August 2, 2010

Blowback from the War Logs: The (Visual) Vendetta against Julian Assange

What I like about the headline/photo combination from (just below) is how well it captures the 180º turn in the Afghan War Logs story.  In the space of a week, the focus of the massive document release — at least, in the eyes of the Pentagon, the NYT, and much of the larger media  — has gone from the failure of the war in Afghanistan, to the supposedly outrageous behavior of Julian Assange for putting the reputation of innocent lives corporate media and the Pentagon at risk.

Beyond referencing the release itself, hoisting the paper calls out the media for largely soft-peddling the story and failing to apply a more critical eye. Throw in the headline, though, and what we see is a case of “shoot the messenger.”

It gets worse, though. Note the thumbnail and caption on the FP home page — an image that’s been finding its way into blowback stories as well as profiles of Assange over the past few days.

The photo casts Assange in a surreptitious light, and the reference to him as “Mr. Wikileaks” and speculating about going to jail is not just derogatory but defamatory — though not any more  defamatory than the steady stream of NYT articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) freely speculating about the potential guilt and complicity of every person they could possibly name over the past few days with some connection to Assange and the U.S. military.

See how corporate media, stung by the Wikileaks disclosure, has retaliated with the use of this photo. (You can check out WAPO; The Globe and Mail — with some interesting accompanying text; and, to cite a few.) The character assassination doesn’t get any better, though, than the slanderous caption (“WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being all shifty-eyed in London today”) accompanying the photo leading this post from a story in NY Magazine.

But then, its only been a week yet. Who knows what new frame a vindictive corporate media is yet to put around the target.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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