Lori Falce: Julian Assange arrest not a press attack
You, Julian Assange, are not a journalist.
I know you like to claim that you are, largely because you like to hide behind the protections journalists are sometimes afforded when it comes to obtaining and releasing information and questioning authority.
But what you have done is not journalism. It has less to do with journalism than supermarket tabloids or cheesy news-style infotainment television shows do.
You gleefully throw Molotov cocktails filled with information and topped with a lit rag. You don’t care where the information was obtained. You don’t care about things like national security or the safety of soldiers or operatives in the field.
You are, first and foremost, a hacker. In many ways, you are still that kid your biography page talks about that broke into an Australian telecommunications system and got charged with 30 counts but wiggled away with just a fine. You’re the guy who went to college but dropped out because you were morally offended by what other students were doing for the government.
You are, in short, someone with a limitless supply of stones who is oblivious to the fact you are pitching them from inside your own glass house.
That doesn’t make you a journalist. Neither do awards. Neither does notoriety. Neither do the number of times people click on your site. A site where, incidentally, you are no longer editor-in-chief, according to The Times, because you could no longer get internet service inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where you hid for years to avoid the consequences of your actions.
And there are consequences, because being a journalist is more than the publishing. It is the research and the evaluation, the news judgment and the editing. It is having the whole autopsy but not printing the pictures, and more importantly, knowing why.
An explosion of information can destroy as much as it reveals. Journalism should be the surgical release of relevant information, filtered by responsibility and ethics.
Journalists die for stories. They don’t hide in the halls of another government after they trade their citizenship. Journalists go to jail to protect sources, taking the responsibility on themselves to stand behind the words they produce. Journalists do what they believe they must, then sign their names and stand their ground.
I don’t know if you actually believe you are a journalist, or if it is a convenient defense, like temporary insanity or high blood sugar or the side effects of sleeping pills. I don’t know if you are lying to yourself when you claim our protections at a time when those protections are being ignored around the world with the same blissful blasé attitude you have toward the word “confidential.”
But I know that Edward Snowden is wrong when he says that your arrest — when Ecuador revoked your citizenship and London police executed an existing warrant — was a “dark moment for press freedom.” We have seen those. They happen. This isn’t one of them.
Because you, Julian Assange, are not the press.
Lori Falce is a Tribune-Review community engagement editor. You can contact Lori at [email protected].