Chris Hedges Justice Original

Hedges: PEN America and the Betrayal of Julian Assange

Careerists and Democratic Party apparatchiks successfully leverage corporate money and backing to seize and deform historic rights organizations into appendages of the ruling class.

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, is one of the very few establishment figures to denounce the judicial lynching of Julian Assange. Melzer’s integrity and courage, for which he has been mercilessly attacked, stand in stark contrast to the widespread complicity of many human rights and press organizations, including PEN America, which has become a de facto subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee.

Those in power, as Noam Chomsky points out, divide the world into “worthy” and “unworthy” victims. They weep crocodile tears over the plight of Uyghur Muslims persecuted in China while demonizing and slaughtering Muslims in the Middle East. They decry press censorship in hostile states and collude with the press censorship and algorithms emanating from Silicon Valley in the United States. It is an old and insidious game, one practiced not to promote human rights or press freedom but to envelop these courtiers to power in a sanctimonious and cloying self-righteousness. PEN America can’t say the words “Belarus,” “Myanmar” or the Chinese tennis star “Peng Shuai” fast enough, while all but ignoring the most egregious assault on press freedom in our lifetime. PEN America only stopped accepting funding from the Israeli government, which routinely censors and jails Palestinian journalists and writers in Israel and the occupied West Bank, for the literary group’s annual World Voices festival in New York in 2017 when more than 250 writers, poets and publishers, many members of PEN, signed an appeal calling on the CEO of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, to end PEN America’s partnership with the Israeli government. The signatories included Wallace Shawn, Alice Walker, Eileen Myles, Louise Erdrich, Russell Banks, Cornel West, Junot Díaz and Viet Thanh Nguyen. To stand up for Assange comes with a cost, as all moral imperatives do. And this is a cost the careerists and Democratic Party apparatchiks, who leverage corporate money and corporate backing to seize and deform these organizations into appendages of the ruling class, do not intend to pay. Even the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) refuses to list Assange in its annual index of jailed journalists.  

PEN America is typical of the establishment hijacking of an organization that was founded and once run by writers, some of whom, including Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer, I knew. Nossel is a former corporate lawyer, listed as a “contributor” to The Federalist Society, who worked for McKinsey & Company and as Vice President of US Business Development for Bertelsmann.  Nossel, who has had herself elevated to the position of the CEO of PEN America, also worked under Hillary Clinton in the State Department, including on the task force assigned to respond to the WikiLeaks revelations. I withdrew from a scheduled speaking event at the 2013 World Voices Festival in New York City and resigned from the organization, which that same year had given me its First Amendment Award, to protest Nossel’s appointment. PEN Canada offered me membership which I accepted.

Nossel and PEN America have stated that the prosecution of Assange raises “grave concerns” about press freedom and lauded the decision by a British court in January 2012 not to extradite Assange. Should Nossel and PEN America have not taken this stance on Assange it would have left them in opposition to most PEN organizations around the world. PEN Centre Germany, for example, made Assange an honorary member. PEN International has called for all charges to be dropped against Assange.

But Nossel, at the same time, repeats every slanderous trope and lie used to discredit the WikiLeaks publisher facing extradition to the United States to potentially serve a 175-year sentence under the Espionage Act. She refuses to acknowledge that Assange is being persecuted because he carried out the most basic and important role of any publisher, making public documents that expose the multitudinous crimes and lies of empire. And I have not seen any direct appeals to the Biden administration on Assange’s behalf from PEN America. “Whether Assange is a journalist or WikiLeaks qualifies as a press outlet is immaterial to the counts set out here,” Nossel said. But, as a lawyer who was a member of the State Department task force that responded to the WikiLeaks revelations, she understands it is not immaterial. The core argument behind the U.S. effort to extradite Assange revolves around denying him the status of a publisher or a journalist and denying WikiLeaks the status of a press publication. Nossel parrots the litany of false charges leveled against Assange including that he endangered lives by not redacting documents, hacked into a government computer and meddled in the 2016 elections, all key points in the government’s case against Assange. PEN America under her direction has sent out news briefs with headlines such as: “Security Reports Reveal How Assange Turned an Embassy into a Command Post for Election Meddling.” The end result is that PEN America is helping to uncoil the rope to string up the WikiLeaks publisher, a gross betrayal of the core mission of PEN.

“There are some things Assange did in this case, or is alleged to have done, that go beyond what a mainstream news outlet would do, in particular the first indictment that was brought about five weeks ago focused specifically on this charge of computer hacking, hacking into a password to get beyond the government national security infrastructure and penetrate and allow Chelsea Manning to pass through all of these documents. That, I think you can say, is not what a mainstream news outlet or a journalist would do,” Nossel said on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC on May 28, 2019.

But Nossel did not stop there, going on to defend the legitimacy of the US campaign to extradite Assange, although Assange is not a US citizen and WikiLeaks is not a US based publication. Most importantly, left unmentioned by Nossel, is that Assange has not committed any crimes.

“The reason that this indictment is coming down now is because Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for years trying to escape his extradition request,” she said on the program. “He faces an extradition request to Sweden where he has been charged with sexual assault and now this huge indictment here in the US and that proceeding will play out over a long period. He will make all sorts of arguments about why he faces a form of legal jeopardy that should immunize him from being extradited, but there are extradition treaties. There are legal assistance treaties where countries are able to prosecute nationals of other countries and bring them back to face charges when they have committed a crime. This is happening pursuant to that. There are US nationals who are charged and convicted in foreign courts.”

WikiLeaks released U.S. military war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, a cache of 250,000 diplomatic cables and 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs along with the 2007 “Collateral Murder” video, in which U.S. helicopter pilots banter as they gun down civilians, including children and two Reuters journalists, in a Baghdad street. The material was given to WikiLeaks in 2010 by Chelsea Manning, then private first class Pfc. Bradley Manning. Assange has been accused by an enraged U.S. intelligence community of causing “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.” Mike Pompeo, who headed the CIA under Donald Trump, called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service” aided by Russia, rhetoric embraced by Democratic Party leaders.

Assange also published 70,000 hacked emails copied from the accounts of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, and earned the eternal hatred of the Democratic Party establishment. The Podesta emails exposed the sleszy and corrupt world of the Clintons, including the donation of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and identified both nations as major funders of Islamic State [ISIL/ISIS]. They exposed the $657,000 that Goldman Sachs paid to Hillary Clinton to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe. They exposed Clinton’s repeated dishonesty. She was caught telling the financial elites that she wanted “open trade and open borders” and believed Wall Street executives were best positioned to manage the economy while publicly promising financial regulation and reform. The cache showed that the Clinton campaign interfered in the Republican primaries to ensure that Donald Trump was the Republican nominee, assuming he would be the easiest candidate to defeat. They exposed Clinton’s advance knowledge of questions in a primary debate and her role as the principal architect of the war in Libya, a war she believed would burnish her credentials as a presidential candidate.

The Democratic Party, which blames Russian interference for its election loss to Trump, charges that the Podesta emails were obtained by Russian government hackers. Hillary Clinton calls WikiLeaks a Russian front. James Comey, the former FBI director, however, conceded that the emails were probably delivered to WikiLeaks by an intermediary, and Assange has said the emails were not provided by “state actors.”

“A zealous prosecutor is going to look at someone like Assange and recognize that he’s a very unpopular figure for a hundred different reasons, whether it’s his meddling in the 2016 elections, his political motivations for that, or the blunderbuss nature of these disclosures,” Nossel said on Lehrer’s program. “This is not a leak that was designed to expose one particular policy or effectuate a specific change in how the US government was going about its business. It was massive and indiscriminate, while in the beginning they worked with journalists to be careful about redacting names of individuals. I was actually working at the State Department during the WikiLeaks disclosure period, and I was briefly on a task force to respond to the WikiLeaks disclosures and there was really a sense of alarm about individuals whose lives would be in danger, people who had worked with the US, provided information, human rights defenders who had spoken to embassy personnel on a confidential basis. There is a problem of over classification, but there is also good reason to classify a lot of this stuff and they made no distinction between that [which] was legitimately classified and not.”

Any group of artists or writers overseen by a CEO from corporate America inevitably become members of an updated version of the Union of Soviet Writers where the human rights violations by our enemies are heinous crimes and our own violations and those of our allies are ignored or whitewashed. As Julian Benda reminded us in “The Treason of the Intellectuals,” we can serve privilege and power or we can serve justice and truth. Those, Benda warns, who become apologists for those with privilege and power destroy their capacity to defend justice and truth.

Where is the outrage from an organization founded by writers to protect writers about the prolonged abuse, stress and repeated death threats, including from Nossel’s former boss, Hillary Clinton, who allegedly quipped at a staff meeting, “Can’t we just drone this guy?” (and didn’t deny it later) or from the CIA which discussed kidnapping and assassinating Assange?  Where is the demand that the trial of Assange be thrown out because the CIA through UC Global, the security firm at the embassy, secretly taped the meetings, and all other encounters, between Assange and his lawyers, obliterating attorney-client privilege? Where is the public denunciation of the extreme isolation that has left Assange, who suffered a stroke during court video proceedings on October 27, in precarious physical and psychological health? Where is the outcry over his descent into hallucinations and deep depression, leaving him dependent on antidepressant medication and the antipsychotic quetiapine? Where are the thunderous condemnations about the ten years he has been detained, seven in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and nearly three in the high-security Belmarsh prison, where he has had to live without access to sunlight, exercise and proper medical care? “His eyes were out of sync, his right eyelid would not close, his memory was blurry,” his fiancé Stella Morris said of the stroke. Where are the demands for intervention and humane treatment, including an end to his isolation, once it was revealed Assange was pacing his cell until he collapsed, punching himself in the face and banging his head against the wall? Where is the fear for his life, especially after “half of a razor blade” was discovered under his socks and it was revealed that he called the suicide hotline run by the Samaritans because he thought about killing himself “hundreds of times a day”? Where is the call to prosecute those who committed the war crimes, carried out the torture and engaged in the corruption WikiLeaks exposed? Not from PEN America.

Melzer in his book “The Trial of Julian Assange,” the most methodical and detailed recounting of the long persecution by the United States and the British government of Assange, blasts those like Nossel who blithely peddle the lies used to tar Assange and cater to the powerful.

When Assange was first charged, he was not charged with espionage by the United States. Rather, he was charged with a single count of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.” This charge alleged that he conspired with Manning to decrypt a password hash for the US Department of Defense computer system. But as Melzer points out, “Manning already had full ‘top secret’ access privileges to the system and all the documents she leaked to Assange. So, even according to the US government, the point of the alleged attempt to decode the password hash was not to gain unauthorized access to classified information (‘hacking’), but to help Manning to cover her tracks inside the system by logging in with a different identity (‘source protection’). In any case, the alleged attempt undisputedly remained unsuccessful and did not result in any harm whatsoever.”

Nossel’s repetition of the lie that Assange endangered lives by not redacting documents was obliterated during the trial of Manning, several sessions of which I attended at Fort Meade in Maryland with Cornel West. During the court proceedings in July 2013 Brigadier General Robert Carr, a senior counterintelligence officer who headed the Information Review Task Force that investigated the impact of WikiLeaks disclosures on behalf of the US Department of Defense, told the court that the task force did not uncover a single case of someone who lost their lives due to the publication of the classified documents by WikiLeaks. As for Nossel’s claim that “in the beginning they worked with journalists to be careful about redacting names of individuals” she should be aware that the decryption key to the unredacted State Department documents was not released by Assange, but Luke Harding and David Leigh from The Guardian in their book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy.

When the ruling class peddles lies there is no cost for parroting them back to the public. The cost is paid by those who tell the truth.

Chris Hedges interview with Julian Assange’s father.

On November 27, 2019, Melzer gave a talk at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to dedicate a sculpture by the Italian artist Davide Dormino. Figures of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, cast in bronze, stood on three chairs. A fourth chair, empty, was next to them inviting others to take a stand with them. The sculpture is called “Anything to Say?” Melzer stepped up onto the fourth chair, the hulking edifice of the US Embassy off to his right. He uttered the words that should have come from organizations like PEN America:

For decades, political dissidents have been welcomed by the West with open arms, because in their fight for human rights they were persecuted by dictatorial regimes.

Today, however, Western dissidents themselves are forced to seek asylum elsewhere,  such as Edward Snowden in Russia or, until recently, Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian  embassy in London.

For the West itself has begun to persecute its own dissidents, to subject them to draconian punishments in political show trials, and to imprison them as dangerous terrorists in high-security prisons under conditions that can only be described as inhuman and degrading.

Our governments feel threatened by Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian  Assange, because they are whistleblowers, journalists, and human rights activists who have provided solid evidence for the abuse, corruption, and war crimes of the powerful, for which they are now being systematically defamed and persecuted.

They are the political dissidents of the West, and their persecution is today’s witch-hunt, because they threaten the privileges of unsupervised state power that has gone out of control.

The cases of Manning, Snowden, Assange and others are the most important test of our time for the credibility of Western rule of law and democracy and our commitment to human rights.

In all these cases, it is not about the person, the character or possible misconduct of these dissidents, but about how our governments deal with revelations about their own misconduct.

How many soldiers have been held accountable for the massacre of civilians shown in the video “Collateral Murder”? How many agents for the systematic torture of terror suspects? How many politicians and CEOs for the corrupt and inhumane machinations  that have been brought to light by our dissidents?

That’s what this is about. It is about the integrity of the rule of law, the credibility of our  democracies and, ultimately, about our own human dignity and the future of our children.

Let us never forget that!

Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture

The tenuous return to power of the Democratic Party under Joe Biden, and the specter of a Republican rout of the Democrats in the midterm elections next year, along with the very real possibility of the election in 2024 of Donald Trump, or a Trump-like figure, to the presidency, has blinded human rights and press groups to the danger of the egregious assaults on freedom of expression perpetrated by the Biden administration. The steady march towards heavy handed state censorship was accelerated by the Obama administration that charged ten government employees and contractors, eight under the Espionage Act, for disclosing classified information to the press. The Obama administration in 2013 also seized the phone records of 20 Associated Press reporters to uncover who leaked the information about a foiled al-Qaida terrorist plot. This ongoing assault by the Democratic Party has been accompanied by the disappearing on social media platforms of several luminaries on the far right, including Donald Trump and Alex Jones, who were removed from Facebook, Apple, YouTube. Content that is true but damaging to the Democratic Party, including the revelations from Hunter Biden’s laptop, have been blocked by digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Algorithms have since at least 2017 marginalized left-wing content, including my own. The legal precedent set in this atmosphere by the sentencing of Assange means that anyone who possesses classified material, or anyone who leaks it, will be guilty of a criminal offense. The sentencing of Assange will signal the end of all investigative inquiries into the inner workings of power. The pandering by press and human rights organizations, tasked with being sentinels of freedom, to the Democratic Party, only contributes to the steady tightening of the vise of press censorship. There is no lesser evil in this fight. It is all evil. Left unchecked, it will result in an American species of China’s totalitarian capitalism.


Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for ScheerPost. Click here to sign up for email alerts.

Chris Hedges
Chris HedgesChris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. 

Copyright 2021 Chris Hedges

50 comments

  1. Ahh, so, the Wikipedia entry for this PEN CEO also has some telling points, for which Hedges leaves out — “Nossel was born in Westchester, New York, the daughter of South African parents and granddaughter of refugees from Nazi Germany who fled to South Africa during the 1930s. She traces her interest in human rights to her growing up Jewish in America, and her visits to apartheid South Africa in her youth. She has frequently visited relatives in Israel, saying “It’s a place where I feel very comfortable and at home.”She lives with her husband and two children in Manhattan.

    Oh, the chosen ones, with fingers in almost everything, especially that DNC. A critique, no, around how a super minority of people, elites, can get so much power so fluidly and quickly in the land of genocide and slavery, USA.

    A good look, too, at what this all means — “The hounding of Julian Assange leaves honest journalism with no refuge” Jonathan Cook: “The message sent to journalists could not be clearer or more chilling: what happened to Assange could happen to you too”

    https://www.jonathan-cook.net/2021-12-17/hounding-julian-assange-journalism/

  2. ‘The exact same forces that drove Brexit and the Trump Presidency as so-called ‘anti-Establishment’ constructs, have targeted *their own* supporters to form the core of COVID ‘deniers’. And by tribalising and seeding COVID mistrust along Trump/Brexit lines has sustained the ‘us v them’ bunkered mentality. It’s a similar propagandist ‘association’ strategy to that which the Nixon regime deployed specifically to vilify anti Vietnam War activists and incarcerate black communities – via so-called ‘War on Drugs’ policies.’

    ‘A Global Britain ‘Black Swan’ Event by ‘Unthinkable’ Theatre (Checkmate)’ (2021) https://wp.me/p94Aj4-2UF

    Johnny McNeill
    #GaslightingGilligan (© 2017) 
    Twitter: @GasGilligan (free download)

  3. War is Peace. Ignorance is Strength. Freedom is Slavery.

    Orwell nailed it.

    The only surprise in any of this to me, is how few even today seem to get it. I always assumed that once the propaganda got blatant enough, the lies thick enough, the consequences plain enough, that the truth would infiltrate those most lost in the matrix. In this I was wrong. For the majority it appears conformity and emotion overrule freedom and critical thought. Such I fear has always been the case in every society and culture.

    1. @JustAMaverick
      George Lakoff showed that most people make decisions based on their feelings, not the facts. This especially applies to political decisions. I didn’t know this until I read and heard Lakoff, and it was rather disheartening to say the least.

      1. with the exception of Descartes only anglophone philosophers believe emotion interferes with reason…Adorno dismisses all of anglophone philosophy as “a defense of technocratic capitalism”…Lakoff most admires the French/phenomenologist/Marxist, Merleau-Ponty
        Lakoff, Boriditsky, etc have entirely discredited Chomsky
        as Herder, Humboldt, Belinsky, Bahktin, Berdayaev, Heidegger, Gadamer do observe, Wittgenstein wrote, “the limits of your language are the limits of your world”
        Adorno: “language is a tool of ruling class dominations”—he notes only North Americans describe a ruthless capitalist as an entrepreneur, and only in USA advice, money–a tip”
        Lakoff observes that only North Americans transform money into time—they save, spend, waste, budget, invest in time. he observes that when they use the word the wealth they only mean money (“anything intellectually or artistically excellent in america is considered elitist”. Christopher Lasch) and only North Americans use a business term to refer to their lovers–“partner” …junior or silent partner?

      2. Jeff,
        Excellent comment and something I have been saying for years!
        Now hit ’em with the End Game (Globalism vs Nationalism). 🙂

      3. @Chris Wolf
        Sorry Chris, not familiar with that.

        I’m a radical environmentalist and therefore strongly opposed to long-distance trade (I say “long-distance,” because it’s much better, for example, for someone from Los Angeles to buy something made in Tijuana than it is for them to buy something made in Chicago; it’s not about artificial human borders). I’m also anti-statist, because we should be living on the land tribally in much smaller numbers. When it comes to anything human, bigger is always worse, and nation-states are all evil.

        The only thing that comes to mind regarding globalism v. nationalism is that more evolved people feel more at one with everyone (including nonhumans), so I support that kind of globalism.

      4. Hi Jeff,

        I’m referring to it politically. Hedges looks at it as oligarchy vs autocracy, but knows both will be run by the usual suspects. Believing one is more pliable than the other is probably wishful thinking. It’s certainly the End Game and will more than likely be the coming conflict (ideological or otherwise) as the economy circles the drain. You can already see the first signs with all of the talk of secession as the cultural divide deepens. And while I agree with your anti-statist view doesn’t mean we won’t be sucked into whatever transpires. And while all of this sounds unsettling it is nevertheless a reality check that shouldn’t be entered into on “feelings” alone, as you clearly point out in your first comment. 🙂

    2. no! other cultures differ dramatically—the american character has little in common w European, Asian or Latin American—something documented by Tocqueville, Margaret Mead, James Baldwin , Geoffrey Gorer, David Riesman, numerous Marxists, Morris Berman, etc

      1. @alexandr herzen
        Nothing you wrote addresses & contradicts what I wrote. I don’t care about all that mental masturbation, the fact is that people make these decisions based on how they feel, not on facts. This post wasn’t about Europe, it was about U.S. politics.

  4. I am fully aware of the flak I may get, but here is evidence, quite a bit, that Assange has connections to Rothschild. Most very famous people are famous for a reason, and that reason is not for helping humanity. What has Assange really exposed? Yes, military murdering innocent people. Ever hear of Mai Lai massacre? We dont know about collateral damage? Regarding Hillary recieving bribes in the form of payment for speeches= Time magazine exposed her getting five million dollars from Exon for a speech. Assange did not get us anything amazing. My books debunked the bible, took down the medical system, the education system, exposed our government and those above it, showed the joke that elections are, even gave a heavy criticism of the constitution, revealed that the true power behind it all is the Vatican. So who is the great journalist? Who put all the puzzle pieces together, and nobody has courage to interview me, or to openly promote me, the books, or to give me exposure. I showed how ISIS is US and Israeli operative, that every politician in DC was complicit to 9-11 demolition job. I have spent time in prison for my works, and to this day distribute information daily that far exceeds any newsletter or broadcast. Now here is something you need to look at.

    https://www.brighteon.com/7f22e22e-2e87-45b7-8049-ab7d20d4bde0

    http://truthforceinternational. org sign up for the free newsletter on the contact page.

    1. For those few who wondered about the Rothschild link to Wikileaks I have pasted in the conclusion to a piece titled ‘Is WikiLeaks REALLY a Rothschild Operation?’ https://australianvoice.livejournal.com/38700.html

      “… the case for Rothschilds’ influence on WikiLeaks is hardly proved. Some of the “links” provide no basis for the allegation of influence or control, while at least three of them seem to show that people and organisations linked to the Rothschilds have worked to undermine trust in Wikileaks, just as this article does. We may speculate that whatever they first thought, the Rothschilds, like the rest of the super-rich, want to shut WikiLeaks down. They don’t like the documents he provides to the press and other interested parties. Just for information I should point out that WikiLeaks documents are cited in more than 28 thousands academic papers, US court documents and Formal documents from the UN, the European Court of Human Rights and the UK courts. There are many important people who don’t want these documents to see the light of day, and I would be very surprised if the Rothschilds are not among them.”

  5. They want Assange to die before any prosecution, then the NY Times and the rest of the corporate media will dismiss this persecution because the government never REALLY prosecuted Assange. They will just pretend we are all children and that democrats are so much better than republicans. Meanwhile, the First Amendment keeps decaying, bit by bit. Peaceful assembly gets you arrested, press freedom gets you arrested, next individuals will not be able to criticize anyone in power.

  6. In most accounts of the slow, ongoing and relentless murder of Julian Assange, including this one, the vital third leg to the US’ homicidal stool is missing in action. The first leg of course is the ostensible reason and ‘legal’ rationale for lynching Assange: the acquisition and publication of the collateral murder footage. Legal leg: affixed 2011.

    The second is the Podesta emails and all the other sleaze and slime slithering out of the Democratic Party which has the latter, and all its liberal and boutique-left boosters, solidly on board with this murder. Political leg: affixed 2016.

    The third and most important leg, however, and the one that makes this case compelling for the US state murder machine itself, is WikiLeaks’ release of the Vault 7 material which most know to be the ‘crown jewels’ of CIA hacking tools. This much enraged the CIA, the so-called intelligence ‘community’ and the likes of Pompeo Maximus so much. Vault 7’s release occurred in March 2017, and it’s no accident that Pompeo labelled WikiLeaks a ‘hostile intelligence service’ only in April 2017. Security/repressive state apparatus leg: affixed 2017.

    Everyone seems to think the ‘NYT problem’ stayed Obama’s hand in ‘legally’ pursuing Assange after 2010. That may have been the case, but what seems to be missed in all this now is that a crucial part of the ‘legal’ case against Assange is that he and Wikileaks aren’t ‘publishers’. Why? Because in fact this sends a crystal clear message to all the corporate media outlets that if they do acquire and publish material like the ‘collateral murder’ footage they won’t be ‘legally’ gone after at all because they’re ‘legitimate’ publishers. The ‘NYT problem’ is solved. This is why all the corporate and mainstream media have played ball with the Trump and Biden regimes, and explains the supposed ‘paradox’ of them, and their ‘journalists’ somehow acting against their own interests.

    Of course, heaven help anyone else not so ‘authoritatively’ ordained and who has the gall to acquire and publish information exposing state, government or corporate corruption, perfidy, malfeasance or murder. But it should never be relevant that Assange or Wikileaks are ‘publishers’, nor that so much effort be put into proving they are (which of course they patently are). Because everyone who comes across it not only has the right but a duty, by hook or by crook, to publish such material.

    Cowardice accounts for personal behaviours, and nothing much else. Material interests explain individual, social and group behaviours far more cogently and coherently, even if the cowardice of individuals invariably is needed to effect the behaviours of their organisations or social strata. Stenography and self-censorship by ‘journalists’ in mainstream, corporate and corporate-run ‘alternative’ media, along with their slandering of Assange and knowing complicity in his murder, is no different — except that it’s so much more homogenous and monolithic than 30+ years ago, and therefore more pernicious.

  7. Dear Chris Hedges;

    I have so much admiration for the passionate, articulate, profoundly informed persistence you bring not only in general but especially to your current reporting on the Assange tragedy. And for the beautiful interviews with people like John Pilger, Nils Melzer and especially Assange’s father, John Shipton.

    Thank you for saying what needs to be said, over and over again, until, as Shipton said about Assange’s 2011 revelations, it sinks deeply into popular understanding and results in genuine sea change.

    May this happen soon enough.

    in gratitude,

    beth goldring

  8. An excellent column as always by Chris Hedges.

    Manning, Snowden, Assange, and many others are persecuted because they expose the crimes of power, as did Christ and so many others, perhaps JFK and RFK. Humanitarians too are persecuted by corrupt societies, because they raise the price of respectability. Literature is no longer moral education, because publishers are propagandists selling entertainment.

    Democracy can be restored only by restructuring the US government to eliminate money power. That won’t happen, because the people are lobotomized by marketing and entertainment, until the US totalitarianism is focused on its own people for generations.

    1. excellent comment
      before Sacvan Bercovitch the adventures of Huck Finn was only taught as a novel about class–he wrote that it was about race” Huck was morbid and haunted: he was a racist precisely because he did follow his conscience”

  9. If I didn’t know better I would say that Julian Assange was an American Indian. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull come to mind. All three stood/stand for something that the U.S. establishment has never been able to tolerate. A real and genuine form of freedom- not watered down and not fermented.

    1. freedom is conceived differently by Berlin, Sandel, Marx, Kojeve, Simmel, Bakunin, Doestoevsky, Berdayaev, etc
      “the love of possessions is a disease with Americans”. Sitting Bull
      USA: the only nation where storage facilities exist

      1. @alexandr herzen
        Sitting Bull’s comment gets to one of the hearts of the problems. (The other is overpopulation, but since hunter-gatherers don’t overpopulate, traditional Natives don’t tend to recognize that problem.) Many if not most of the Native leaders here were wise, far more so than any U.S. leaders ever.

  10. The same corrupt forces represented by Penn CEO have captured, controlled and corrupted many climate and environmental groups. They too have become appendages of the Democratic Party and Biden Administration.

    1. You are quite right. The Democratic Party is a party of the wealthy, the corporations, the banks, and the military. Most people forget that the Democrats were the party of the slaveocracy in the South at the time of the Civil War. Americans have been so propagandized regarding Roosevelt and the New Deal during the Great Depression, that they still believe the Democrats are the party of “the little guy”. That is only the case if what they mean by “the little guy” is a 4-foot tall billionaire.

  11. “Those in power, as Noam Chomsky points out, divide the world into “worthy” and “unworthy” victims. They weep crocodile tears over the plight of Uyghur Muslims persecuted in China while demonizing and slaughtering Muslims in the Middle East. They decry press censorship in hostile states and collude with the press censorship and algorithms emanating from Silicon Valley in the United States. It is an old and insidious game, one practiced not to promote human rights or press freedom but to envelop these courtiers to power in a sanctimonious and cloying self-righteousness.”

    Hedges denounces wars against official enemies like those in the Middle East, while promoting propaganda in war against unofficial enemies, all of humanity, now targeted for final solutions like universal ‘vaccination.’ He decries press censorship, as with Assange, but collaborates with fascists from Silicon Valley to Davos who are now out to completely eradicate human autonomy such that freedom of speech, freedom of movement, any freedom whatsoever, will be forever lost. Noam Chomsky, anti-fascist that he is, has stated the unvaccinated, unworthy victims that they are, should be forcibly isolated and denied access to resources. Neither of these men are on the the right side of the divide described by Julian Benda in “The Treason of the Intellectuals.”

    1. “in America the citizen has been transformed into a client and the worker has been turned into a consumer”. Christopher Lasch

    2. ” … all of humanity, now targeted for final solutions like universal ‘vaccination.’ ”

      Your arguments, as usual, are full of simple logical fallacies. Just to give you a hint – even a hypocrite can speak the truth.

      And as for the “Godwin moment” above … well this kind of hysteria really needs counselling rather than comment.

      Good luck with getting it …

      1. Thank you for your own ‘arguments.’ I appreciate logical fallacies like empty accusation of logical fallacies, which might qualify as an ad hominem I suppose. Regarding the Godwin moment, rest assured I’ve tried taking up my condition with a counselor, but have been unable to find one who will meet with me without a vax pass proving my fealty to the Homeland (which leaves me tempted to align them with other Nazi doctors administering the kill shots, though I’m afraid that might leave you in more hysterics). Oh yeah, love the irony about getting it.

    3. Please provide examples of Chris Hedges collaborating with fascists. Also provide examples of his war again “unofficial enemies”. And who would those be? And Julian Benda was a religious apologist, which writes him off completely as far as I am concerned. Anyone claiming to support “reason” who still believes in religion is a charlatan.

      1. The relevant example of Hedges’ collaborating with fascists – promoting pandemic propaganda. Unofficial enemies refers to the unvaxxed, anti-vaxxers, and anyone else who’s getting in the way of the plandemic’s totalitarian agenda; an admittedly problematic reference since these suspects have been associated with domestic terrorism even if not quite yet being rounded up as enemies of the state. As for Benda, take it up with Hedges. I was just following up on his lead, which I guess makes him guilty of religious obscurantism and a charlatan.

      2. Correction below: second sentence should start with “Besides all humanity, unofficial enemies also refers to….”

  12. If the ghouls in suits who slither through their positions of authority in the Australian government spoke up for Assange and demanded his repatriation to Australia, this horror could end tomorrow.
    Alas, they are too grovelling, too fearful, too gutless and too selfish to utter a word.
    Jellyfish have more backbone than these lowlife.

    1. And alas, too busy imposing totalitarianism upon Australians to depart from policy with Assange.

  13. unfortunately Hedges never examines what justice means. “nowhere in an american public education are the concepts of truth and falsity, nor are ideas, ever addressed”. Neil Postman
    no different in US grad. schools….Hofstdter described US academics: “technicians that serve power w a thin understanding of everything”

    1. @alexandr herzen
      Truth and facts are two different things. Facts are either true, false, unknown, or unknowable, and this is not credibly debatable. Truth on the other hand is a much bigger issue. Truth to you and to a hunter-gatherer in South America would be vastly different things.

  14. Thank You Chris. The WW1 espionage act that Obama used in itself should be repealed! But our corporate masters love it as it lead to the formation of the FBI and the incarceration of many labor organizers and the smashing of unions! I just reread the Merchants of Death about the WW1 profiteers and the British and American elites invested in war materials, not one of which went to jail but many joined the millionaire class. Meanwhile even a man like Bertrand Russel was jailed in Britain for speaking out against war! Orwell’s future of “a boot on a human face forever” is becoming true before our eyes!

  15. I have been blocked from Facebook for 29 days for something trivial. I don’t believe for a moment that their stated reason for blocking me is the truth. I think it’s because I post so many articles from the World Socialist Web Site, the Grayzone, Caitlin Johnstone, Consortium News, and — yes –Scheerpost.

    1. Poor Carolyn.
      Blocked. Is that all.
      You should try questioning the Covid narrative, the WEF digital passports agenda, the WHO list of donors, the efficacy of the PCR test, the untested experimental vaccines, Fauci’s track record, etc etc.
      You ain’t seen nothin sister.
      It’s lonely here on Mars.

  16. It’s no surprise that after Wikileaks exposed US war-crimes in Iraq that American presidents, wanna-be Presidents and their minions advanced and helped promulgate ‘dirt’ regarding Assange’s character: a rapist, autistic/aspergers, smeared shit in his Ecuadorian embassy quarter, narcissistic – the full gamut of despicable character traits deemed unacceptable in all, except for the politicians making the accusations.

    Nosser in her interview on Brian Lehrer commented that “He faces an extradition request to Sweden where he has been charged with sexual assault.”
    Somewhat ludicrous assertions on her behalf.
    UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer investigated the rape accusations against Assange and found that the rape allegation was made-up and included fabricated evidence.
    One of the women criticed part of Melzer’s work, but noted that that Assange’s action has not been a crime for her and that she has “long forgiven” Assange.

    Nossel’s selective retelling of the story fits perfectly into the the playbook of belittling Assange in order to detract from the magnitude and seriousness of Wikileaks’ exposures.

    As for Assange influencing the US election of Trump – what poppycock! So many factors at play, the biggest influence on the outcome of Trump v HRC was the corrupt US electoral system.

    https://www.republik.ch/2020/01/31/nils-melzer-about-wikileaks-founder-julian-assange
    https://medium.com/@njmelzer/response-to-open-letter-of-1-july-2019-7222083dafc8

  17. I am very disappointed to read the harsh and gratuitous description of China in Chris Hedges’ article conclusion. He writes, “There is no lesser evil in this fight. It is all evil. Left unchecked, it will result in an American species of China’s totalitarian capitalism.” His only previous mention of China in his article is a rote reference to “Uyghur Muslims persecuted in China”.

    In contrast to all the large imperialist countries of the world, China has vanquished the coronavirus pandemic. This is something of a modern miracle and is due to the vestiges of China’s 1949 revolution. State planning and expenditure continue to play a decisive role in China’s economy and society. Adding to that is China’s successful campaign to eliminate extreme poverty. These and so many other social indicators show that modern China is not a state of ‘totalitarian capitalism’. Its social measures have succeeded in spite of capitalism, not because of it.

    I challenge the claims by Western media and governments of systemic persecution of Uyghur Muslims. These claims are constructs by Western ideologues. This script should be very familiar to those who follow the propaganda campaigns by the West against so many people and countries in the world–Syria, Iran, Korea, Venezuela, and on and on.

    China is not yet on a path to full socialist development. How could it be so in a world of unrelenting threats and hostility against it by the world imperialist order? And a world of so little socialist development outside of some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean? Nevertheless, China does show that an alternative path to brute force capitalism is possible for human development. Including that the Chinese government is now embracing the concept of ‘ecological civilization’ in its planning. Time will tell if and how China will break from the ecologically destructive path of capitalist productivism cycle and commence a path towards degrowth and environmental justice. But its vision of ‘ecological civilization’ is a bold first step. It’s already a vast improvement over the death grip which the imperialist death cults currently in power hold out for the world.

    RA

    1. @Roger Annis
      China is just another evil empire. What was once many communities tribes or whatever 1,000 years ago was forcefully, murderously, and brutally forged into what is now China. Currently, China is trying to expand its empire, albeit in a more friendly way than the standard colonizer model. But it’s all empire crap, whether it comes from western Europe, China, or the U.S. The best thing about China lately was its one-child-family policy, which should be implemented globally until human population is reduced to natural levels.

  18. “Time will tell… ( whether China will )…break from the ecologically destructive path of (the) capitalist productivism cycle and commence a path towards degrowth and environmental justice. “

    Hypothetically, yes…time will tell. Does it matter if there is anybody left , hanging around alive at that time to make a note of it ?

    Does it matter that ‘DEGROWTH’ is more of a taboo right now on a planet-wide basis regardless of political/ economic leanings, than HELIOCENTRISM was on that same planet during the 15th century ?

    At least Galileo had time to recant & get his mind right w/ being wrong.

    China has no time to ‘commence a path ‘toward the things that can’t yet be spoken of anywhere and we ( the non Chinese ) have no intention doing so.

    But, other than that . Gulp.

    Note: Here , in Detroit, Michigan near Canada , … we made a clean ( if involuntary 🙂 break w/ capitalist productivism about 4-5 decades ago & we’re still sniveling about it , although counseling has been made available.

    It could be claimed we Detroitists pioneered ‘degrowth’ right here in the United States but that would be a d*mnable lie since intentionality is as necessary an ingredient to gracious pioneering as desperation so… no we couldn’t a done it . And didn’t.

    – suerte, J.Joslin ( IBEW Local Union # 58 – Detroit )

    1. @John A. Joslin
      There is no indication or reason to believe that China will start on a path of degrowth or anything like it in the foreseeable future. That comment has no basis in reality. As soon as China decided to get everyone off bicycles and into cars, they went down the same evil path as the rest of the industrialized world, and there’s nothing to indicate that they intend to reverse course.

  19. Great piece. Like AI USA, PEN US can’t seem to avoid aligning with beliefs and positions associated with its corrupt, warmongering host. Which is what makes the final unnecessary sentence so regrettable.

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