After crossing the line from self-purported “whistleblower” to propagandist with the release in April of a video packaged for “the targeted manipulation of public opinion,” Wikileaks is now hunting for US military email addresses in a May 7 tweet. Adrian Chen at Gawker wonders if this was preparation for the long anticipated release of another video Wikileaks may have of a bombing in Afghanistan. According to Chen, Julian Assange, Wikileak’s co-founder and public face, responded “not yet.”
The intent of Assange is to affect change. The “real diplomacy and real politics,” Assange said, “is something that is derived from the flow of information itself through the population.” Assange certainly tries to increase the flow of information and has primed his pipeline for his next package in the wake of “Collateral Murder,” the edited April video in which a US Army helicopter killed armed and unarmed men, including two employees of Reuters, and injuring two children. Claiming it received more than $150,000 in donations within days of releasing the video, Wikileaks reiterated its claim that it was actually doing journalism.
However, Wikileaks crossed the line from pushing for transparency or change with its selective packaging and willful disinformation regarding the content of the video in interviews (particularly on positive identification of the presence of weapons). Interviewing Assange, Stephen Colbert described the release as “emotional manipulation” and “not leaking” but “pure editorial.” Assange stated Wikileaks propagation is done in a way “to get maximum political impact.”
Editorializing without context, not creating transparency for the sake of reform, is the mainstay of Wikileaks. On its website, it prominently displays an unsubstantiated quote taken from a disjointed and meandering article by Rupert Wright of The National, a English-language newspaper produced by the Abu Dhabi Media Company, attacking The Washington Post rather than praising Wikileaks, which appears once in the article and without context (a characteristic of this particular article).
Whatever comes next from Wikileaks, anticipate a smart Internet rollout that will be another case study in the convergence of “new media” and “old media” into what I call “Now Media.” Now Media focuses on the information, not the platform, as content moves with increasing ease across mediums and is both immediately available and persistently available. Approached by Fox News to release “Collateral Murder”, Assange declined opting instead to manage his own online dissemination. The direct to the public model that bypasses the media is made possible by the web. Al Qaeda, for example, no longer requires Al Jazeera as a middle man. As it was, Collateral Murder was instantly available worldwide as it was shown "hundreds of times in television news reports,” repeatedly discussed on the radio, viewed well over six million times on YouTube alone, and continues to be “discovered” by individuals around the world.
The world noticed Collateral Murder. Russia Today, the Russian government English-language television news agency, covered it several times with four of its stories making the top 10 recommended “related videos” list on YouTube. PressTV, Iran’s government English-language television station, also covered it. Even the Afghan Taliban took Reporters without Borders to task for not including the US in its “Forty Predators of Press Freedom” in a recent “Rejoinder Of The Cultural Commission Of The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan About The Issuance Of The Black List Issued By The Committee To Protect Journalists.”
What does Wikileaks want with the email addresses? Is this part of another campaign to publish a “directory” as an alternative or intermediary campaign because the Farah video is not as provocative and will be a dud compared to Collateral Murder? Stay tuned.