The Anarchist and the President

Fortunately for Julian Assange, a sympathetic president was willing to throw him a lifeline as he floundered in the treacherous waters of international law. Unfortunately for the movement that he represents, this also means that even the quintessential anarchist-journalist needs the state’s protection.

BOGOTÁ – The Julian Assange affair means different things to different people, but one lesson should be clear to all: states are not inconsequential to journalism.

When WikiLeaks hit the global news scene, it was saluted as a true original: an innovative form of journalism that countered states’ power by challenging their ability to suppress critical, sensitive, or unflattering news. WikiLeaks capitalized on the potential of digital technologies to circumvent official censorship and, thanks to whistle-blowers, disseminated information that governments wanted to keep secret.

As a result, Assange was viewed as the embodiment of a new type of “anarchist” journalist who could ignore state borders and scare government officials (or at least make them more cautious about what they write in diplomatic cables). Those who championed WikiLeaks rushed to celebrate it as a shining example of crusading, “stateless” journalism.

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