The political class and certain media circles have been celebrating over of the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. To watch their respective reactions is to recognize that, too often, the two groups see themselves as one and the same. Their interests and opinions coincide, and they don’t like having their authority challenged by loose-cannon journalists who reveal inconvenient secrets and expose the powers-that-be to unwelcome scrutiny.
On April 11, British police dragged Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy that had shielded him for years from Swedish sexual assault charges (later dropped) and, mostly, from the wrath of the U.S. government over WikiLeaks’ work with now-imprisoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Together, Assange and Manning exposed state secrets including a U.S. helicopter attack that killed civilians, close ties between the government of Pakistan and the Taliban, and diplomatic cables revealing the U.S. government’s private positions to be very different from those presented to the public.
Assange was “arrested on behalf of the United States authorities,” police announcedlast Thursday. A new Ecuadorian administration, interested in closer relations with the U.S. and leery of transparency because of reports that have implicated the current president in corruption, seems to have been the precipitating factor.
Unsurprisingly, U.S. officials generally gloated over the arrest. “I’m glad to see the wheels of justice are finally turning,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“He’s our property. We can get the facts and truth from him,” added Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).
But this is true: “Journalism is at risk not just from government but from media types who see their jobs as protecting the powerful from embarrassment.”