They always get the benefit of the doubt, these America haters. From our enemies, of course. But also from our celebrities, our “mainstream” press, and other organs of liberal opinion.
The case of Julian Assange, would-be scourge of America, is depressingly typical — if slightly surprising because the administration he sought to embarrass and discredit was Obama’s. There’s discomfiting news about Assange this week, which we’ll get to, but first, a review.
Remember the respectful treatment the WikiLeaks founder received? After publishing 250,000 confidential documents obtained by an Army private — some of which provided names and addresses of Afghan civilians who had cooperated with NATO against the Taliban, others that simply provided embarrassing diplomatic scuttlebutt — Assange got a sympathetic 60 Minutes interview. It was conducted at the country estate where he was under house arrest (or “mansion arrest” as the Daily Mail put it). A little matter of rape and sexual-assault charges leveled in Sweden.
Why, you might ask, does an otherwise undistinguished Australian programmer and “Internet activist” get such cushy digs as the ten-bedroom Ellingham Hall in which to entertain foreign journalists and fight extradition? Why do Bianca Jagger, Jemima Khan, Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, and Michael Moore, among others, provide moral support and bail money for the pale crusader? Why does Time magazine feature a black-and-white photo of Assange on its cover, with his mouth taped over by a colorful American flag?
Why does Assange obtain cult status, whereas Ladies in White, who brave persecution to protest Cuba’s human-rights abuses, Harry Wu, a 19-year veteran of the Chinese gulag who campaigns for religious liberty in China, and Manal al-Sharif, the Saudi woman who drove a car to highlight the kingdom’s benighted treatment of women, all struggle in relative obscurity? It’s simple: Assange hates America. He has compared Guantanamo to Auschwitz. He claims that WikiLeaks has uncovered “thousands” of American war crimes. He disclosed a stolen 2004 Army memo detailing the “Warlock” system that jammed IEDs. He praised the leader of Hezbollah for “fighting against the hegemony of the United States.” Such paranoid anti-Americanism purchases credibility with the beautiful people.
Did they know or care about what he was capable of? Assange was eventually persuaded to redact some of the material he received prior to publication, but as Declan Walsh of the Guardian reported, his initial attitude toward those who might lose their lives at the hands of the Taliban or others for cooperating with the U.S. was brutal. “‘Well, they’re informants,’ he said. ‘So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.’”
Assange is upheld, by those of limited understanding, as a symbol of openness and press freedom. Yet he has associated himself with some of the most flagrant abusers of press liberty in the world. He cheerfully agreed to serve as the host of a TV program on the Kremlin’s propaganda channel Russia Today. According to a report by the International Federation of Journalists, Russia has been responsible for the deaths or disappearances of more than 300 journalists in the past two decades.
His first interview — and it was a soft one — was with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who tends to torture people who displease him. When Nasrallah boasted that his code was unbreakable, the two men “laughed companionably,” reported the New York Times.
Now we learn that Assange, who remains under an arrest warrant, is seeking the protection of the Ecuadoran embassy in London. Yes, Ecuador, whose Chávez-wannabe leader, Rafael Correa, has called journalists in his country “media vultures.”
Ecuador’s criminal code now prohibits journalists from showing “lack of respect” for the president. And Correa has abused a feature of the broadcasting code to require that private TV and radio stations interrupt their programming to transmit government messages called “cadenas.” Between 2007 and 2011, reports Human Rights Watch, there have been 1,025 such messages, sucking up 151 hours of broadcast time. The number of private outlets is shrinking, though, as the government continues to shutter independent radio and TV stations (seven in June alone) on various pretexts.
That’s where our Internet crusader for “openness” is headed. Or would like to be. The British government isn’t cooperating, warning that Assange will be arrested if he steps out of the embassy.
One might say, “He’s got it coming. He deserves it.”
— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2012 Creators Syndicate, Inc.