The corporate media’s tendency to blare misinformation and outright fabrications has been particularly egregious in coverage of WikiLeaks. As Glenn Greenwald has argued, mainstream news outlets are parroting smears and falsehoods about the whistleblower site and its founder Julian Assange, helping to perpetuate a number of “zombie lies” — misconceptions that refuse to die no matter how much they conflict with known reality, basic logic and well-publicized information.
Here are the bogus narratives that keep appearing in newspapers and on the airwaves.
1. Fearmongering that WikiLeaks revelations will result in deaths. So far there’s no evidence that WikiLeaks’ revelations have cost lives. In fact, right before the cables were released, Pentagon officials admitted there were no documented instances of people being killed because of information exposed by WikiLeaks’ previous document releases (and unlike the diplomatic cables, the Afghanistan files were unredacted).
That’s not to say that the exposure of secret government files can’t somehow lead to someone, somewhere, someday, being hurt. But that’s a pretty high bar to set, especially by a government engaged in multiple military operations — many of them secret — that lead to untold civilian casualties.
2. Spreading the lie that WikiLeaks posted all the cables. WikiLeaks has posted fewer than 2,000 of the 251,287 cables in its possession. The whistleblower released those documents in tandem with major news outlets including the Guardian, El Pais and Le Monde, and used most of the redactions employed by those papers to protect the identities of people whose lives could be endangered by exposure. The AP detailed this process in a December 3 article, but this did not stop officials and pundits from howling that WikiLeaks “indiscriminately” dumped all the cables online. Much of the media mindlessly repeated the claim.
Greenwald and others have battled to kill the myth that the whistleblower site threw up all the cables without taking any precautions to protect people, but it keeps coming up. Just this week NPR issued an apology for all the times contributors and guests have implied or outright voiced the falsehood that WikiLeaks blindly posted all the cables at once.
3. Falsely claiming that Assange has committed a crime regarding WikiLeaks. The State Department is working really hard to pin a crime on Julian Assange. The problem is that so far he doesn’t appear to have broken any laws. Assange is not a U.S. citizen, he does not work for the U.S. government, and the documents WikiLeaks posted were procured by someone else. As Greenwald has repeatedly pointed out, it’s not against the law to publish classified U.S. government information. If it were, hundreds of journalists would be in prison right now. [Continue reading.]