileaks has NEVER had to retract anything – not ever, as in 100%?

      • Motive, not truth is the measure in court.

        • what is Assange’s motive?

          • To less confuse everyone outside the USA while harming a few spooks worldwide? What philosophy would you apply?

            • And here I was thinking his motive and that of WikiLeaks included “less confusing,” disabusing, and helping the deceived, distracted and divided American public for both their benefit of that of the entire world too, silly me. And as for harm, I was thinking they only wish to expose and defeat genuine evil wherever it resides, for a better world, not harm anyone. Lions and tigers and bears – what was I thinking?

        • what is your evidence for this?

          • It is unremarkable to break a law and not be convicted in court. It is often allowed to murder people for example. Truth does not convict.

  • Thomas Paine came to America and self-published – pamphlets.

    As his friend President Jefferson said-
    “Without a Free Press, there can be no Democracy”

    • because, unless the voters are informed, voting means nothing.

    • Noteworthy that Paine was reviled & vilified by post-revolutionary American power brokers, smeared by the popular press, driven out of England by the William Pitt government, imprisoned by the Jacobins in France, and died a pauper in New York City. Six people attended his funeral – two were black.

  • This reminds me of when Matt Drudge scooped. the big boys who were deliberately ignoring Bill Clinton’s sexcapeds in the Oval Office.. “ He’s not a real journalist “ either we were told… As the story turned out to be true, I guess that was what disqualified him.

  • Assange is a reporter – like Hersh, Pilger, Fisk et al — that rare breed of journalist you might trust.

    • Please don’t leave Greenwald and Taibbi off your list.

  • I support Julian Assange 100% so the following comment is in no way intended as a criticism or weakening of his case for freedom.

    Where does a Degree in journalism come in if anyone publishing can claim to be a journalist? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to remember you, Caitlin, showing evidence of your Degree when some (lame-brain) critics said you were not a journalist. Certainly Julian is a publisher, but I wonder whether he is, technically speaking, a journalist.

    • Degrees help you get a job with large and formal corporations. Degrees in anything can be helpful and often impart important fundamentals, but they do not guarantee a person is better than someone without a degree. I’m in computer science and there are certainly important fundamentals that schools impart, yet there are numerous people without formal training that are extremely knowledgeable and skillful in an industry that is overwhelmingly intricate, complex and knowledge based.

    • majority of “professional journailsts” who work for the mainstream media have a journalism degree.

      • i meant to say “no journalism degree.” i wish i could edit the damn thing…

    • Robyn I had the same thought – but I don’t hand out journalism awards. As an editor / publisher he tends to define a ‘free press’. It seems insufferable to some that his word is so highly regarded as to constitute truth. For a society to accept retail store ‘yellow journalism’ and censor Infowars shows an extremely selective – dare I say biased ? – definition of ‘fake news.’

  • In fact Assange is one of the few real journalists still functioning. They will be a dying breed if the Empire has it’s way.

    • That is not so. If one commits certain acts and is apprehended, one will suffer imprisonment and sometimes worse. Motive or lack of it may mitigate one’s treatment, but something, based on the facts of the matter as established in court, will be the result. (This is in theory, of course. In practical effect, certain people have a license to kill.)

      In other news, it seems to me that the discussion of whether Mr. Assange is a journalist is vacuous. The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, not freedom of journalism. The attribution of special rights to a professional caste constituted by the state is pernicious to everyone’s freedom.

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