Really, Julian Assange?

Just quickly, how can Julian Assange justify having a show on RT?

I get the argument that Western media outlets are biased towards Western interests, but he’s kidding himself if he thinks that RT isn’t biased towards Russian interests. I personally have no problem with that and I watch RT quite a bit because it provides a different perspective on events to say, BBC or CNN newscasts, but I don’t kid myself into thinking its more (or less) objective than them. Not that I’m saying Assange does think that of course. I just think that if you are the guy behind WikiLeaks, having a TV show on Putin’s pet network seems a bit wrong.


11 responses to “Really, Julian Assange?

  • E. Puha

    I love RT. I always imagine an editor has to go through all the first drafts and change “imperialist pig dogs” to “the US”.

  • Theo

    If Assange believes that he has the free editorial range to explore issues that he feels are important, then there is no problem. If he is all of a sudden trumpeting a RT line, then there is a problem. Remember that Wikileaks partnered with many Western news-media outlets to get a lot of the leaked cables published; I am thinking of the NY Time, Guardian, Der Spiegel, etc. Using major media outlets to get a message out does not necessarily taint the message by simple association.

    • fromthefourthcorner

      I get your point but I think there is a difference between using media to leak documents and having an ongoing tv show. I also wonder about the amount of editorial control he does have. Who selects his interviewees? Will he ever speak to members of the Russian opposition, for instance?
      I wonder if he could have even done his show independently and aired the episodes on youtube. After all the costs would be minimal because all that is required is access to good interview subjects and an interpreter in some cases.

    • fromthefourthcorner

      From the Guardian:
      “US cables released by WikiLeaks in December 2010 paint a dismal picture of Putin’s Russia as a “virtual mafia state”. Has Assange read them? It seems extraordinary that Assange – described by RT as the world’s most famous whistleblower – should team up with an opaque regime where investigative journalists are shot dead (16 unsolved murders) and human rights activists kidnapped and executed, especially in Chechnya and other southern Muslim republics.”

      I guess that kind of sums up my problem with this whole thing.

  • sjperera

    That’s a disturbing bit of news… all news stations have a political angle, the thing with U.S. broadcasters is that there are usually more than one angle… However, with RT, there’ little doubt that it’s an international gov’t mouth-piece, which is not uncommon… however, that is what it is… even with a station like Al Jazeera, there are stories that take a heavy Qatari gov’t stance… Assange moving to RT is akin to him moving to Fox (and they don’t even hold power).

  • joshua j. kurz

    “In a preshow promotional interview with an RT reporter, Mr. Assange said he chose that network because it has greater penetration in the United States than Al Jazeera and because no other networks would have him. He isn’t looking forward to the reviews of his show. He predicted that The Times, among others, would dismiss him as “an enemy combatant and traitor getting into bed with the Kremlin.””

    I’m no defender of Assange personally, but wikileaks itself is well-worth defending tooth and nail. In that light, Assange hosting a show (which is, by the way, posted to YouTube –, makes perfect sense. And considering Russia’s continued ambivalence to US/European hegemony in certain areas of the world, it also makes perfect sense that RT would host this show if nothing else than to stick a (perhaps small) thorn into the side of the US.

    The NYTimes piece, which stresses that Assange “sounded rational” and “didn’t talk much about himself” should be read within the bounds of the great de-legitimization tactic of spectacular society: turning reasonable critique of state power (or capital) into the rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth rants of the mentally unhinged.

    • fromthefourthcorner

      This isn’t just a show made by an outside company and syndicated to RT, it is an RT show. I think RT are using it to help foster their brand as an anti-establishment, anti-imperial mouthpiece, which is only true when the establishments and empires in question are Western. By having such a high-profile figure on their network it legtimates their narrative. If Assange is perceived as standing for truth and transperancy then people are going to think that the network he is on also does. My point about the youtube angle was to suggest that you don’t need to be broadcast on a network these day in order to get your message out there, so the “RT was the only option” line doesn’t fly. Assange is instead helping to promote a network which is the mouthpeice of a regime which suppresses free speech and is implicated in all sorts of nasty stuff (murdering journalists, election fraud etc). I’m not saying that Russia is worse for this than any other state but surely Assange’s position is undermined by this association?

      • joshua j. kurz

        I think that’s a rather crude analysis, and largely assumes a one-way relationship of power here. Assange is using RT at the same time RT is using Assange. And no, it isn’t true that anyone can simply put a TV show on Youtube, not if you want the production values to be at all “professional.” Given the restraints Assange is under – house arrest in the UK, facing extradition to Sweden, and branded as a semi-terrorist in the US – then the resources open to him are quite limited. In fact, I suspect that if wikileaks was not being effectively strangled financially by credit card companies, paypal, and such, then Assange would not be reliant at all upon RT.

        I think it is far too early to tell what kind of editorial control is being exerted by RT here. But I wasn’t disagreeing with the assessments above that locate some sort of bias in any media production. However, it is a rather crude, outmoded analysis that calls Assange’s larger project into question because he had to make some difficult choices about production, dissemination, and editorial control.

        Assuming that his position is undermined by this relationship with RT is the worst kind of ideological analysis, mobilized by the utopian left as well as the fascistic right. If capitalism and the state are all-pervasive, the immanent conditions of existence, then how does one go outside this? It is ridiculous to think that Youtube would somehow be some censorship-free space that is inherently better than RT. They are both “contaminated” avenues of expression; YT is simply a different kind of coercion and exploitation than RT. This relationship only “undermines” Assange’s larger project if you assume a “pure” politics is possible.

        Personally, I would have preferred he went with Al Jazeera. Sure, they’re biased in their own way (which is why “bias” is an absolutely empty tool for critical analysis), but they are doing some fantastic reporting on both the financial recession/depression and the social movements cropping up in response to a number of issues. But this isn’t to imagine it or any other media outlet, including the internet, are somehow free from their roles as Ideological State Apparatuses. The internet is not some magical space that exists outside ideology…

      • joshua j. kurz

        Sorry, that was a bit bitchier than I meant it to be.

        My basic point is this: if we follow this critical logic then we are all equally “undermined” given our locations in universities, nation-states, and so on. This is the whole point of Hardt and Negri’s Empire, for example, when they make the argument that we have all been part of the real subsumption of life under capital. Are we to give up, or contest? If we can simply make our own media outlets, what happens when they are successfully marginalized (such as Indymedia was after 2001)? This is the same bargain Rage Against the Machine made back in their early days – sign with a major record label and reach millions or sign with an indy that reflected their politics and reach a few thousand? Either way we are mutually implicated in this system, and the project is what do we do with it.

      • fromthefourthcorner

        No worries! I get that argument, but maybe my problem is that I haven’t seen Assange acknowledge that that is his position. the one interview I saw with him on RT about it (which was effectively a trailer for his show) he just seemed sycophantic to the network and its position. As I recall, RATM were always open about their reasons and justification for being signed to Sony. Maybe that’s what bugs me about this…

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