Since 2006 WikiLeaks has been censuring governments with governments’ own words. It has been doing the job the U.S. constitution intended the press to do, says Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
in Sydney, Australia
In his 1971 opinion in the Pentagon Papers case, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.”
That’s what WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been doing since 2006: censuring governments with governments’ own words pried from secrecy by WikiLeak’s sources—whistleblowers. In other words, WikiLeaks has been doing the job the U.S. constitution intended the press to do.
One can hardly imagine anyone sitting on today’s U.S. Supreme Court writing such an opinion. Even more troubling is the news media having turned its back on its mission. Today they almost always serve the governors—not the governed.
The question is why.
Consolidation of media ownership has increased obedience of desperate journalists; entertainment divisions have taken over news departments; and careerist reporters live vicariously through the power of those they cover, rejecting the press’ unique power to hold those officials to account.
It comes down ultimately to lifestyles. Men go to war to protect and further their lifestyles. The press cheers them on for residual material betterment and increase in status.
Millions of lives erased for lifestyles.
It used to be accepted in television that news departments would lose money and would be supported by the entertainment division. That’s because news was considered a public service. TV newsmen—they were almost all men in those days—were former wire service and newspaper reporters. But greed has put the presenters’ personalities before public service, as entertainment masquerades as news. Newspapers have…