Wikileaks, Assange and the UN, an example of propaganda

The Wikileaks community and Wikileaks watchers are actively and likely inadvertently the myth that Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder and front-man, is giving a “keynote” at the UN this week. They are forwarding a Tweet from @Wikileaks that includes a link to a Reuters “Factbox” article that appears to indicate Assange is speaking at the UN. In fact, he is not giving the “keynote” or otherwise speaking at the UN Human Rights meeting but at a press conference put on by the International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights (IIPJHR), a nongovernmental organization registered in Switzerland. A minor detail.

A senior U.S. delegation of some 30 officials is likely to be under fire about racial discrimination and the fight against terrorism at the forum, dominated by developing countries, many of them Muslim, often backed by Russia and China.

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks which has made public nearly 500,000 classified U.S. files on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, will speak in Geneva on Thursday ahead of the session.

The IIPJHR website, apparently online for about two years, includes little information and a lot of sample template text (under the menu “Records & Publications” is multiple “MooSubmenu Demo” entries).

The event with Assange is a press conference at the Swiss Press Club “on the theme The United States and Human Rights.” Followed by a “side event”, which is the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.

The UPR was created through the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 by resolution 60/251, which established the Human Rights Council itself. It is a cooperative process which, by 2011, will have reviewed the human rights records of every country. Currently, no other universal mechanism of this kind exists. The UPR is one of the key elements of the new Council which reminds States of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The ultimate aim of this new mechanism is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur. [emphasis added]

Wikileaks, using its only active communication channel, Tweeted the Reuters article. According to TweetReach, this reached 26,864 people via 50 tweets, including 5,622 by @EvgenyMorozov (who followed this Tweet with another, saying “I am sure everyone in DC will finally warm up to the UN after the Assange “keynote” there! 😉”).


On a related note, note the irony in a recent WikiLeaks tweet. A Wikileaks supporter takes issue with this and similar Tweets from WL.

Such is the challenge when doing press releases and global engagement in less than 140 characters. Perhaps Wikileaks should explore using Twitlonger. That will probably not happen, then WL would have to provide substance, which shouldn’t be difficult because they are a media organization, right?

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14 thoughts on “Wikileaks, Assange and the UN, an example of propaganda

  1. Matt, Matt…Wikileaks (or, at least, Julian Assange) is definitely familiar with TwitLonger.Of course, they don’t use it to provide substance on the critical issues of the day, issues that deserve to be brought into the spotlight. Rather, it’s used to launch diatribes against “talbloid” news sources like Wired Magazine, and deny any and all rumors about Wikileaks.
    (Then, of course, go ahead and prove all the rumors correct a few days later).

  2. @Starbuck, thanks for reminding me. I recall that response from Assange. My comment on substance was, of course, written with the proverbial tongue-in-cheek.@NotUrbizz, surely you posted your comment before completing your thought.

  3. “The Wikileaks community and Wikileaks watchers are actively and likely inadvertently the myth that Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder and front-man, is giving a “keynote” at the UN this week.”And here another “source” stiring the pot of rumors..

  4. Regarding Twitlonger:I no longer use, or endorse, the Twitlonger service. I now use the technically superior Twextra service.
    I reluctantly came to this decision after repeated requests to Twitlonger to repair the issues with my twitlonger post history.
    When trying to manage my Twitlonger posts via their history interface, I found many of the links to my posts were strings of scrambled nonsense.
    I notified Twitlonger of this, and they seemed unconcerned about fixing it, and their tone was generally arrogant and patronising, as though I were stupid. (I have worked in every aspect of IT since 1978).
    When I found in the Twitlonger manage post history one day that the link to one of my Twitlonger posts had actually been substituted – to point to – it was at that time that I decided Twitlonger was not merely incompetent and unprofessional – They were malicious, and run with a political agenda.
    Since then I have warned others away from Twitlonger. Again, I say, unless You would like to be distorted, or misrepresented, or hobbled in Your ability to make long posts… Do Not Use Twitlonger.
    I like Twextra, myself, but there are others as well.
    Dave Manchester
    Publisher, dcmDaily Group

  5. Amanda (and “NotUrBizz”), what is the “gossip”, in the “pot of rumors”? Perhaps one or both of you are referring to the tweet “Dissent translating into competition?”Or are you referring to information that lacks context, spin, or other intentional misleading of a reader? Perhaps you’re referring to the tweet about an implication based on the CIA not talking about a certain subject that, in fact, they never talk about?

  6. “Whistleblowing website Wikileaks founder Julian Assange requests the floor during a meeting between the US State Department officials and NGO on the sideline of the first review of the United States by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council at the UN Office in Geneva on November 5, 2010. The review came just two weeks after WikiLeaks published 400,000 classified US documents on the Iraq war, reviving concern about a lack of accountability for abuse.”I wouldn’t say that WikiLeaks didn’t speak at the UN. Because I’m pretty sure Assange did speak there AND at the other meeting you specified. I don’t know if it was specifically a “keynote”. But essentially what you are arguing is that they may have been exaggerating.
    WikiLeaks does need close analysis and scrutiny, and always should be watched closely as it’s potential to be dangerous is great. However, this is not dangerous, this is WikiLeaks trying to gain support.

  7. wat, wikileaks does more than exaggerate, but let’s step back. First, Matt did say he did not speak at the UN. Look again at the timestamp of the post and when Assange raised his hand holding a hand-written Wikileaks placard during a UN meeting.Second, you can “know” it was a not a “keynote” by reading the post and checking the references. Should Wikileaks (which may be Assange tweeting or likely is not), an organization that variously claims to be media or truth-teller, have relayed a false statement, especially one about itself? Willful misleading is not the same as exaggeration.
    Third, did Assange speak at the UN or just request attention? I cannot find anything but the quote you gave – “requests”. That’s not the same as “speak there.” If you or someone has more, like a trustworthy link to an article, do share.

  8. “Matt seems to have jumped the gun and started pointing fingers before he had all the facts”Hold the phone, do you actually mean “before all the facts existed”? Facts that are yet to exist?
    Let’s get this straight: they keynote wasn’t a keynote, it was a presser, and a presser that wasn’t at the UN. Or does being in the same city count. And can you say that “speaking” at the UN is the same as “I intend to raise my hand to ask a question from the sidelines”?
    Am I correct in understanding that these are the facts I jumped the gun on?

  9. Actually if you understand what jumping the gun means then yes you did. The problem is you called WikiLeaks out for not speaking at the UN a couple of days before they planned to. It’s as simple as that. I think you may have gotten mixed up with a separate HR press conference also in Geneva a few days earlier.All you really have in your argument above is that their keynote might not have been a keynote, and unless you 1) were there 2) have a transcript or 3) have access to a video detailing the conference you have no facts to base your judgement on. And if you do, I’d like to call upon your generosity to allow me to see it!
    Look I understand you’re quite adamant about WikiLeaks and their tweeting style, which I agree is not perfect, but if you are going to attack them, do it with style. Show them where they are wrong, bring out the facts, and — I don’t know where you stand on the idea of WikiLeaks — but say something constructive like tell us what they should be doing instead. eg. being more accurate with their wording…
    Take a look at the article I have in my last reply, I’m serious, it’s great!

  10. I noticed the time stamp. However, regardless Matt seems to have jumped the gun and started pointing fingers before he had all the facts.Look, Wikileaks has been caught in similar situations before, and for worse selection of words too. I’m not saying that what they are doing is perfectly right, but mu issue is with the author of this piece for almost the same thing, ironic?
    There is another example of WikiLeaks exaggerating and getting caught. It is a serious issue but it needs to be tackled with finesse. You can’t just talk as if they are a bunch of jokers, because really what they are doing is a great thing.

  11. Wat,Two things: “jumping the gun” doesn’t fit here and the onus isn’t on me.
    First, there was no keynote. The Reuters report which Wikileaks referred to as the “keynote” (see the above post for original tweet and Reuters article link) said Assange “will speak in Geneva on Thursday ahead of the session.” This event in which Assange spoke in Geneva ahead of the session was the press conference.
    Second, in researching for the post, because facts and words matter here, I reviewed the best thing to an agenda I could find for the UPR. Wikileaks is not a member of the UN and so did not have a place to speak, let alone give a keynote. Further, there were no keynotes. This was a standard review meeting made interesting because of America’s first appearance before the it. This was not a conference or symposium that would have a keynote.
    Third, the only proof that Assange was at the UN meeting were Getty photos showing Assange with bodyguards walking in a hallway and other photos of him holding a sign “Wikileaks”. Here’s the caption on the Getty sign-holding photos:

    Julian Assange requests the floor during a meeting between the US State Department officials and NGO on the sideline of the first review of the United States by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council at the UN Office in Geneva on November 5, 2010.

    From this, I read that Assange was on the “sideline” and not part of the meeting and I do not read that Assange was successful at speaking at the UN. Now, if he uttered words while in the hallway or in the room to somebody near him or shouted for the audience to hear, does that qualify as “speaking at the UN”?
    Further, is the onus on me to prove Assange did speak at the UN or me? You state the onus is on me, so let me say I was there. Is that wrong? Clearly it is but prove that I wasn’t.
    To emphasis the point in another way, if I were to attend a smallish event with a prominent person, perhaps the Secretary of State, the President, a Prime Minister… can I tweet that I’ll be speaking with that individual? Is it ok to do so if I plan on getting a microphone to ask a question or make statement? My opinion is no, that’s not right. What’s your opinion?
    The evidence is Assange was merely in the room. It is on Assange / Wikileaks to prove he did anything other than “request the floor.” We do not even know if he was given the floor. If he did, what did he say? Was there a response? It would seem to me that if he was indeed given the floor that we would have known about it either by additional photos from Getty, text from Wikileaks, or reports from the media that were in the room.
    These items get to the point that you dismiss as style. Bombastic or stretching the truth and intentionally misleading audiences are not the same and not merely stylist differences. Words do matter and Assange is no naif here. He is skilled and getting better.
    There is a purpose for which Wikileaks / Assange says what it does, which is same reason it promotes itself, or encourages others to, as a “whistle blower” (increasingly implied and promoted by its network rather than directly) or a “media” operation (still maintained as a purpose on its about page but which Assange / Wikileaks is apparently moving away from).
    I read the (long) article. I do not agree that it is “great”, but it is interesting. A critical failure is the absence of noting that Collateral Murder was an act of propaganda, edited to maximize the emotional reaction while removing substantial context. Contrast Collateral Murder with a differently edited version of the same film.
    See the discussion on my post here: and a website here:
    Simply put, no gun was jumped.

  12. Can the real Mr. “Asasnge” please stand up, please stand up, please stand up…

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