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WikiLeaks and the Gutless Swedish Media
It's all about journalism and how you define it. From 18 August 2010 by Olle Andersson.
WikiLeaks are running a humiliating street race in the media. Gone is the disclosure of the warfare of the US and NATO in Afghanistan. Not a word in Swedish national television about the murdered civilians. Now they want to nail WikiLeaks to the mast instead. From the Pentagon to the Swedish foreign policy institute, via Expressen's offices in Marieberg and the concrete clump in Gärdet is heard the cry 'hang the Australian hacker, turn off that miserable site, fuck the documents - express your opinions anyway!'
Lapdogs are the worst thing my Rottweiler knows. Barks wildly at them, slashes at them, he's trying to protect me. The similarity is striking when I see the seismograph of the Swedish foreign policy institute Anders Hellner in the news programme Rapport on 18 August. With trembling voice he warns of pressure from the US on the Swedish government. The Swedish servers of WikiLeaks can damage our transatlantic relations. In the main editorial in DN.se on 15 August Julian Assange is accused of being a simple thief with a warped sense of ethics. The evening tabloids take the Afghan spies to their hearts.
The sheeple coordinate a counterattack. They see the cape but not the matador, sidebar has become main story. Why did things turn out like this?
The Afghan War Diaries were the scoop of the century. Journalists from all over the planet could for the first time peer right into the most secret of the secret safes of the Pentagon: this is how superpowers think before the night light's turned off, this is what generals talk about 100 metres below ground in their bunkers, so said the bass when the bullets whizzed by in foreign lands. All of this was served on a silver platter, free and postage paid, to every news desk in Sweden. Then came the silence and the embarrassing scraping sound of chairs as an entire career group excused themselves and went to the bathroom. All became quiet. One can speculate about this. Personally I believe the news was too big to manage, like the buffé at a five-star hotel in Dubai. All these sumptuous dishes crying out for journalistic treatment right in the middle of a holiday month. What the fuck was Assange doing? Has he no responsibility? Can't he edit the documents himself?
The editorial in DN.se accused Assange of releasing TOO MANY documents all at once without guiding DN.se in how the materials were to be used. Swedish journalists were insulted. And three weeks afterwards we can attest that not a single newspaper allocated any resources to combing through this historic journalistic raw material despite it hanging and dangling in the laptop. OK, a couple of newspapers have made desultory searches in the documents for 'Sweden' and 'Swedish' but after that it's empty. And so it went. Der Spiegel? We can't understand German. The Guardian? I was with my kids at the daycare. And then the turnabout came and shit but did those keyboards sizzle! The trigger word was uttered by Obama's spokesman: WikiLeaks branded our salaried Afghan spies, they're in danger. Assange is a threat to the interests of the US. And suddenly the dams burst at our fiercely independent unbiased news desks. Get rid of all those boring documents! Assange is the crook!
And all the journalists who five minutes earlier had put WikiLeaks to the side finally got ahold of something they could sink their teeth into. An identifiable bad guy who had the cheekiness to abuse Swedish freedom of speech. In the evening television news programme Aktuellt the picture is cemented of Assange as an irresponsible cynic with Afghan blood on his hands. Their 'exclusive' interview thunders with indignation. In the other evening television news programme Rapport Anders Hellner echoes that 'it's good with freedom of speech and things like that' but Sweden has to draw the line somewhere! Johanna Hildebrandt - the only war correspondent who sees herself in upper case letters - gets tearful over the brave spies who have been betrayed. But the main issue, the advances of the US and NATO in a country bombed to smithereens? Not a peep. That 70% of Afghans want the foreign powers out of the country by tomorrow (according to surveys conducted by the US) is irrelevant. The fact is that the Swedish coverage of Afghanistan is embodied more than anyone else by Hildebrandt herself when she 'with my own eyes, on location' visits the Swedish camp - an isolated Scandinavian surrounded by a sea of 28 million unsympathetic and unintelligible beards. Scared, frozen, and ignorant.
Then a few petty larcenies from the Washington Post and the New York Times to give the impression of worldliness and it's good enough. DN.se otherwise grant the New York Times a hero role for their work with the WikiLeaks materials. The truth is the newspaper ran directly to the Pentagon with every last piece of paper and reached an agreement about what should be published. The contribution of WikiLeaks wasn't mentioned, the published materials stroked the Obama administration lovingly and had an entirely different angle from that of the Guardian and Der Spiegel who both brought out the theretofore secret information about civilian deaths. The greatest catastrophe took place sadly enough in Swedish national radio's Studio One, once the flagship of Swedish radio channel P1, today the home of the ping-pong journalism that haunts the channel. All kinds of crazy things are allowed as long as the other party can object. No prior research necessary, everything is turned over to the invited gladiators. The listeners are left in the lurch by an incessant 'on the other hand yeah but on the other hand' chomp-chomp where none of the programme hosts will dare put their feet down. (It was otherwise in Studio One that one of the hosts completely seriously claimed that the nine Turks on the Gaza ship were driven by a collective suicidal urge and that was why they died. No one reacted.)
You can think what you want about WikiLeaks and the demonised Julian Assange but one thing is crystal clear: our exalted Swedish editorial writers, columnists, and news reporters lack the courage and the independence needed when an international super-story lands in their laps. Their fixation on personalities and their resistance to source research makes one wonder if the Swedish journalists at all possess the competence, the cerebral wherewithal, and the publicist courage to tackle and work with materials of this scope. It's a dire warning that not a single goddamned news desk rolled up their sleeves and did their due diligence, even worse was the witch hunt for those who brought at least a certain clarity and insight about the most secret and hidden war the western powers have conducted since 1945. Assange tells the Guardian that there are thousands of documents already published that are just waiting for journalists to sink their teeth into. Anyone going to raise their hand? Even lapdogs can pee on big trees.
Note: the above was written before the 'Swedish rape' scandal.
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