Friday’s court case comes after an open letter was compiled last week, condemning the treatment of Julian Assange by US and UK authorities. Entitled "Journalists Speak Up for Julian Assange"- the statement includes the signatures of hundreds of top academics and journalists in the field, opposing Assange’s continued detainment and potential extradition to the States.
Sputnik: Do you consider Assange’s case to be, as the letter states, a ‘deliberate attempt by the democratic states to isolate demonise and abuse an individual’?
John Steppling: Well, of course, it's a monstrous attack against journalism. Assange and WikiLeaks have been absolutely impeccable and accurate in everything they have released, and the hypocrisy in all of this is staggering. I mean, when you consider the disinformation and propaganda that is disseminated on a daily basis by the United States and the UK. It is just colossal hypocrisy that Assange has been so demonised and so smeared in Western media. Papers like the Guardian, who have used WikiLeaks material for stories that won them awards and plaudits. They routinely demonise and smear Assange. They publish falsehoods about him. But they are not alone. We see the New York Times doing the same thing, the Washington Post and on and on. There has been a concerted and really kind of coordinated attack against Assange and a demonising of him personally. And we can look at the trumped-up rape case in Sweden, that the Swedish authorities never wanted to pursue in the first place. But we're told very clearly by the United States that they dare not abandon the case. So yeah, of course, it's just a story of colossal hypocrisy, but also cruelty and sadism. Really Assange has been treated barbarically through this entire process- the Australian Government has completely abandoned one of its citizens. So yeah, to describe it as Orwellian doesn't even begin to fully describe what is going on.
Sputnik: The letter refers to how 'dangerous times call for fearless journalism'. Is that what Julian Assange was engaged with when powering WikiLeaks- fearless journalism? Or is he guilty of state endangering espionage?
John Steppling: I will pick door number one- fearless journalist. Look. What is interesting in the media response to this (and I'm talking about mainstream media), is that so little time is devoted to what was exposed. The war crimes, the illegality, state illegality, disinformation and lies from the United States and the UK and other governments. You look at the crimes of Tony Blair and George Bush, and later Obama- and now Trump and back to Bill Clinton. Look at the crimes, look at the blood on the hands of these men, but they are protected. The ruling classes are always protected. Assange released emails between John Podesta and Hillary Clinton. Very rarely do you hear anything about what was in those emails. Are Podesta and Clinton held to account? No. Does anyone ask them hard questions about those emails? The ruling classes are protected. One of the interesting stories that WikiLeaks released was the Chagos Island story from the 60s and 70s. Do you ever hear about that? What did the British government do? No, people are not interested in that.
The public has been conditioned over and over again, to see the 'democratic states' as virtuous- and somehow the US has a god-given right to foment coups and orchestrate the cheating of elections all over Africa and in Latin America. I mean, we've recently seen in Bolivia, the US's thinly disguised orchestration of a violent coup d'etat in Bolivia. They tried it in Venezuela, and they did succeed in Honduras. These are all stories that WikiLeaks had, and released vital information about, and yet, the content of those stories that WikiLeaks released is rarely talked about. It's only "Oh, was Assange a real journalist?"... If he's not a real journalist, then I don't know who is. He's being charged under the Espionage Act, and he joins Eugene Debs and Emma Goldman, so he's in very good company there. Of course, he is a journalist, and he has been courageous and he has suffered for it.
I keep coming back, when I think about this story, to the absolutely colossal amount of propaganda that the US disseminates. We know the CIA is tied in with Hollywood. Watch American TV and see that jingoistic militarism, the valorising of US state violence against the poor nations of the world. And that's what the public has been conditioned to accept as the truth. We are seeing a global rise in fascism and an attack against indigenous people and the poor. And they are resisting, in many places, stories that are also buried. WikiLeaks was on the right side of history and all of this. They were blowing the whistle on the crimes and lies of the state, over and over and over again, and that is simply not permissible. The ruling class, in all of these countries, see themselves as protected, and in truth, they are protected. Their misdeeds are usually virtually invisible to the public. And it was only Assange and WikiLeaks that exposed them, to their great embarrassment and shame, but they are not going to be held to account for any of it. Assange will be.
Sputnik: With that in mind, if that is the case, can you envision a time when the tables will turn- and to ‘whistle blow’ will also mean to be ‘heard’?
John Steppling: Well, I'd like to believe that I'm an optimist about these things. We see resistance in Bolivia, among the indigenous people. We see protests in France, the yellow vests; we see protests in Chile and Colombia and across the world. At the same time, we see that the governments of the West, the imperialist United States with their colonialist, foreign policy vision- I mean, they have 900 military bases around the world. They lie about Iran, they target Iran, Syria, and they’ve openly said that they want to remove Assad. At the same time they protect a nation like Saudi Arabia, a mediaeval monarchy, they protect Israel. The double standards are astounding, and I think there are a lot of people- probably more people than one would really think, that understand this and are resisting. But so concentrated is the power, just look at the US military machine, the US and NATO war machine. That is very frightening, but there are glimmers of hope. Peter Handke just won the Nobel Prize, Pinter also won. These are men of enormous integrity and courage. Handke has been smeared in the media, just as Assange was. Why? Because he told the truth about NATO and the overthrow of Yugoslavia, and defended Milosevic and called out the lies that were disseminated around Clinton's bombing of Belgrade and overthrow of Yugoslavia. So, there are people that understand this- perhaps more and more actually- but they are being rendered invisible in media. The power of mainstream media, mass media, is enormous- it's almost difficult to gauge. One of the aspects of that power is to simply erase opposition.
If there is a success- the Yellow Vests are having success and traction and making changes- that will not be reported on. We don't hear about that. So people have to be encouraged to dig and uncover the truths that were the bread and butter of WikiLeaks. They served an enormous service to the entire planet really, by calling out these crimes- the crimes of the ruling states. And if Assange is disappeared into some super-max-purgatory and not heard from again, it will be tragic, and it will be a blow to that resistance that I would like to remain optimistic about.
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