Last night’s discussion about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s book deal and his philosophy triggered an online debate and prompted a blog post by one of the guests. Some thoughts:
1) Glenn Greewald suggests that I am among those “leading the crusade against the transparency brought about by WikiLeaks.” This is an unfair accusation.
After Julian Assange accepted a book deal from a corporate publisher, we asked Greenwald on to address that news and answer some larger questions. I thought it would be helpful for viewers to hear a supporter explain Assange’s long-term objectives. Does he intend to disable what he considers a corrupt system? What is the end goal for him? I was interested to have that explained on air by someone who is sympathetic to Assange’s views.
2) In his blog post the author says I "angrily proclaim(ed)" that Assange is a terrorist when, in fact, I did something starkly different: I asked Fran Townsend whether it was fair for Vice President Biden to describe Assange as a "high-tech terrorist." That's no more an endorsement of Biden's view than my subsequent question to Greenwald was an endorsement (or not) of the view that Assange is a journalist. By Greenwald’s own logic, asking a question that challenges a guests’ view makes the journalist "indistinguishable from," "merged into" and "a spokesperson for" their opponent. That won’t get us very far.
3) The author revisits a falsehood I’d like to correct. I stand by a statement I made several years ago that during the war – when I worked elsewhere – I felt there was pressure to present the war in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president’s high approval ratings. I still stand by that statement. I’ve never backed down from that statement.
As a journalist, I enjoy moderating debates and asking questions that help viewers better understand each guest's view. In that light, probing Assange’s actions and endgame is not the same as aligning myself with the establishment. Similarly, engaging Assange’s belief that there should be more transparency in government does not align me with Wikileaks.
I ask questions. I push guests to explain why they believe what they believe. –Jessica Yellin