Julian Assange, The World Tomorrow, and Pop Culture
Julian Assange has become a part of pop culture, and he seems to be embracing it. The Wikileaks founder has appeared as himself on The Simpsons, he’s the subject of a TV biopic currently in production starring Rachel Griffith and Anthony LaPaglia, he got M.I.A to record the theme music for his new talk show and, oh yeah, he’s got a talk show.
The World Tomorrow premiered a few days ago and, personally, I found it a bit boring. Frankly, I’d rather Assange be a bit more pop - the whole thing was quite dry and not particularly informative. I’m not saying he needs to get Paul Schaeffer (nobody needs to get Paul Schaeffer) but a tad more charm, more engaging questions and perhaps tighter editing (to make the need for interpreters less jarring) could have given the show more life without compromising its integrity.
While others have also pointed out how Assange’s ‘explosive’ new show ended up being a bit snoozy (it was only one episode though, let’s see how it goes!), the main criticism lodged at him was the fact that he is producing the show with RT - the Russian broadcaster that serves as a propaganda tool for Vladimir Putin’s crooked regime. Luke Harding from The Guardian called Assange a ‘useful idiot’ for the Russian Government to help make the United States look bad. Alessandra Staley from The New York Times suggests Assange is a ‘nutjob.’
But I disagree with Harding and especially with Stanley. Why? Because I read this Salon article by Glenn Greenwald and it is too darn convincing. Greenwald makes the point that the criticism of Assange says more about the journalist critics than it does about Assange. Here’s a juicy snippet:
There is apparently a rule that says it’s perfectly OK for a journalist to work for a media outlet owned and controlled by a weapons manufacturer (GE/NBC/MSNBC), or by the U.S. and British governments (BBC/Stars & Stripes/Voice of America), or by Rupert Murdoch and Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal (Wall St. Journal/Fox News), or by a banking corporation with long-standing ties to right-wing governments (Politico), or by for-profit corporations whose profits depend upon staying in the good graces of the U.S. government (Kaplan/The Washington Post), or by loyalists to one of the two major political parties (National Review/TPM/countless others), but it’s an intrinsic violation of journalistic integrity to work for a media outlet owned by the Russian government. Where did that rule come from?
Also, while it’s certainly true that the coverage of RT is at times overly deferential to the Russian government, that media outlet never mindlessly disseminated government propaganda to help to start a falsehood-fueled devastating war, the way that Alessandra Stanley’s employer (along with most leading American media outlets) did. When it comes to destruction brought about by uncritical media fealty to government propaganda, RT … is far behind virtually all of the corporate employers of its American media critics.
Zing. Also check out Mark Adomanis' article from Forbes which critiques Luke Harding’s piece.