Article revised 26/9/18 to reflect that Mr Assange was never formally charged with any criminal offense.
Craig Murray’s allegations about the extent of the selectivity and frank dishonesty underpinning the Guardian’s recent “reveal” regarding Julian Assange and his alleged (and seemingly entirely invented) bid to “escape” to Russia, should shock us all. Even those of us all too familiar with the Graun’s decline, and with self-styled journalist Luke Harding’s previous collisions with basic ethics and confused relationship with veridical reality.
For those not familiar with the story, here’s a quick recap.
On Friday September 21 the Guardian published a piece titled “Revealed: Russia’s secret plan to help Assange escape from UK”. It was authored by Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Dan Collyns and our very own pulp plagiarist Luke Harding. Even without Murray’s subsequent revelations, there was a lot to be concerned about both in the headline and the article itself.
The headline worryingly invoked the idea both that Assange was effectively a prisoner of the UK (which the UK government has always denied), and that, as far as the Guardian was concerned, this was actually fine, and the only real problem might be Russia’s alleged plan to “help him escape.” This is worrying because it betrays the depth of estrangement from basic ideas of ethics, legality and morality that the current Russia-hysteria embodies. The headline has been composed by people who think anything Russia does and anyone Russia associates with is so automatically evil that merely invoking the name renders all ethical/legal/moral questions nul.
It has not occurred to the people who wrote this headline that Assange needing to “escape” from a country in which he is accused of nothing beyond skipping bail (on an alleged sexual assault in Sweden, since dismissed), is maybe an indictment of that country. To them, the mere fact “Russia” allegedly planned to help Assange in that escape means Assange is the bad guy, and they genuinely expect their readers to see it the same way. They no longer even see the need to explain what new bad thing Russia has done or why Russia should be despised, hated, distrusted, mocked. The word is enough. For them, “Russia” genuinely is a synonym for an all-consuming existential evil. And when confronted with people who don’t share this conviction they are baffled, outraged and convinced they are dealing with trolls.
The headline was also clickbait, in that it implied dramatic and possibly action-packed “escape” plans when the allegations in the body of the article merely claimed that some form of fudge was to be attempted by the Ecuadorians and allies of Assange to gain him diplomatic immunity in order to be able to leave the embassy without being immediately arrested. Again, anyone not enslaved by the neoliberal orthodoxies regarding Assange might think it no bad thing that an essentially innocent man might be helped out of an intolerable incarceration, but it never seems to occur to the authors of the Guardian piece that anyone could see it that way.
While the broad narrative may have been essentially true at least in part, the story of alleged Russian connivance was presented to us without a single named source and no verification:
Four separate sources said the Kremlin was willing to offer support for the plan – including the possibility of allowing Assange to travel to Russia and live there. One of them said that an unidentified Russian businessman served as an intermediary in these discussions.
The thinnest part of a fairly thin and unimpressive “reveal.”
As presented this article was nothing much – just another sloppy propaganda piece; shoddily put together, uncorroborated, unverified rumour posing as a scoop. Typical of the Guardian’s new output. But with Craig Murray’s intervention, the story takes another turn.
Murray says he was “closely involved” in the bid to get Assange out of the Ecuadorean embassy as described and uncompromisingly describes the Guardian’s claims that Assange was thinking of going to live in Russia as “deliberate lies”.
I have to drag myself to the keyboard to denounce a quite extraordinary set of deliberate lies published in the Guardian about a Russian plot to spring Julian Assange last December.
I was closely involved with Julian and with Fidel Narvaez of the Ecuadorean Embassy at the end of last year in discussing possible future destinations for Julian. It is not only the case that Russia did not figure in those plans, it is a fact that Julian directly ruled out the possibility of going to Russia as undesirable. Fidel Narvaez told the Guardian that there was no truth in their story, but the Guardian has instead chosen to run with “four anonymous sources” – about which sources it tells you no more than that.
It is very serious indeed when a newspaper like the Guardian prints a tissue of deliberate lies in order to spread fake news on behalf of the security services. I cannot find words eloquent enough to express the depth of my contempt for Harding and Katherine Viner, who have betrayed completely the values of journalism. The aim of the piece is evidently to add a further layer to the fake news of Wikileaks’ (non-existent) relationship to Russia as part of the “Hillary didn’t really lose” narrative. I am, frankly, rather shocked.
According to Murray, the Guardian deliberately lied. Not just fudged, or evaded, or implied, or elided. Lied. Suppressed information they knew disproved their claims. Promoted disinformation they knew to be false.
If he’s correct it means we need to recall this when assessing any other such unsourced garbage articles we find there. Proven liars must be assumed to be lying until it can be shown otherwise.
He’s right to be shocked.