The ownership of war

Posted on October 14, 2011


By Lewis Campbell

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is hanging by a thread. The High court in London is deliberating whether he is to be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct. Against his wishes, his unauthorised autobiography is now a bestseller. Governments the world over currently want nothing more than to see him publicly smeared as a result of WikiLeaks’ revelations over the years. Yet the outspoken Australian is still finding time to be controversial.

At a recent anti-war protest in London this weekend he appeared, paparazzi in tow, to deliver a powerful and persuasive speech. He believed there was a specific reason that wars come to be, and places blame at the doors of journalists. Citing the examples Iraq, Afghanistan, World War Two and Vietnam, among others, he claimed that wars are begun with “carefully constructed lies… that is war by media”.

Famous for his views on the mainstream press he launched a scornful attack on who he called the “complicit media”, who he believes has constructed a reality of lies that we now live in.

He continued, “…When we understand that wars come about as a result of lies peddled to the public…Journalists are war criminals”

It made for compelling listening; however upon reflection his explosive views should be handled with care. Dr Michael Higgins, senior journalism lecturer at Strathclyde University, disagrees with Assange’s claims and takes a more considered approach.

“To imagine that the press is a monolith and that it treats war one way or the other is a bit simplistic” He explained that although there are good and bad journalists in the world, a great many go to situations where Western forces are “up to no good and do their best to expose that”.

He understands Assange’s position however, based on the kind of journalism he practices whereby he exposes the worst of the press most of the time. Higgins refutes that this has led to Assange entering into “rhetoric where he accuses them of all sorts of things”.

Assange may also be showing the strain of his battle for justice. Held under house arrest for a crime he has not yet been charged with, this outburst could be an attack on the negative press he has received from certain publications. His case is to be decided in the high court, and should he be extradited to Sweden, there is a likelihood that he will then be passed to the Americans to answer for his revealing thousands of secret US documents on his outlet WikiLeaks. This would likely mean interrogations and his appearing in such shady, secretive and nefarious documents as he has released before.

Right or wrong, Julian Assange has yet again forced us to reflect on our position in society. The journalists of the world do have a responsibility to be truthful, to question and not to comply with what is easy

“It is our task and it is your task, go and get the truth”