Update: Disobedient Media mistakenly included a picture of Christine Assange and Rafael Correa. This image has been removed.
Wikileaks has a long history of battling against misrepresentation in the public eye, in terms of incorrect statements in regards to its publications, as well as personal attacks against its founder and supporters. The viciousness with which allies, associates and independent media have been targeted after gaining public traction in support of Wikileaks indicates the degree to which establishment interests appear threatened by the publisher. Systemic smears against Wikileaks supporters appear intended to discredit Wikileaks by association, and has a number of significant secondary effects.
It is especially disastrous because, insidiously, the type of attacks used against these individuals do not effectively undermine the content of their work. Instead, they are rendered socially radioactive without evidence.
Character assassination aimed at Wikileaks’ supporters have two major effects. First, it denies Wikileaks a public voice, as those who provide Assange a platform are silenced. It also cuts Assange off from people, compounding the isolation of his ongoing, long term detention in the Ecuadorian embassy. On a practical level it prevents functionality when those working with Wikileaks are targeted.
Disobedient Media has previously reported on the ongoing censorship of independent media from across the political spectrum. We’ve also reported on WBAI radio’s ongoing battle with the Empire State Realty Trust. The recent suspension of Randy Credico’s ‘Live on the Fly’ from WBAI radio serves as the latest example of Wikileaks supporters who appear to have been systemically targeted for reprisal shortly after showing public support for Wikileaks and its arbitrarily detained founder.
Just days before Credico’s radio spot ‘Live on the Fly’ was suspended indefinitely, he spoke with Julian Assange’s mother. Christine Assange told Credico that: “Anyone who is against the establishment will cop a smear, it’s almost like a badge of honor when you’re smeared badly without any evidence, it means you’re doing a good job.”
It is sadly ironic that barely two days after making these statements, Credico was suspended from WBAI. It appears to this author that in the current political environment, providing any variety of a fair platform for Julian Assange – especially in the US – is a significant danger to one’s career.
Credico told Disobedient Media that trouble had appeared to start in response to his 15-part series on Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He has previously spoke with many other anti-establishment voices during the course of his radio segment, including Craig Murray, Ray McGovern, Bill Binney, John Kiriakou, and many others.
Independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone was labeled a racist, shortly after Assange tweeted her work a number of times. Johnstone published a number of articles expressing strong support for Assange, including a piece titled: “Can Australia Please Stop Being Washington’s Bitch And Help Assange Now?” This instance appears to constitute an attempt to prevent voices supporting Wikileaks from gaining traction and credibility.
The controversy surrounding the hacker and Tor developer Jacob Appelbaum has also been called a character assassination. Appelbaum worked with Wikileaks, and was an anti-establishment figure in his own right. The Guardian reported that Appelbaum began to receive harassment from authorities after his association with Wikileaks, writing: “…The association with WikiLeaks – which has released classified documents that triggered several major global news stories – led to him being held at US airports, his apartment being searched and his mother subjected to arbitrary questioning, and in June 2013 he chose to exile himself in Berlin.”
In this case, his association with Wikileaks led directly to negative consequences from authorities, as admitted by The Guardian. Later, Appelbaum was accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women, some anonymous. However, the substance of these claims was found by a number of journalists who to have included lies from his accusers, and he was never charged with a crime. Wikileaks’ editor Sarah Harrison and a number of other women who knew Appelbaum also signed a statement in his defense, calling the allegations a “character assassination.”
Harrison is known for personally accompanying Edward Snowden to Russia upon his release of NSA documents which revealed mass surveillance of private citizens by U.S. authorities. That Harrison would sign a statement defending Appelbaum is noteworthy, as are other signatories of the statement in Appelbaum’s defense. These included Human Rights lawyer Renata Avila, artist Susan Benn, and a number of others.
Suzie Dawson, a human rights activist and current leader of the Internet Party of New Zealand, was the first to publish on the subject. She wrote a ground breaking four-part series of articles dismantling the allegations against Appelbaum and characterizing them as an organized character assassination. She wrote:
“In a strange paradox, Jacob Appelbaum’s accusers both want to deny any relevance between their accusations and him being a known target of the US government as a result of the nature of his work, while having the clearly stated aim of wanting to prevent him from being able to continue it.” Dawson’s second article on the matter reads in part: “…We are all being polarized into a fake diametric supposition – that either Jacob Appelbaum targets people, or Jacob Appelbaum is being targeted. But the real target is WikiLeaks.”
Dawson’s sentiments cut to the heart of the pattern wherein Wikileaks allies are systematically maligned with horrific accusations that are proven false or never proven at all. This creates a situation where the accused must prove a negative, overriding the legal presumption of innocence for the baselessly accused.
Further context as to the extreme accusations which are contrived against Wikileaks and its founder is provided by the bizarre instance wherein Julian Assange was falsely accused of pedophilia last year by a company known as Todd and Clare. Wikileaks tweeted on the matter:
The company associated itself with the UN in order to publicize claims that Assange was under investigation for child abuse in the Bahamas. Press reports on the matter admit that: “Bahamian police said the investigation doesn’t exist — and WikiLeaks subsequently released a trove of documents that, if genuine, show a Todd and Clare representative attempting to blackmail Assange.”
The Daily Kos was also forced to delete their coverage of the story, as their initial report had been based on “fabricated evidence.” Assange was entirely vindicated, with the convoluted Todd and Clare story implicitly representing an intentionally contrived attempt to assassinate his character shortly before the US Presidential election.
The Todd and Clare saga provides one example of the reality that absolutely heinous accusations can be entirely fabricated for the express, political purpose of destroying an individual’s reputation. It is also significant because, despite being proven false, CNN aired a contributor’s statement that Assange was a child abuser without retraction until Wikileaks threatened to file a lawsuit.
There was a notable lack of coverage of the fact that the smear existed or that it was proved to have been utterly baseless. Perhaps this is was due to the fact that the case clearly provides an example of an attempt to personally destroy Assange’s reputation.
Assange is still hounded with unsubstantiated rape allegations relating to events in Sweden. The claims are often dishonestly misreported as ‘charges.’ Like Appelbaum, Assange was never charged with a crime in relation to the claims.
Trevor Fitzgibbon is a former PR manager for both Wikileaks and Assange. Fitzgibbon’s other clients have included Chelsea Manning, The Guardian, The Intercept and the government of Venezuela, in addition to pro-bono efforts for countless whistleblowers. He also helped set up Chelsea Manning’s twitter account while she was imprisoned. Manning would often dictate tweets through Fitzgibbon Media staff over the phone.
Fitzgibbon was eventually accused of sexual assault. However, no civil suits were ever filed against Fitzgibbon or his firm, and the US Attorney’s office declined to pursue any charges against him following a nearly year-long investigation. Authorities are continuing an investigation into the collapse of his firm, which took place in lightning-quick fashion, leaving questions about the legitimacy of the allegations unanswered.
Disobedient Media spoke with a member of the intelligence community who wished to remain anonymous, who stated that the allegations against Fitzgibbon appeared to be contrived as opposed to organic. They further stated that the efforts were likely “highly organized and well funded.” The anonymous intelligence source emphasized that the rapidity with which staff from Fitzgibbon’s PR firm found work at six different entities, was in their words: “very uncharacteristic of ‘natural’ events of this kind.”
The anonymous source further explained to Disobedient Media that there is a very clear difference between organic events in response to a scandal, versus an organized event. They placed the destruction of Fitzgibbon’s character firmly in the latter category.
Another indication of the contrived nature of allegations against Fitzgibbon can be seen in the fact that a jaw-dropping 72 national organizations pledged to never work with him again, within days of the U.S. Attorney’s Office refusal to press charges. At least one of Fitzgibbon’s former staff also found employment with David Brock’s controversial group Media Matters.
Brock is a fierce supporter of former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who has had a long history of animosity towards Wikileaks and Assange. At one point Clinton was reported by True Pundit to have asked in reference to Assange, ‘Can’t we just drone this guy?’
Clinton was also pictured with young Florida Democrat Evan Ross, who openly stated his desire to personally kill Assange and Edward Snowden. Ross later appeared in public with former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
In light of the examples previously mentioned here, Fitzgibbon’s case is strongly reminiscent of a well-funded and coordinated effort to smear those who represent Wikileaks or who are associated with them, including the debunked claims against Assange, the questionable accusations against Appelbaum, and the mysterious suspension of Randy Credico.
It seems that anyone who supports or works with Wikileaks has become a potential target for complex, sometimes entirely fabricated, character assassination attempts. In the case of Assange and Todd and Clare, the allegations were proven to be absolutely false, shedding light on other smears surrounding Wikileaks supporters, and suggests that the organization poses a serious threat to establishment interests.