4 February 2011
Video of the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPg--5AE2LI
Wikileaks Dissed and Distanced by the New York Times and the Guardian
Bill Keller, editor of the New York Times, and Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, assured the Columbia University audience last night that two of the main stream media are unimpressed with Wikileaks and Julian Assange. And that the main benefits of initiatives like Wikileaks will come from legacy journalism processing raw data into material the public can trust.
Luridly misnamed, "Wikileaks: the Inside Story," the event and the panel's comments were remarkably over-managed and decorous. Held in Columbia's great domed hall, Low Library, control of the audience and recording was firm as if threats of bodily harm and theft of conventional wisdom underlay the performance. Despite this security theater, what was said by the interlocutor, Emily Bell, a former Guardian employee now at Columbia, and the three panelists -- Keller, Rusbridger and Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor -- was as dumb and boring as it could get, slightly enlivened by slurs against Julian Assange which elicited titters from the audience as if packed with MSM insiders and aspirants.
The purpose of the event appeared to be for the Times and the Guardian to affirm their public reputation and establish a legal defense against guilt by association with Wikileaks (OpenLeaks said to be slightly less threatening but beware of entanglement). And perhaps far worse: to cover up the newspapers' cooperation in prosecuting Wikileaks and those like it as vulnerable sources unprotected by press privilege.
A mild defense of Wikileaks and its kind against prosecution was offered as a way to dissociate the newspapers from implication in criminality and to lay the foundation of cooperation with governments to quietly lend aid against perpetrators.
As a clue, Keller jokingly noted that the information security set up among those working with Wikileaks was likely penetrated by governments -- an exculpation often deployed by informers. Rusbridger joined the humor by grinning at Keller and admitting "we" lack technical skills against that -- separating noble wordsmith editors from sneaky outlaw hackers like Assange.
Jack Goldsmith provided the legal basis for this separation of legacy journalism from Wikileaks by stating that there is little chance that prosecution would involve the privileged main stream press, but left open the possibility of punishment of an unprivileged source. Heads nodded at that hoary refuge -- which is likely the main intent of the gathering and a campaign of which it is a part. Goldsmith went on to say that technology will exceed lawful control, so this threat must be understood by those likely to be duped -- this, too, has become a constant refrain among those accustomed to ruling by lawfully-privileged lawyers and the officially-sanctioned press.
"I am not a lawyer," Keller said idiotically evasive, said he had been advised to not tell about the Times' legal defense, then went on to expostulate in carefully lawyerly-guided rhetoric the public benefits of reputable MSM against anarchistic information bomb-throwers. Rusbridger kow-towed to Keller as if dangled by his lawyers' strings to cow behind The Times officially-constructed bulwark to escape complicity in the Wikileaks (and its kind) prosecution, and to be protected by legislation underway to formalize that arrangement to coddle obsequious press.
The careful and bland comments by Keller and Rudsbridger conveyed the sense that they had been shown evidence of official monitoring of their Wikileaks transactions, perhaps more convincing prowess such as what is in the Wikileaks "insurance file" and other surveillance, penetration and co-optation of Wikileaks (and its ilk). That a deal had been offered to distance legacy press from the burgeoning information outsiders as well as how outsiders had been induced to come inside while maintaining outsider pretense -- the ancient practice of threat and bribery.
Wikileaks had no voice at this preening grandeur of exculpation, presuming the panel was not suggesting a deal among Wikileaks and the legacy press had been arranged and this event was to show how dissimulation works. WL was presented as the threatening force that must be contained by legacy law and order of the management of information flow.
Expect more of this campaign in books by the Times and Guardian -- both flaunted at the event -- and others eager to maintain legacy press control of public information in cooperation with officials, a cooperation admitted by Keller and equivocated by Rusbridger.
Rusbridger answered an audience question about why Wikileaks did not just publish on the Web instead of joining with MSM by saying it was about making money -- implying Wikileaks understood that is what journalism is about.
The Times hosted a reception after the event to make clear who arranged the costly publicity stunt.
Cryptome made a 1.5 hour-long video for grit against the slick campaign version to be publicized by Columbia. It begins with Cryptome being twice threatened with ejection for violating rules of who was permitted to record the highly-scripted campaign to protect the press from those who break rules, umm, commit crimes, like Wikileaks.
Columbia University and its School of Journalism are long-time suppressors of dissent under guise of fostering loyal opposition to official power (John Young of Cryptome is a dissenting graduate). The New York Times is deeply embedded there, with Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of the The Times, chairman of the Columbia Board of Trustees for many years, and the Times the most desirable career goal of the journalism graduates. Editors of the Times are expected to regularly tout the advantages of attending Columbia and gloss its expansionist predations in neighboring real estate.
A statue honoring William Donovan, Columbia law school graduate and founder of OSS, precursor to the CIA, sits on a plaza connecting the law school to the School of International Affairs, premiere spy recruiting and training base. CIA Director Leon Panetta is scheduled for an appearance at the New York Times Talks forum on February 28, 2011 (this is promoted by the NY Times Company Investor Relations):
A Conversation with C.I.A. Director Leon Panetta will stream live on the Internet for audiences to view in real time, E.S.T., at www.livestream.com/nytimes or www.facebook.com/timestalks.
Coda: The NYT spams an email today:
INTRODUCING A HISTORIC E-BOOK FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
As it announces a 26 percent drop in income of The New York Times Company:
The company ended the year with $400 million in cash and short-term investments, leaving it with enough flexibility to continue with plans to pay back a $250 million loan from the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú in early 2012, three years ahead of its due date.