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Shooting the Whistleblowers

David Macilwain

It has just been announced that Facebook is banning some “dangerous people” from its platforms, particularly those promoting and allowing “hate speech” of various colours, but also including “conspiracy theorist” Alex Jones. This action follows on from measures taken after the Christchurch gunman used Facebook to screen his incendiary Islamophobic attack, and the sudden recognition of the threat posed by “White Supremacist” ideology.

At that time I wrote an article for the Australian blog “Pearls and Irritations”, which drew an uncomfortable comparison between “two Australians abroad” – the “Firearm terrorist” Brenton Tarrant, and the “Cyber terrorist” Julian Assange. It’s not of course that I think Assange is a terrorist of any description – but given the treatment he has been afforded by the Australian government he may as well be.

The reason I made this comparison, aside from the fact that the two men are both Australian citizens in prison for offences committed abroad, was because there is something else that connects their perceived crimes, and which sprang to mind following the Christchurch massacre – the live vision of men being gunned down in Baghdad by US soldiers, screened around the world thanks to Wikileaks.

It was not immediately after the massacre of unarmed Muslims in the Christchurch mosques that this similar show of White Man’s brutality some 12 years earlier came to mind, but rather following the draconian legislation rushed through the Australian Parliament shortly afterwards. The circumstances around this, described in more detail in my article, were frankly suspect – though it was dangerous to say so.

Many people expressed concern that the new laws and severe punishments for the broadcasting of violent and provocative content could punish or restrict the legitimate activities of whistleblowers deemed in the public interest – but the laws passed with reluctant submission from the Opposition Labor party:

Nonetheless, Mr Dreyfus (Labor’s former Attorney General) told the lower house the opposition would help pass the laws, as part of its commitment to bipartisanship on matters of national security.

He said Labor would refer the laws to the powerful intelligence and security parliamentary committee and amend them to deal with any issues, if it wins the election.

Mr Dreyfus said tech giants such as Facebook must do more to deal with violent content on their platforms. But hundreds of smaller companies would also be captured by the bill’s “onerous obligations”.

The laws might also hamper whistle-blowing activities, Mr Dreyfus said.

The following day, Wikileaks issued a warning that Julian Assange could be evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy “within hours or days”, a claim denied and dismissed by Ecuador, but proven true within a week.

But it wasn’t just the “Ecuadorian collusion” that was proven true; this was the final act in a seven year-long conspiracy to capture and imprison our most valued whistleblower, as well as a revelation that there was indeed such a conspiracy, and that Assange’s fear of rendition was wholly justified.

With the benefit of hindsight it now becomes clear just how the exposure of this conspiracy as well as its denouement was handled by the Western media machine. The primary method was evidently to use a diversionary tactic, which also served as a pretext for Assange’s arrest and “trial”. As if on cue, a group of 70 UK MPs wrote a letter to the UK Home Office Minister, demanding that he “allow the extradition of Julian Assange to Sweden”, which backed up the false story that Assange was arrested for skipping bail. Combined with the disgusting and politically motivated personal attack on Assange by the judge, the pervasive broadcasting of this fabricated smear story allowed the real story to be blotted out of existence.

Yet it was plain as day – the UK and Sweden had collaborated with the US in the vindictive punishment of Julian Assange for exposing the criminal operations of the Empire in the Middle East. Over seven years they had never given up their malign plan to “render” and silence him. They had also repeatedly lied about their true intentions and shown themselves quite untrustworthy, as well as capable of gross abuses of the human rights and justice they constantly espouse.

Confirming the operation as a conspiracy, involving mainstream Western media knowingly or unknowingly colluding in a criminal deception, was the way the story of Assange’s arrest was presented the following day in Australian media. I wrote a complaint to the quasi-State broadcaster SBS, whose story was constructed around the “rape charges” from Sweden, and the UK MPs’ demands. The report included a brief interview with Jeremy Corbyn, asked to comment not on the threat of extradition to the US but on whether he opposed Assange’s extradition to Sweden. Having cast Corbyn in this negative defensive light, the report then noted that he was opposed to Assange’s extradition to the US, and “along with Wikileaks supporters” was more concerned about the US war crimes Assange had helped to reveal.

At this point in the SBS TV news report, just eight seconds of the notorious Iraq war crime film “Collateral Murder” was included, and became the focus of my complaint, and claim that SBS had engaged in a “calculated deception”:

In this extract, a group of unarmed men, including the Reuters journalists, are seen walking in a street just before being gunned down from the US helicopter. We hear the machine gun fire open up, but see nothing happen as the video cuts to a view of the next target – the van that pulled up several minutes later, and which was also targeted.

We see none of the men hit by the fire, because two seconds elapses between the sound and the bullets hitting the target.

Why did SBS cut the video at that very point, so that the whole significance of the atrocity is concealed?

The same criticism may be made over the shooting of the men trying to rescue the only survivor, where the key footage is before the shooting. An examination of the whole sequence is obligatory, and noting that since it was posted on Youtube in 2010, it has registered over 16 million views.

What irony is it, that the very reason that Assange – Australia’s Assange – is regarded as a hero and whistleblower by most decent and thinking Australians is because he revealed what SBS now seeks to conceal – the serial war crimes of the US government in its illegal wars in the Middle East?

SBS was of course doing exactly the same as other Western mainstream broadcasters, whose cuts from Collateral Murder also failed to show the shocking sight of unarmed men being killed. It was equally noticeable that non-Western media – RT for instance – made a special point of showing the cut with the men falling down under fire, along with the callous commentary; that after all was the point of the story. RT even interviewed that other Australian abroad – John Pilger – from Sydney!

Surprisingly perhaps, SBS agreed to investigate my complaint – which I backed up by a close analysis of their clip that found it was subject to some subtle manipulation as well as the closely timed cut. I submitted it before further developments however, and the dawning realisation that the story about extradition to Sweden was completely false, and just a ruse to enable Assange’s arrest.

Once the disinformation about his alleged unsavoury personal habits was established in the minds of those on the left who should have supported him, the story of extradition to Sweden just faded away; he was now being held in prison so that he wouldn’t abscond while the US prepared its extradition case. If there were a few cries of protest over his illegal extradition to the US, they were mostly now for pointless reassurance on his fair treatment, when already the worst possible outcome of Assange’s seven year incarceration had eventuated; the system now had him in its grip.

Looking back now it is remarkable to see how the most egregious miscarriage of justice has been enabled by the media, acting on behalf of a criminally corrupted legal system operating in the service of those who hold power. None of these is acting in the public interest, or on behalf of the public. Rather they have colluded in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice operating beyond any democratic process or control.

The serious implications for press freedom and International law of Assange’s “extrajudicial abduction” have been well examined by independent and non-Western media, just as they have been ignored or dismissed by Western leaders and media commentators. The ability to perform such a feat of “double-think” is hard to comprehend, yet is so pervasive amongst millions of normal people that we have to accept it as a feature of human psychology.

It is this that makes us so susceptible to manipulation by “psy-ops”, or “disinformation warfare”, of which SBS’ eight-second clip of Collateral Murder is the perfect example. I wait in anticipation of SBS’ reponse to my complaint, perhaps along these lines:

In the context of the report, which concerned Assange’s evasion of sexual misconduct charges in Sweden, as well as recent restrictions on the screening of violent and abusive content, SBS considers the brief reference to Wikileaks’ video on a separate issue was sufficient to inform the viewer.”

Of course they might just come clean and admit that they simply screened the extract of relevant footage provided to them by the Department of Information Control (Global) at CentCom, and that other versions provided by conspiracy theorist websites such as Wikileaks may have been manipulated.