Google and Yahoo: Big Brother?

Unfortunately, the obstacles from government faced by journalists and bloggers within the United States are only multiplied in nations with fewer democratic tendencies and more overt government control over the dissemination of information.   

Most notably, The People’s Republic of China has come down notoriously hard on individuals with the gall to distribute content differing from the Party line. In fact, it is considered treasonous to advocate for any government for China not led by the Communist Party; the nation’s constitution stipulates that the National People’s Congress must be headed by the Communist Party.

In an effort to ensure material subversive to the interests of the Communist Party is not spread on the internet, the authoritarian Politburo of China has employed an advanced system of internet policing; blocking the IP addresses, and the ability of readers to access websites containing dissident information. 

Facilitating this process of stamping out opposition websites from the Chinese online community have been two of the biggest names in the American Internet community; Google and Yahoo. These two mega-corporations have been more than happy to become complicit with the despotic policies emanating from Beijing in order to gain a toe-hold in the ever-expanding market that is the Chinese online community.  

As unrest spread throughout Tibet in 2008, a region annexed by China in 1950, Google configured its Chinese search engine to filter out words including Tibet Independence, Dalai Lama and democracy, helping the Chinese Politburo limit the flow of information regarding government atrocities in the Himalayan backlands of the People’s Republic.            

Additionally, Google and Yahoo have not hesitated to block user access to individual dissidents within the Communist state. For example, an article in The Times from February of 2008 discusses the fate of Professor Guo Quan. Quan, formerly a professor of Ancient Chinese Literature and the Second Sino-Japanese War, found his name had been completely removed from the google.cn portal and the Chinese Yahoo! search engine. This action occurred after Quan declared his position as Chairman of the underground New People’s Party, a political entity opposing the rule of the Communist Party and claiming 10 million supporters.   

The willingness of both Google and Yahoo to comply with the whims of a totalitarian regime sets a dangerous precedent. One that greatly imperils not only the ability of content producers to opine on questionable government activities, but also limits the ability of a citizenry to become informed about the actions of their governments.   

Two years later, in 2010, Google showed no signs of distancing itself from the despotic inclinations of the communist leadership in Beijing. An article from the Sydney Morning Herald noted how Google initially opposed the PRC’s censorship program by automatically switching Chinese users to the company’s Hong Kong based servers, which are subject to far fewer government censors; in March of 2010.  

However, the article goes on to reveal the Chinese government renewed the giant search engine’s internet license after Google pledged to obey Chinese laws and stop rerouting users through servers based on the semi-autonomous island of Hong Kong. 

Here again the power of profits undermine the ability of an entity, in this case a private corporation, to stand up for civil liberties. Initially, Google opposed government restrictions but when the Communist Party threatened to isolate the company from a large market of consumers, Google reevaluated its position and decided to adhere to the demands of the PRC; at the expense of civil liberties, in order to ensure a continuation in  profitable business in the Far East’s most populous nation. 

It is important to note that Communist China is not the only sovereign state to utilize the influence of Google and Yahoo to hamper online dissent, a critical aspect of the Arab Spring, within their nation. In fact, one famous supranational body employed similar tactics to stifle unfavorable reporting in early 2008. 

Matthew Lee, the founder of the blog Inner City Pressfound his news website had been removed from Google News on February 13, 2008. According to an e-mail from Google, this action was taken following a complaint Google News received, which stated Inner City Press was a one-man operation; a violation of Google News policy for listed websites.

Alternatively, Lee is adamant that he has one full-time employee and a few volunteers and is open in his stipulations that the United Nations was responsible for his removal from Google News.

Since 2005, Lee has focused his resources on revealing the widespread internal corruption at the world’s most prominent supranational organization. Specifically, Lee has targeted the United Nations Development Programme and their involvement with several failed disarmament programs in sub-Saharan Africa in 2006. 

Nevertheless, Lee was allowed to opine on the UN and UNDP with no complaints from Google News until 2008. It was not until after Google announced its partnership with the UNDP to achieve anti-poverty goals in November of 2007 that Lee ran afoul of the powerful corporation. 

Less than three months after this partnership was announced Lee’s anti-UN webpage could no longer be accessed throughout Google News.

This may have been a coincidence and the complaint against Inner City Press may have indeed originated from a third party. However, considering Google’s track record of adhering to government pressure for profits, it is not unthinkable that the company would adhere to the will of an associated international organization and limit access to damaging voices of dissent. Especially if one evaluates Google’s affiliation with UN, the elimination of poverty, a hugely beneficial public relations move for the massive search engine.  

Google and Yahoo seem quite willing to limit the flow of dissenting opinions in China and at the United Nations. This is an extremely unfortunate scenario and regardless of the profits these companies reap from aligning with the government, it is disheartening to see corporations based in the American Republic, so willing to throw civil liberties out the window. 

Obstacles

Up to this point, most of my blog posts have focused on how bloggers and independent media have been enabled by modern technology and contemporary society. While, this is certainly the case in many instances, the Internet provides individuals with low production costs and the near infinite amount of resources of the online community; the modern era has also brought new restrictions that do not only threaten the ability of independent media outlets to survive, but challenge the very ideals of the free press exhibited through the First Amendment. 

Of late there has been a substantial debate surrounding the definition of a journalist and whether independent bloggers, with little to no journalistic schooling, qualify as legitimate producers of news content. The pending outcome of this argument has taken on increased significance as the influence and readership of individual bloggers grows with each passing day.

The complex question of who is actually a journalist, becomes a rather delicate manner when bloggers and members of the independent media, are barred from covering governmental proceedings.

An Oregon state statute from the 1970s ensured journalists could sit in on, but not publish information from, the executive sessions called by city councils throughout the state. However, in July of 2008 Mark Bunster, the author of the blog Loaded Orygun, was not allowed admittance to an executive session of the Lake Oswego City Council, on the basis that he was not a member of the news media. Additionally, the incident prompted the Lake Oswego City Council to propose a media policy that clearly omitted bloggers from membership to the news media allowed to cover the event in question.    

Executive sessions are thoroughly undemocratic and historically dubious, notable for underhanded deals and eleventh-hour arrangements. However, the true significance of the councilors of Lake Oswego to bar Bunster from their meeting and draft a media policy has repercussions far beyond the local politics of a small city in western Oregon or the history of dirty politics in the U.S.

The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution defends the freedom of the press from government interference. By taking the step to determine what constitutes a journalist and what can be considered a media outlet, government, even if it is a minor city council in Oregon, is restricting the flow of information and acting as a veritable gate-keeper; controlling the information the public receives.

Journalists and writers who operate outside the territory of mainstream media face obstacles from well beyond Oregonian civil government to the highest levels of American Federal Government in the District of Columbia.

In order to cover the happenings of Congress a journalist needs to acquire Senate and House credentials through the Congressional Press Galleries. In order to acquire these credentials one cannot be a lobbyist or a government official and most notably for many independent journalists, “applicants must also be employed by a periodical that is published for profit and is supported chiefly by advertising or by subscriptions.” 

This last fact, barring non-profits and organizations supported by donors, may have been drafted with the best intentions, to prevent interest groups from entering the Congressional Press Gallery and exerting undue influence through their access to the inner-workings of Congress. Nevertheless, it puts independent media at an extreme disadvantage. As partisan as some independent publications may be, this is not a sound basis from barring their journalists and subsequently, their readers from access to the proceedings of Congress, especially as independent news outlets become ever more popular and provide a growing quantity of content to a growing audience. 

The difficulty in acquiring Senate and House credentials also affects coverage of the Supreme Court as Congressional credentials are required to get a permanent press pass for the supreme body of the judicial branch.

Consider the Supreme Court. A largely undemocratic body, whose members serve for life and are appointed not elected. Additionally, the nine members of this judicial body are not subjected to anywhere near the same levels of press coverage as their counterparts in the Executive and Legislative branches; due to the complexity of the Republic’s highest court and the aforementioned anecdote of the nine judges not having to run for re-election and thus not having to cater to mainstream, yet alone, independent media outlets.

When one organization that actually devotes resources to covering the Supreme Court, SCOTUSblog, is routinely prevented from attaining a permanent press pass due to the blog’s connection to its sponsor Bloomberg Law, it drastically takes away from the public discourse. Moreover, it further constricts the limited amount of information flowing from Supreme Court procedures to the people of the United States, adding to a general lack of understanding regarding the highest law court in the Union, a court responsible for determining the constitutionality of federal and state legislation. 

On top off being blocked from gathering content by local and federal government practices contemporary independent publications have faced the specter of higher postage rates since early 2007.

In a plan proposed by Time Warner Inc. earlier that year, every periodical would face an increase in postage rates. While all outlets would face this increase, the sheer size of conglomerates the size of Time Warner would allow their magazines to absorb these price increases. Alternatively, smaller magazines and weeklies including The Nation and Newsweek are much more affected by even a small increase in postage rates due to the situation that they lack the enormous amount of capital at the disposal of magazines under the protection of massive media partnerships.     

The United States Postal Service was created by the Second Continental Congress on July 26, 1775 with the explicit intent of protecting the spread of information to and from citizens throughout the infant nation. The prominence of local newspapers, and the Fourth Estate as a whole, throughout most of the history of the United States can be directly attributed to the generous subsidies granted to printers by the Federal Government.

This concept of price protection for news publishers most directly affects small-scale publications where money is often not plentiful and which typically offer independent or alternate interpretations on current events. Therefore, even a small increase in mailing rates can have extremely adverse consequences for independent periodicals. And at a time when many of these periodicals are already losing quite a bit of revenue to the internet, rate hikes could very well force the nation’s historical weekly publications into an inescapable corner.   

City councilors, Congressional ordinances and corporate greed present major obstacles for bloggers and independent media outlets alike. Citizens throughout the U.S.A. cannot allow the local, state or federal government, let alone private corporations to muscle out journalists and private individuals who refuse to look the other way when the government of the people stops working for the people.

The defense of independent media and the producers of its content is paramount in order to maintain the ability of independent journalists to cover the workings of American government, providing their readers news “bereft” of the spin of mainstream media sources, while maintaining the sanctity of the First Amendment.  

Interconnectedness

At the 2011 Personal Democracy Forum, Jim Gilliam, of the media advocacy group, Brave New Films, gave an extremely moving speech of how the internet literally saved his life.  

A cancer survivor thanks to a bone marrow transplant earlier in his life, Gilliam found his niche thanks to the internet, as an online activist working for Robert Greenwald’s progressive media site; and it would be the internet that would save the young IT professional’s life when he faced his second bout with cancer. Requiring a lung transplant in order to survive, a complex procedure further complicated by Gilliam’s past medical history. When surgeons from UCLA turned Gilliam down for the aforementioned operation, Gilliam vented on his blog, picking some choice words for the specialist who were unwilling to conduct the procedure. 

It is at this juncture where Gilliam’s faith was restored. Faith shaken to the core by multiple bouts with cancer, in addition to the loss of his mother to the disease. After blogging about his frustration with UCLA, the online community of internet activists, to which Gilliam belongs, mobilized with stunning results. Through a torrent of e-mails and blogs from these activists, one specialist was finally convinced to perform the surgery that saved Gilliam’s life. 

During the 2011 speech Gilliam remarked that he owed his life to human interconnectedness.

In addition to the impressive ability to create life-saving changes for individuals, human interconnectedness in its online form, has the potential to be a lifeline for online media sites. 

Independent news blogs, bereft of anywhere near the amount of journalists employed by The New York Times, cable and network news stations, are able to cover stories throughout the nation by harnessing the power of online human interconnectivity by mobilizing audience members in particular areas of the nation. These readers are able to provide unique insight into pertinent stories from a hyper-local perspective, giving a blogger a “boot on the ground” wherever their readers reside.

For example, Josh Marshall, founder of Talking Points Memowas able to utilize his blog’s wide readership to cover the US Attorney Scandal in 2007. Marshall’s ability to cover this widespread scandal, which occurred under the administration of George W. Bush and resulted in the dismissal of 8 federal attorneys and the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, by his readers in communities throughout the United States; providing specific information from the regions from which the dismissed government officials had served before being abruptly relieved of their duties.   

Perhaps the most important role of e-connectedness for small blogs lies in its fundraising abilities. While Gilliam was able to inadvertently mobilize a blitz of online support among his readership, bloggers can coerce their own readership into donations critical for the upkeep of their blogs, expansion of their staffs and the financing of particularly ambitious endeavors.

In fact, Gilliam utilized this strategy, intentionally this time, to raise the funds to cover the production costs for Iraq For Sale, a Brave New Films production on corporate war profiteers exploiting the taxpayers of the Republic and soldiers of the nation during the Second Persian Gulf War. In a pledge to put every donors’ name in the credits and provide commentary on a pertinent political issue Gilliam raised $267,892 for Iraq For Sale in just 10 days. 

Additionally, TPM was once again at the forefront of mustering the substantial resources of their online readership. In two distinct instances, Marshall was able to rely upon his devoted readers to bankroll his trip to New Hampshire to cover the 2004 Democratic “First in the Nation” Primary and later expand his newsroom to further enhance his blog’s coverage of pertinent progressive issues and news.      

Beyond being mobilized to save lives, for funding, and for local perspectives on national news, those formerly known as the audience can be utilized to actively produce content. Many blogs harness the passion of their readership by asking them to not only provide feedback on stories but to contribute, creating their own stories or submitting their own multimedia to supplement the content produced in-house by the blog. This strategy was used to its utmost potential by Eric Nakagawa of the blog, I Can Has Cheezburger?Nakagawa, who at first relied on his audience to rate his own pictorial posts of funny animals now relies on his readership to create content to add to the content created by himself and his accomplice, Tofuburger. Once again the interconnectedness of online communities can be utilized by bloggers to greatly multiply their own limited resources by pooling the substantive input offered up by their readership.     

Jim Gilliam’s ‘The Internet is My Religion’ speech is a remarkable story of trial, tribulation and triumph. The importance of online advocates to that final triumph should be dully noted by bloggers throughout the internet community. Through his own blog, Jim Gilliam spurred friends and followers to action, convincing doctors to perform an operation once thought impossible.

The task of bloggers is far less serious. By convincing their readers they are providing interesting and important content, individual bloggers take the first steps towards building a dedicated following throughout the internet community, a dedicated following that can be utilized to provide groundbreaking content and finance a penniless bloggers career as indicated by the experiences of Josh Marshall and Eric Nakagawa. 

However, it is important to note that the extreme levels of success experienced by Marshall and Nakagawa are the ultimate success stories. Nevertheless, as indicated by the 1,000 True Fans Theory, the massive expanse of the online community can allow bloggers and Internet content producers in general, to be overtly successful by targeting niche groups, interested in the particular topic, opinion or style being produced.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Capital of Community

John Marshall and Eric Nakagawa are two bloggers responsible for creating websites that are not only extremely popular, but also very lucrative enterprises.

Marshall’s website, Talking Points Memo, is a progressive blog with a focus on investigative journalism. Marshall’s blog was responsible for revealing the US Attorney General Scandal during the George W. Bush administration, the results of which were the dismissal of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in 2007. Moreover, the liberal news outlet, launched in November of 2000 earns Marshall around $45,000 a month and has grown from a one man operation to a six person editorial site; with three affiliated spin-off webpages.

Cheezburger, Eric Nakagawa started I Can Has Cheezburger?in January of 2007 with his female accomplice Tofuburger. The website was started as a joke with funny photos and amusing captions. Unexpectedly, this simple, yet amusing idea, has turned into a $5,600 a month cash cow for Cheez and Tofuburger.    

Despite their substantial differences, Talking Points Memo’s focus on serious political issues and I Can Has Cheezburger?’s emphasis on comedic photos, the two blogs share a similar storyline; originating as creative side-projects and ending up as highly popular websites financing profitable careers.

Both websites found a niche (politics and funny animals) where there was a high amount of demand for the content Marshall and Nakagawa were producing.  

However, their true success lies in their ability to utilize the “community” created by interested readers. One that not only could contribute funds, but readers willing to investigate stories and submit their own content for their favorite blogs. 

For Marshall, this idea of a “community” where those formerly known as the audience actively contribute to the blog took off following the 2004 general elections. 

“After the 2004 election, it had become second nature to me to make use of the readership as a source of information. What I did on the site was a hybrid of traditional journalism and what we now call collaborative journalism-working with readers,” said Marshall. 

However, Marshall would never have known he had this vast community of readers at his disposal to assist in his investigative pieces if it were not for events during the 2004 election. In an effort to be able to cover the “first in the nation,” democratic primary in New Hampshire, the creator of Talking Points Memo, asked his readers to fund his trip to the Granite State.

The reader response was so strong, Marshall was able to raise between $6,000 and $7,000 in 24 hours and use a similar strategy to expand his newsroom. Furthermore, Talking Points Memo was able to utilize the active interest in its blogs to expand the reach of his small staff to every small town in America where progressive individuals interested in the blog resided. A fact allowing Talking Points Memo to cover a multitude of issues, even when they occurred far away from the web site’s Manhattan office. 

For Nakagawa the breakthrough moment when the blogger realized the strength of the “community” following his pictorial musings came when he created a widget to allow readers to rate the quality of posts on a scale of 1 to 5 cheeseburgers. This minor tweak to the blog helped drive readership from 1,000 to 2,000 views a day.

Nakagawa harnessed this substantial audience interest to help create content for his website by building, “a tool to let readers select a ready-made photo or upload their own, add and position captions, choose font styles, and submit a finished product.”  

By facilitating audience contributions Nakagawa maximized the ability of his “community” to contribute to the blog, creating a snowball effect, where one reader’s ideas can kick-start related ideas from himself or other readers; an endless cycle of new ideas ready to be published on Cheezburger.   

The evolution of Talking Points Memo and I Can Has Cheezburger? are extremely successful models of how a part-time blog can turn into a full-time money making machine. Not all bloggers can hope to turn their passions, whether they be politics or cats, into such lucrative careers. However, by finding the right niche and successfully utilizing the readers within that niche group, bloggers opining on a wide variety of topics can create a secondary and maybe, a primary flow of income. 

Watching the Watchdog

The quintessential muckraker, George Seldes published In Fact: An Antidote for Falsehood in the Daily Press, from 1940 until 1950. Despite only publishing his weekly newsletter for ten years, Seldes influence was substantial, urging his readers to question and hold their elected officials accountable, while inspiring future muckrakers to take on the established business interests of the United States of America. 

Seldes willingness to spurn advertisers was groundbreaking, relying solely on circulation and premiums to preserve the newspaper. These premiums came in the form of books by Seldes, publications by other authors and bound volumes of the newspaper itself.   

With no advertisers to appease, Seldes was able to cover issues as he pleased, avoiding the corporate interests prominent newspapers proved unable to separate themselves from.  Most notably, Seldes published an unprecedented amount of stories on the issue of cigarette’s deadly side-effects; a topic the contemporary mainstream media would not dare touch during the mid-20th century.   

In an edition of In Fact from July 28, 1947, Seldes describes the reasons behind his newspaper in an editorial postscript on the back page. “It doesn’t matter what the subject is, you cannot get the facts in the American newspaper or magazine press,” said Seldes.   

This unfortunate scenario behooved Seldes to print In Fact, and to the best of his ability, reveal pertinent issues the mainstream media would not cover due to the immense sway advertisers held over the revenue models of large newspaper and magazine corporations. In his obituary, in the British newspaper The IndependentSeldes’ paper was described as, “a four-page weekly compendium of news other newspapers wouldn’t print.”   

Stories other newspapers wouldn’t print included a wide variety of issues that directly affected the general well-being of the nation’s citizens. These issues included, the aforementioned detrimental health effects of cigarette smoking, the immense influence of prominent lobbying groups such as, the National Association of Manufacturers, the electric light interests, and the obscene influence of Wall Street on Congress. 

Seldes willingness to cover issues avoided by the largest dailies gave his readership, 176,000, at its peak, insight into matters they were unable to access, creating a public dialogue around overt threats to civil liberties and the sanctity of the Republic.

Additionally, Seldes’ model provided the basis for I.F. Stone to launch his own influential self-published newspaper, I.F. Stone’s Weekly. In the mold of Seldes, Stone pursued issues major American magazines and newspapers would not cover, combing through public records with extreme thoroughness to find the truth behind the smoke and mirrors of elected officials and bureaucrats. 

Beyond influencing Stone, Seldes had a profound influence on Daniel Ellsberg, who as a freshman at Harvard, subscribed to Seldes’ weekly. Years later as a professional at RAND Corporation, Ellsberg decided to release the damning Pentagon Papers on the corrupt history of United States-South Vietnamese relations. It is impossible to draw a direct correlation, but one has to question whether the muckraking journalism Ellsberg took in as an undergraduate at Cambridge, Massachusetts encouraged him to act as a whistleblower against the Department of Defense.            

Far from being the first muckraker, George Seldes was nevertheless a very influential one. The former United Press writer spent a decade watching the fourth-estate, the element of society responsible for protecting the rights of citizens. When corporate interests infringed on the willingness of the fourth-estate to cover pertinent social issues, Seldes was there, fighting to ensure the American Republic did not devolve into an oligarchy of technocrats. Even when In Fact, went out of print in 1950, Seldes continued to be influential by passing the flame of independent media to I.F. Stone and preserving it for modern outlets of independent journalism, including the conservative Drudge Report and the progressive Talking Points Memo.   

Cyber Delinquency

For years politicians and government officials from Paris to the District of Columbia have enjoyed a snug relationship with mainstream media outlets and many prominent journalists. However, with the rise of blogging, this cozy arrangement, where journalists received noteworthy stories in exchange for a certain discretion involving many political scandals, is rapidly coming to a conclusion. Bloggers have no access to many of the public figures they cover and thus have little fear in damaging their rapport with these noteworthy persons. For this reason, many bloggers hold nothing back in many of their posts; to the great dismay of public figures around the world used to the traditional relationship between mainstream media and state figures. 

A 2009 article in the New York Times, As Web Challenges French Leaders, They Push Back, addressed the problems the administration of Nicolas Sarkozy had with bloggers during the former president’s term.  

French bloggers covered a number of incidents many mainstream journalists would not likely have brought to light on their own accord. These incidents, ranging from Sarkozy, dismissing an unsupportive citizen with crude language, to former Secretary of State for Family, Nadine Morano, dancing suggestively with men many years her junior, to former Minister of Immigration, Eric Besson, making obscene gestures to cameras; created a maelstrom of negative opinion, Sarkozy and his staff were completely unprepared for.

Predictably, French politicians were quick to lambast and intimidate this new force of cyber delinquents.

“We can no longer say anything, we can no longer do anything…it’s the beginnings of totalitarianism,” said Henri Guaino, a former special advisor to Sarkozy.   

Moreover, Sarkozy’s government went beyond simply denouncing the bloggers by filling lawsuits and monitoring many citizens internet activity.           

In one particular case, Dominique Broueilh faced an $18,000 fine after commenting on the whereabouts of Secretary Morano. Morano later dropped the charges but the incident caused Broueilh to remark, “I don’t leave my opinion on online videos anymore.”

Here lies the great danger in politicians’ counter-offensive against the unrestricted and unfiltered coverage offered by blogs throughout the world.  

After years of receiving cushy and predictable coverage from the mainstream media it is understandable that many politicians cannot tolerate the unrelenting pressure bloggers can put on any public figure at any time. It is even predictable, that the aforementioned public officials react in a manner as drastic as filing lawsuits.

Nevertheless, it is of the upmost importance that the inability of politicians to handle overt criticism over a wide variety of incidents does not limit the ability of bloggers to exercise free speech. The charges against Broueilh may have been dropped but in the wake of the incident she no longer feels comfortable sharing her opinions online.

This specific scenario is unacceptable. Governments around the world need to accept that blogs are here to stay and the fact that bloggers do not abide by the amicable relationship shared by professional journalists and public officials, does not mean bloggers have any less right to opine on the issues most important to them and their communities.

Whistleblowers

In a 2010 piece for Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald addressed accusations against WikiLeaks.org from the mainstream media and the United States government in an article entitled, What WikiLeaks Revealed to the World in 2010. The aforementioned organizations made WikiLeaks appear to be an organization focused on the embarrassment of the American Republic, with the consequences of endangering national security interests and the lives of American soldiers, despite admissions by the Pentagon that there is no evidence to support these claims. Greenwald, currently writing for The Guardian, defended Julian Assange, citing the stories WikiLeaks helped uncover throughout 2010. 

“It’s well worth reviewing exactly what WikiLeaks exposed to the world just in the last year: the breadth of the corruption, deceit, brutality and criminality on the part of the world’s most powerful factions,” said Greenwald. 

In his brief, yet concise, defense of Assange, Greenwald uses the international headlines spurred by WikiLeaks revelations throughout the year, from a review of the 2009 coup in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, published on guatemala-times.com, to the American gunship killing Iraqi civilians and reuters reporters in 2010. These headlines help to show the international not-for-profit was revealing important information regarding humanitarian and political issues, which various governments had no right to keep from their citizens.   

Of all the points raised by Greenwald, I identify most strongly with his belief in how telling the reactions to WikiLeaks efforts were at the highest levels of society. Greenwald is outraged with how the mainstream media has painted Assange and Private First Class Bradley Manning, the man who allegedly leaked the gunship video to WikiLeaks, as villains, while completely ignoring the grievous crimes and corruption several government’s were directly complicit in.  

Summarizing his position, Greenwald is unsurprised that politicians are trying to paint the whistleblowers as the criminals, regardless of the shockingly corrupt nature of their own actions; yet he is extremely disappointed in the actions of many journalists who support the “party line” where the “True Criminals” should be punished, while the “Good Authorities” should be shielded.

Personally, I believe Assange’s alleged sexual assaults in Sweden have not helped his cause and allowed many mainstream media outlets to paint him as an unethical character whose actions are the results of his own unsavory ends. Nevertheless, I am as disappointed as Greenwald with many media outlets, who seem oblivious to the benefits of WikiLeaks. Regardless, of the embarrassment this organization causes in capitals from D.C. to the Kremlin, Assange and WikiLeaks are simply carrying out the tradition of investigative journalism. A tradition responsible for the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate Scandal, and while the men behind these revelations, Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers) and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (Watergate), may have been persecuted in their own times, they are now regarded as very influential individuals responsible for doing American citizens a great service. If the contemporary news community changes this precedent and whistleblowers are not only persecuted by authorities in the immediate aftermath of their actions, but thrown in jail for an undue amount of time, we begin down a slippery slope, where corruption and dark secrets are not only the unfortunate norm but accepted procedure for administrations throughout the world.     

 

Alternatively, the debate surrounding WikiLeaks leads to a paradox that is hard to ignore. It is true that this information was classified and if leaked, theoretically dangerous to any number of nations’ interests at home or abroad. However, on the basis of ethics, it would be extremely difficult for any journalist or whistleblower with the semblance of a conscience to not publish such damning information. Information revealing the true nature of contemporary foreign policy among many of the world’s most powerful nations, policies that inappropriately tend to ignore sovereignty and human rights.