If you ring up your ex and leave "if you don't stop telling everybody I'm a tosser I'll kill you," on the message bank, you're in big trouble. But if you're a powerful figure in the media and politics in the USA you can volunteer anybody for slaughter for any reason, and nobody will hold you to account for it.
And if you're the Australian government and it's one of your citizens being subjected to that threat, you can offer to help find him and nobody in the mainstream media will question your sanity and your ethics.
It seems that in Australia we've now sunk to such a level of moral turpitude that we are not at all ruffled by the notion of a whistleblower in a democracy being murdered for his activities.
Silence implies complicity. Silence implies approval. Silence implies that it is fine by us to incite the assassination of someone who has caused bother and embarrassment to important people.
Embarrass important people? Of course you'll be killed!
Loewenstein appeared on The Drum on ABC TV December 2, to discuss his perspective on the media's coverage of the Wikileaks dump. The panel consisted of Annabel Crabbe, Leigh Sales (both senior ABC journalists) and Joe Hildebrand of the Daily Telegraph. It very quickly proved impossible to persuade any of these three panellists to seriously address the media's coverage of the Wikileaks affair, or indeed the affair itself. They would not address the contents of the cables, or the death threats. Not even the implications for free speech and dissent if the US does declare Wikileaks a terrorist organisation (as has been suggested by the US Administration and others) could tempt them into a more thoughtful state of mind.
In fact, the panel illustrated exactly what Loewenstein is complaining about. Amid much giggling, Crabbe remarked that Assange had thrown a "tantie" about a New York Times article, and asked what did that tell you about the man. Well, not a lot, really. He can spit the dummy. And this matters because?
Sales insisted that Assange is a journalist and not, as Loewenstein suggests, a whistle blower, on the grounds that he releases his material through the mainstream newspapers. Therefore he ought to be playing by journalists' rules, which apparently don't cover dumping 250,000 cables in the manner in which he has dumped them.
Mercifully, I cannot recall Hildebrande's contribution, other than that it involved a lot of noisy laughter.
These comments from Al Jazeera reporter, Mike Hanna, give an indication of the information that is now available to us, thanks to Wikileaks. Hanna is referring to allegations that US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton ordered US diplomatic staff to steal the personal data (credit card, frequent flyer information) of highly placed United Nations officials:
Even the most cursory read (of the leaked cables) makes clear diplomatic staff are being asked to conduct a massive intelligence gathering exercise - involving, to put it bluntly, the theft of personal data. This, on the face of it, is a document asking diplomats to carry out activities that are not only against all accepted protocols, but are illegal in terms of US or international law.To repeat, it is couched as an order, an instruction, not a request.
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