Despite Assange, censorship a danger
April 17, 2019
From what I’ve seen, I really don’t like Julian Assange.
He is reputedly as narcissistic as they come and apparently lived somewhat piggishly as a citizen of Ecuador in London to escape sexual assault charges in Sweden, which, I understand, have been dropped.
The Ecuadoran embassy was ready to kick him out because he was a sloppy cat owner and wouldn’t fix the toilet.
In the end, the Ecuadorans got so fed up with him for these and other reasons, they let London police carry him off last week so he could face charges in the U.S.
Officially, he’s going to face U.S. charges of conspiracy to hack a U.S. government computer 10 years ago.
His co-conspirator was Chelsea Manning, the former soldier now doing time for the same hack.
The arrest of the narcissist Assange causes me concern, however, because of the narcissist who lives in the White House, whose contempt for news media makes him a danger to free speech under the best of circumstances.
How great a leap is it between prosecution for hacking a computer solely to make government secrets public and prosecuting the actual publishing of the secrets on WikiLeaks?
When Assange publishes on WikiLeaks, he is, for all intents and purposes, a journalist.
The fear is that U.S. prosecutors working under guidance of a press-hating president will try to bring any sentencing of Assange for hacking as close as they can to punishing him also for publishing the findings.
If a judge somehow hints that publishing the ill-gotten information smacks of criminality, our whole beleaguered profession of journalism is one step closer to being subjected to censorship.
I can hear conservatives all over the country cheering that prospect when they view professional journalism as “fake news,” but the tables could turn.
What if, say, Michael Avenatti, with Stormy Daniels as his press secretary, actually did run for and win the White House as a Democrat?
And then, what if the numerous criminal counts against him today became known via leaks and hacks while he occupied the White House?
Would conservatives want Avenatti to be able to order Fox News not to run that story?
That’s the danger of press censorship from any political angle.
By the way, if the press can’t say anything critical of the government, the next step is to say neither can anyone else.
Then, with no way to cry “foul,” other freedoms melt away like candle wax in a blast furnace.
If the Department of Justice just wants to punish Assange for illegal hacking, I’m all for it. While it should be minimal, some government information needs to stay under wraps, even though the privilege of secrecy is all too often abused.
When secrecy abuse is discovered, however, it’s nice to know we can learn about it no matter how, short of violence, the teller got the information.
Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a semi-retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at: