The Left-leaning Media's Myth-Making about Julian Assange

Get used to seeing that chalk-white hair and dour expression – Julian Assange may quickly come to replace Che Gueverra as an iconic folk hero of the left. Even as the U.S. grapples with the largest leak of military secrets of all time, the media myth-making and revisionism about the rogue WikiLeaks founder has already begun.

While conservatives have denounced the national security damage of WikiLeaks, which recently published the largest cache of secret military information in the nation's history, media figures on the left have hailed the anti-American Assange as courageous. The man whose actions put the lives of U.S. troops and their allies at risk is a new-media innovator, says Amnesty International. He's an outlaw folk hero, claim Australian newspapers. He's Jason Bourne – or a Bond villain – or some hybrid of the two, suggests

“Assange is an at-large cyber-bushranger: a renegade taunter of authority and inspiration to many who marvel at his daring to challenge the status quo,” wrote Bryce Lowry at The Age. “Like the 19th-century outlaw [Ned Kelly], the 21st-century incarnation has his hideouts, sympathisers and accomplices. In the digital age, though, the weapon is a website; the bullets, information.”

In other words, he's the Che Guevara of the 21st century – an anti-American criminal, romanticized by the left, and destined to be canonized as the patron saint of the anti-war crowd in the inevitable Oliver Stone-directed biopic (over at Politico, the breathless debate over which actor will play Assange has already begun).

Time Magazine is reportedly naming the WikiLeaks leader “Man of the Year” (mere months after publishing a column describing him as “the Robin Hood of hacking”). The Nation recently listed him as one of its “New Media Heroes.” Journalists from more than 60 countries have signed a statement released by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, hailing him for his “outstanding contribution to transparency and accountability on the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.” And he's picked up awards from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence and Amnesty International (2009).

Meanwhile, left-leaning columnists just can't stop gushing over what a cool guy he is. Politics Daily's Luisita Lopez Torregrosa describes Assange “an obsessive hacker and computer master, is a citizen of the globe, an itinerant warrior of the cyber age, a philosopher and visionary of the encrypted universe.” He's the “cyber Scarlet Pimpernel” wrote a Huffington Post columnist. Counter Punch even compared him to Neo from The Matrix. “As for Julian Assange, we need him. We need our captain Neo, whether chaste or womanizer, in order to uncover the secret doings of our governments behind the Matrix,” wrote two Counter Punch columnists (seriously).

The defenses of Assange have also been pouring in from more mainstream sources. “Not since President Richard Nixon directed his minions to go after Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg and New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan - "a vicious antiwar type," an enraged Nixon called him on the Watergate tapes – has a working journalist and his source been subjected to the kind of official intimidation and threats that have been directed at Assange and Manning by high-ranking members of the Obama Administration,” wrote David Samuels at The Atlantic. also chimed in. “Just look at what the U.S. Government and its friends are willing to do and capable of doing to someone who challenges or defies them – all without any charges being filed or a shred of legal authority,” wrote Greenwald. “They've blocked access to their assets, tried to remove them from the Internet, bullied most everyone out of doing any business with them, froze the funds marked for Assange's legal defense at exactly the time that they prepare a strange international arrest warrant to be executed, repeatedly threatened him with murder, had their Australian vassals openly threaten to revoke his passport, and declared them "Terrorists" even though -- unlike the authorities who are doing all of these things -- neither Assange nor WikiLeaks ever engaged in violence, advocated violence, or caused the slaughter of civilians.”

But for all the talk of Assange's “heroism” from the left, the damage that he's done to national security is undeniable. In addition to his recent release of over 200,000 state department cables, he has previously leaked documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has published information that could lead to the identification of vulnerable human rights activists and workers, as well as information about state leaders who have secretly given assistance to the U.S.

“Preventing attacks in the U.S. isn't just about eavesdropping with high-tech gadgets, invisible ink and undercover ops. It's about relationships with tenuous allies from Islamabad to Sana'a,” reported the New York Daily News on Nov. 30. “These disclosures may choke off critical intelligence to thwart terrorism, such as last month's attempted bombings of U.S.-bound cargo planes from Yemen. That plot was stopped after a tip from Saudi Arabia - not long agoan unreliable partner against Al Qaeda.”

“The WikiLeaks document dump is sabotage, however quaint that term may seem,” wrote Charles Krauthammer. “We are at war – a hot war in Afghanistan where six Americans were killed just this past Monday, and a shadowy world war where enemies from Yemen to Portland, Ore., are planning holy terror. Franklin Roosevelt had German saboteurs tried by military tribunal and executed. Assange has done more damage to the United States than all six of those Germans combined.”

American Enterprise Institute fellow Marc Thiessan called the WikiLeaks disclosures a “cyber war.”

“WikiLeaks represents a new and unprecedented cyber threat that cannot be ignored or wished away,” wrote Thiessan. Just as terrorism allows small groups of individuals to wreak destruction on a scale that was once the province of nation-states, information technology allows small actors such as Julian Assange to wreak previously unimagined destruction on U.S. national security through cyberspace. This is a threat that requires aU.S. response. Hillary Clinton is right – WikiLeaks has attacked America. The only question is: Will America return fire?

And some have pointed out that WikiLeaks may actually make the government less transparent for journalists.

“Mr. Assange is misunderstood in the media and among digirati as an advocate of transparency,” wrote L. Gordon Crovitz at the Wall Street Journal. “Instead, this battening down of the information hatches by the U.S. is precisely his goal. The reason he launched WikiLeaks is not that he's a whistleblower – there's no wrongdoing inherent in diplomatic cables – but because he hopes to hobble the U.S., which according to his underreported philosophy can best be done if officials lose access to a free flow of information.”

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