The Newer New Media

Check this out. Philip Crowley answering questions in the daily State Department Press Briefing. Quoted un-interrupted for effect.

QUESTION: Some of the governments that have been mentioned in these cables are heavily censoring press in terms of releasing some of this information. How do you feel about that? (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: The official position of the United States Government and the State Department has not changed. We value a vibrant, active, aggressive media. It is important to the development of civil society in this country and around the world. Our views have not changed, even if occasionally there are activities which we think are unhelpful and potentially harmful.

QUESTION: Do you know if the State Department regards WikiLeaks as a media organization?

MR. CROWLEY: No. We do not.

QUESTION: And why not?

MR. CROWLEY: WikiLeaks is not a media organization. That is our view.

QUESTION: So P.J., going back to the answer to your last question, have you contacted governments that have been censoring this to protest that – or sites that they have –

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not in a position to say what governments have done or what conversations have occurred between governments and media. There’s – certainly, there are countries around the world that do not have as robust a focus on these issues as ours does. That’s probably not a surprise to us, and when we do meet with these governments, we talk about media issues among key human rights issues. Our dialogue is not going to change over this.

QUESTION: P.J., on that subject of WikiLeaks, Amazon, as we know, did have them on their server for a time and then stopped doing that. And there’s a human rights group that says that Amazon was directed by the U.S. Government to stop that relationship. Do you know anything –

MR. CROWLEY: All I can say is I’m not aware of any contacts between the Department of State and Amazon.

QUESTION: Or the U.S. Government or just State?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not in a position on this particular issue to talk about the entire government. I’m just not aware of any contacts directly.

QUESTION: From your perspective, what is WikiLeaks? How do you define them, if it is not a media organization, then?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as the Secretary said earlier this week, it is – one might infer it has many characteristics of some internet sites. Not every internet site you would call a media organization or a news organization. We’re focused on WikiLeaks’s behavior, and I have had personally conversations with media outlets that are reporting on this, and we have had the opportunity to express our specific concerns about intelligence sources and methods and other interests that could put real lives at risk.

Mr. Assange, in a letter to our Ambassador in the United Kingdom over the weekend, after documents had been released to news organizations, made what we thought was a halfhearted gesture to have some sort of conversation, but that was after he released the documents and after he knew that they were going to emerge publicly. So I think there’s been a very different approach. And Mr. Assange obviously has a particular political objective behind his activities, and I think that, among other things, disqualifies him as being considered a journalist.

QUESTION: What is his political objective?

QUESTION: The same letter –

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: What is his political objective?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, his – I mean he could be considered a political actor. I think he’s an anarchist, but he’s not a journalist.

QUESTION: So his objective is to sow chaos, you mean?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, you all come here prepared to objectively report the activities of the United States Government. I think that Mr. Assange doesn’t meet that particular standard.

QUESTION: But just so I understand, P.J., what – I mean you just said the – that you thought he was –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, but I mean – let me – he’s not a journalist. He’s not a whistleblower. And there – he is a political actor. He has a political agenda. He is trying to undermine the international system of — that enables us to cooperate and collaborate with other governments and to work in multilateral settings and on a bilateral basis to help solve regional and international issues.

What he’s doing is damaging to our efforts and the efforts of other governments. They are putting at risk our national interest and the interests of other governments around the world. He is not an objective observer of anything. He is an active player. He has an agenda. He’s trying to pursue that agenda, and I don’t think he can – he can’t qualify as either a journalist on the one hand or a whistleblower on the other.

QUESTION: Sorry. What is that agenda, that political agenda? Can you be more –

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave it for Mr. Assange to define his agenda. He has been interviewed by some of your news organizations. He has the ability to talk for himself. But you asked — I was asked a specific question, “Do we consider him a journalist?” The answer is no.

QUESTION: In the same letter, he said that U.S. is trying to suppress the whole thing about human rights abuses. And do you agree with his contention that the U.S. is –

MR. CROWLEY: I found very little that Mr. Assange has said that we agree with.

Get that? Let’s summarize. The State Department deplores censorship of the media. But Wikileaks is not a media organizaton.

So if it is not a media organization, what does the State Department think it is?

[I]t has many characteristics of some internet sites. Not every internet site you would call a media organization or a news organization. We’re focused on WikiLeaks’s behavior….

And that behavior?

Mr. Assange obviously has a particular political objective behind his activities, and I think that, among other things, disqualifies him as being considered a journalist.

And that political objective? Despite being an anarchist, of course.

He’s not a whistleblower. And there – he is a political actor. He has a political agenda. He is trying to undermine the international system of — that enables us to cooperate and collaborate with other governments and to work in multilateral settings and on a bilateral basis to help solve regional and international issues.

What he’s doing is damaging to our efforts and the efforts of other governments. They are putting at risk our national interest and the interests of other governments around the world. He is not an objective observer of anything. He is an active player. He has an agenda. He’s trying to pursue that agenda, and I don’t think he can – he can’t qualify as either a journalist on the one hand or a whistleblower on the other.

So to do anything that might directly risk US interests and other governments’ interests is a political objective. So-called “objective reporting”, and even legitimate “whistleblower” status, must not contradict government objectives. Because that would make it political.

I don’t think I have to drag out the political theory to describe this as patently ridiculous. We don’t have to realize that everyday life is always political to acknowledge that, for example, suing the government over an eminent domain case and thereby challenging government objectives is a legitimate act. Endorsing a candidate is a legitimate act. Exposing corruption is a legitimate act. A media organization, a private citizen, whomever–they can do these things without attracting the ire of the State Department, without being anarchists.

The word I believe Mr. Crowley is looking for is “activist”.

To be in the media these days, to be a private citizen, is to be an activist. Either you stand up, or you sit down. If in this time politics includes web-borne leaks, a precipitous control of information, personal secrecy, and the ability to run a world-wide info-anarchist organization simply by being able to maintain a website (DDOS or not), then any person who forwards email is an activist. We already know that anyone who blogs can be part of the media. We’ve already fought this battle. What we’re learning now is that it isn’t about being media. You don’t have to be media to be in the right place at the right time, snap a photo with a cell phone and put it on your Twitter feed, and change the world. Maybe the media will reserve a certain sort of objective reporting, and write editorial columns to MLA standard. That is, as long as that sort of thing continues to be profitable. But the people who change the world with media won’t necessarily be media. They… YOU will be activists.

All activists have political objectives of their own. These political objectives are of minimal importance. Each piece of media is taken by various agencies, individuals, government entities, blogs, aggregators, and remixers, and interpreted in all of the ways that media is consumed and reproduced. Maybe that political objective is passed along, but it could easily be reversed or ignored.

This is no surprise to anyone who is not the Department of State. But what is a surprise to the rest of us is that all of a sudden, censorship of activists–that is, censorship of anyone who produces, holds, retransmits, or consumes media that is potentially contrary to the objectives of the State–is now permitted. Freedom of the press is obsolete, become obsolete with the presses and the publications they produced. In this present day future, the only protection is “objectivity”, of the kind that is never activist. Of the kind that is not contrary to the objectives of governments. Freedom of media is problem for other countries. Whereas, control of anarchists is the problem the State Department faces.

Julian Assange has made every person with a blog a potential anarchist. The real control of whether or not you are an anarchist, is how much the government disagrees with you.

Posted: December 3rd, 2010
Categories: Emissions
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