Monday, October 10, 2016

On Hillary Clinton, the email releases, and journalism

First, I think it's important to recognize that Wikileaks in general, and Julian Assange in particular, does not "hate" Hillary Clinton, just as they did not "hate" Barack Obama when they published Chelsea Manning's revelations--that the US had engaged in war crimes and fired on civilians--for example.

I dislike the emotional demonizing of people and organizations who say or do things someone might find disagreeable to their position (or candidates) by using the word "hate", i.e. You just hate Hillary. I've been accused of "hating" Hillary Clinton, as have numerous friends--Bernie supporters, Independents, Greens, and Democrats alike--some of whom even plan to vote for her in November but nonetheless are clear-eyed about her record and what the various documents (i.e. emails) have shown. We were accused of this, by friends (and sadly, occasionally, former friends), simply because of our personal politics, ethics, priorities--and, most importantly, our refusal to buy into spin when the facts are pretty damned obvious--and because those things are regarded as pesky, inconvenient, an obstacle to what should have been a slam-dunk: Clinton beats Trump.

So in describing Wikileaks, I won't use that word--"hate". Rather, I'll say, they stand in opposition to one thing only: the hiding of facts from citizens who deserve to know what our government is doing in our name, with our tax dollars.

It's no different from Ed Snowden's revelations that the NSA had been illegally, unconstitutionally spying on innocent American citizens, vacuuming up our communications for analysis and storage, without a warrant. Snowden does not "hate" the president or the United States. (I would argue he is a finer and more courageous patriot than many if not most Americans).

Moreover, Wikileaks didn't just come into being to reveal Hillary Clinton's emails and transcripts and try to throw the election; before that, they revealed war crimes. And the strong-arming of foreign governments to not prosecute George W. Bush and company for torture and other war crimes lest they lose MFN trading status with the US. (NB: I have not even touched on all the WL revelations germane to other countries that the organization have made public over the years. Things that have little-to-nothing to do with the United States, or US elections. Not enough time or space.)

In fact, it was April 2007 when I first wrote about Wikileaks, both here at Litbrit and at Ezra Klein's eponymous blog. No-one had heard of them back then; most commenters thought it was an interesting idea but expressed doubt that it could work or that the organization could last, much less flourish (!)

Wikileaks' purpose is simply to make information available to citizens. If it had wanted to influence US elections, surely the damning Clinton emails and Goldman Sachs speech transcripts would have been made public during the primaries, when Bernie Sanders was within whispering-distance of capturing the lead. It has a 100% record of accuracy, thus far, meaning they take a very long time to authenticate and vet every single thing they release.

Second, the Intercept has an excellent post up, by Glenn Greenwald and Lee Fang, about a recent Guccifer 2.0 release. It discusses something I'd been arguing about with a friend recently--he thinks it's perfectly ethical and okay for the press to agree to only ask certain questions, to only cover "preferred and positive" topics, in order to make the "get". I maintain that this is a gross violation of journalistic ethics, which couldn't be clearer about the need for the press to be utterly impartial, to be skeptical of all supplied information, and to actually assume an adversarial position when the subject wields great power. Greenwald and Fang's piece reveals a press engaging in the polar opposite of this (emphasis mine):

EXCLUSIVE: New Email Leak Reveals Clinton Campaign’s Cozy Press Relationship

As The Intercept previously reportedpundits regularly featured on cable news programs were paid by the Clinton campaign without any disclosure when they appeared; several of them are included on this “surrogates” list, including Stephanie Cutter and Maria Cardona:

Finally, regarding the authenticity of the emails themselves. Glenn Greenwald (@GGreenwald) was livetweeting the debate. I consider him to be one of the very few actual journalists we have left. A few salient comments pertaining to the leak, starting with the earliest:
 Clinton confirming that the speech excepts released by WikiLeaks are accurate. Someone please tell the MSNBC host who claimed otherwise. 
 What else could she do? Her surrogates have been claiming they don't know. She obviously couldn't say that. So she had to admit it.
David Sirota @davidsirota
So Clinton just effectively verified that the Wikileaks excerpts are authentic. That's something...
224 retweets322 likes 
 Her campaign & her most devoted media pundits spent all day strongly implying the docs were fake, even though they knew it was false.
Christopher Hayes @chrislhayes
This is interesting: Clinton not denying the documents' authenticity. Kind of makes her campaign look ridiculous.
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