Yesterday I was reading the virtual magazine Salon.com and wondering why a high-profile liberal publication, a rarity, doesn’t take a hard line on the U.S. government’s campaign to smack down WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
One answer is that some writers at Salon think Assange’s alleged efforts to publish classified materials is a crime. Or they don’t support WikiLeaks because they’re busy calling Assange an anti-feminist, or worse. Herein lies a big problem. If liberals can’t agree it’s a journalist’s right to expose government lies, then the word “liberal” ought to be redefined, or at least used more sparingly. Also, Salon’s editors should reevaluate their mission. Are they running a venue for strong liberal opinions — on, say, health insurance reform or government secrecy — or a vague “forum of ideas” for Obama-style Democrats who dread saying anything they can’t qualify or water down when challenged?
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald is pro-WikiLeaks, but Salon’s Michael Lind recently argued that supporters of WikiLeaks are as reprehensible as people who advocate targeted assassinations and preventive war. This despite the fact that WikiLeaks exists to expose those who orchestrate assassinations, preventive wars, etc.
I don’t think journalists should be free to publish “e-mail correspondence or online records of any individuals they dislike” — that’s what Lind thinks WikiLeaks will lead to — any more than free speech should be used as an excuse for shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. But I think Greenwald was right to point out similarities between WikiLeaks and the work of certain foreign correspondents at The New York Times, and to state that journalists should “inform the public about important actions taken or being considered by their government which the government is attempting to conceal.”
If you can’t distinguish between exposing the secrets of private citizens for personal reasons and exposing government wrong-doing — Lind can’t, apparently — then maybe you should call yourself a neoliberal. Or maybe those of us who lean left, strongly opposed to government suppression of free speech, should disassociate ourselves from the L-word.
I’m with Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed government lies that got us mired in the Vietnam War. And with Thomas Jefferson, who said that if it came to a choice between government and a free press, he’d choose the latter.
I’m not with President Obama, who has done his best to discourage investigation of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies and other secrets that Bush and his cronies hid while pursuing and waging war in Iraq.
The question is, where is Salon? Is it with Greenwald or Lind? Does Salon have an editorial board, or something akin to one? Will Salon take an official stand on WikiLeaks, or is it like the Democratic Party, too divided to take a stand on anything?