Wikileaks walking PR disaster Julian Assange has decided to have a go at railroading media mogull Rupert Murdoch.
After all when you are on bail on a charge of “treating women like s***”, have the US wanting to extradite you on spying charges, you really need to get the media on your side. Assange has decided the best way to do this is by irritating Rupert “Digger” Murdoch.
Assange claims to be in possession of secret documents damaging to Digger and his glorious News Corp empire. Assange indicated that there were 504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organisation and there are cables on Murdoch and News Corp.
Chatting to John Pilger in the New Statesman, he said that he had withheld a cache of confidential US government cables and files relating to Digger’s Murdoch’s business as “insurance”.
Pilger is a fellow Australian export and one of Assange’s mates, so it is fairly clear he did not over egg the quote a bit.
Assange said if something happened to him or to WikiLeaks, ‘insurance’ files will be released”.
Something happening is defined by Assange as if he is extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault.
It is hard to see what Digger could do to stop any extradition. The Media Mogul could order his newspapers to turn pro-Wikileakian. But most of the media is behind the outfit anyway. All this appears to do is get Digger’s back up and make an important enemy.
However, this starts to raise important media related questions. Assange claims the same rights as a newspaper editor, and yet the duty of every media person is to publish. However Assange is not only sitting on the documents, but is using it to railroad someone.
If I had a hot story which I thought was going to damage Apple, I would not ring up Steve Jobs and say “do what I tell you or I will run the story”. While it is difficult to be sympathetic to Digger, on anything, it seems odd that Assange believes Murdoch can do anything. It is the sort of conspiracy thinking that puts Murdoch in a position of power that he does not really have.
It is also another PR own goal. It is not the first time that Assange has used leaked material as a weapon to protect his own skin. He has threatened that if he goes to Sweden he will release uncensored data which he acknowledges will result in the deaths of US supporters in Iraq.
The question is, do people leak documents because they want to be whistleblowers or do they do it to stop Assange facing trail for being a sex pest? If Bradley Manning, who is now sitting in an army jail for releasing the documents to Assange, believed that he was doing the right thing by blowing the whistle on the US defence establishment, he must be wondering why his data is being used in this way.
While Wikileaks was a brilliant idea, and the cables being released is one of the most stunning news coups since Watergate, Assange is a liability who is alienating more than he is helping. Wikileaks needs someone up front who will bring in allies rather than making more enemies, and while he is using his own media organisation to protect himself from going to court on relatively minor charges we have to suspect his motives. I suggest Steve Jobs.