July 3, 2020, New Delhi: “What’s the difference between Mark Zuckerberg and me? I give you private information on corporations for free, and I’m a villain. Zuckerberg gives your private information to corporations for money, and he’s Person of the Year!”
That was American comedian Bill Hader rattling off a tongue-in-cheek dialogue while hosting the Saturday Night Live show on NBC right after Time magazine named Mark Zuckerberg ‘Person of the Year’. Hader was basically impersonating Julian Assange and taking a dig at Time magazine’s decision to pick the Facebook chief for the award.
This anecdote is from December 15, 2010. One can only speculate if the man himself – Assange, one of the most significant truth-seekers of our times – thought along the same lines about Zuckerberg.
In 2010, Time magazine named Zuckerberg ‘Person of the Year’, which is considered in popular Western culture as one of the highest recognitions in life. Assange finished runner up back then.
Assange, an Australian-born fearless journalist, had set up a whistleblowing platform called WikiLeaks in 2006. Four years later, Assange shot to fame when his website published a stash of shocking inside information about the dark side of the American military. He pulled it off with the support of US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, among many other fearless and faceless activists from around the world.
Without his work, how would the world have known about a horrific airstrike in Baghdad where the US Army ruthlessly killed 18 people; the Afghanistan war logs; the Iraq war diary; Hillary Clinton breaking the law; the war in Yemen; tons of illegal acts of the CIA; and secret documents related to Guantanamo detainees?
Assange’s website had become so influential that an alarmed Washington, DC launched a criminal probe into WikiLeaks to stop him on his tracks.
Unfortunately, despite exposing American military excesses and misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, Assange is still looked at with suspicion. He’s seen as a negative element, and as someone who doesn’t fit into the accepted definition of investigative journalist.
Assange’s landmark journalism, which had shaken the US military establishment in 2010, is hardly discussed over dinner table talk. Neither is he pursued by journalists from mainstream media outlets. Many journalists, of course, follow his works tacitly to avoid getting seen as an Assange follower.
The question is, why is Julian Assange not a widely accepted name in the mainstream narrative? Why was the US establishment so desperate to choke his voice? Why was his incredible journalistic spirit snuffed out? Why doesn’t the world rally behind him? – The same world that got so much from him.
Perhaps, it’s because he was a constant threat to power and the power elite.
Assange’s work was a phenomenally difficult job, yet the subject matter was no rocket science. His platform’s role was to simply encourage whistleblowers around the world to submit classified and sensitive documents, which WikiLeaks would then disclose on its site for free for the masses to see.
The work that Assange put together since 2010 is simply historic. His journalism includes a chilling video of the US Army killing at least 18 people in Baghdad, leaks about America’s drone strikes in Yemen, cyber-attacks at Iran’s nuclear weapons facility by the US and Israel.
The most crucial contribution that WikiLeaks has made so far is to expose false narratives peddled by mainstream media networks as unbiased news. His works have shown that popular media disinforms us as much as it informs us.
Assange made many people around the world to start disbelieving everything that was sold to them by the mainstream media. He basically shattered the glossy myth about free press. He showed that the only thing free about the mainstream industry is the dissemination of disinformation.
Even as I was writing this article, a newsbreak popped up on my system saying a couple of TV channels in Turkey will be made to go off air for five days because they had criticised the government and highlighted people’s concerns.
The news about Turkey was quickly followed by what’s happening in Arambag town, in Bengal’s Hooghly district. A journalist called Safiqul Islam, his wife and their two kids, had been arrested for exposing corruption at the local administration level. I watched the terrifying video the journalist made right until the moment of his arrest and the way he was harrassed. He showed guts, but it was a disturbing video.
An FIR was lodged by Uttar Pradesh police against another journalist Supriya Sharma from Scroll.in for exposing dire poverty in Varanasi, the Indian Prime Minister’s constituency.
The arrests of journalists in Bangladesh are yet another act of atrocity on media workers. Journalists in our neighbouring country are scared, anguished and devastated. They find no one to stand beside them.
Also, on my phone’s news feed, I learnt about a fellow journalist in New Delhi who was shown the door for criticising the Hindu deity Krishna in a Twitter post. It looks like we can’t even openly crack jokes about Krishna’s so-called ‘rasa-leela’.
If people as precious as truth-diggers and journalists get punished for doing their job – without the masses around them taking action to protect them – then something is certainly wrong.
This erosion of our conscience is deeply wounding us. Our voices are being strangulated to the point where we squeal saying – “We can’t breathe”. Assange, meanwhile, will spend another gloomy day in London’s Belmarsh prison.
Today is Julian Assange’s birthday. He’s turning 49 but he’s not in great shape at all. The condition of his health is deteriorating drastically due to the rigors of imprisonment. While I imagine whispering a happy birthday message into the man’s ears, George Floyd’s final words – “I can’t breathe” – come to mind.
Assange has given the performance of his life. But instead of being hailed as the hero that he is, he is being made to choke in a dark corner of Belmarsh.
Did you know that India and Iran have an oil-for-money agreement? Read Secret Notes From Iran to learn about the sensitive deal and India’s historic links with Persia
Secret Notes From Iran: international link