Cyberwar! The Myth of Point/Counterpoint in the NYT and The Guardian

Skull icon by the author.

When a cyberwar shows up on page 1 of the New York Times, you know it’s really a cyberwar, right?

That’s where the article print-headlined Hackers Attack Sites Considered Wikileaks Foes (it has a slightly different headline in the online version) appeared this fine morning, naming as targets Julian Assange’s Swedish prosecutor and Mastercard (which stopped processing donations to Wikileaks), among others previously reported (Paypal and Amazon among them).

But the interesting thing is what passes for analysis on the front page of the Times (or anywhere) nowadays:

The Internet assaults underlined the growing reach of self-described “cyber anarchists,” antigovernment and anticorporate activists who have made an icon of Mr. Assange, whom they consider one of their own.


…which sounds just a little too much like a fictional news story in a unfinished, unpublished and very bad cyberpunk novel I myself might have written, circa 1993, if you replace “Mr. Assange” with “Lucrezia LeHack” or something.

And I’m not the only science fiction old-timer who thinks reality is running disturbingly close to fiction on this matter; CNET’s headline The Anonymous Hackers: Are They Really the Borg? pretty much spells like it sounds.

In any event, the NYT’s latest suggests “Hactivists” [quotes theirs] Threaten More Attacks on Wikileaks Foes — which is actually not a new article but an updated version of the old one that appeared in the print edition this morning, at least on the West coast of the US.

Over in the UK, however, where they have almost half a dozen hours’ jump on our New York friends, the Guardian is claiming that both the “left” and the “right” in the United States want Assange prosecuted.

In an article headlined Julian Assange Cast as Common Enemy as US Left and Right Unite and subtitled “Growing clamour sees Republicans and Democrats demanding action against WikiLeaks founder,” the Guardian apparently conflates “Republican” and “Democrat” with “right” and “left.”

The Guardian, incidentally, “is known for its left-of-centre political stance,” so their confusing the Democrats with the Left in the United States really should get them a kick in the nuts so hard they’ll never mix up “center” and “centre” again.

Furthermore, while overall the Guardian’s commentary vastly outstrips anything from the mainstream press in the United States, its assertions of unity between “Right” and “Left” seem determined to silence any of the real debate going on not among politicians but among the American people.

The American People? Who are they? Oh, oh, rihgt. I remember them,. They’re those fat, smelly, gun-toting weirdos who won’t stop listening to their iPods and tweeting about their bowel movements; they’re the ones the Tea Partiers claim to speak for and the mainstream Democrats sort of claim they want to champion, sometimes, depending on how much effort it will take and whether a Republican might accuse them of being a Socialist if they do so.

The American People have their own voice, however — we hear it resoundingly in whatever Gallup Poll some pundit happens to have gotten his or her shit together to read that day, and, in the absence of a Gallup Poll, there’s always the same bland middle-of-the-road politicians to slap it out with crazed, frothing-at-the-mouth lunatics.

To wit, the Guardian’s Point/Counterpoint examples are as follows:

The most extreme attacks have come from prominent Republicans including Sarah Palin, who has likened Assange to an al-Qaida operative; Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, who called him a “hi-tech terrorist”; and Newt Gingrich, who called him an information terrorist and said he should be arrested as an “enemy combatant” .

Assange was also attacked by leading Democrats such as Dianne Feinstein, who said he should be charged under the US espionage act, and John Kerry, who has called for the law to be changed to allow a prosecution of the WikiLeaks website.

For the record, Guardian, Feinstein and Kerry do not constitute “the left” in this country to anybody except Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington and author of Necessary Secrets, said the cross-party baying put the Obama administration in a difficult place. “There is a huge amount of pressure on them to do something about WikiLeaks.”

This week Joe Lieberman, the independent senator who has long been an opponent of WikiLeaks, widened the net when he accused the New York Times of an “act of bad citizenship” by publishing versions of the US embassy cables and called on the justice department to hold a “very intensive inquiry” into whether the paper had committed a crime.


…which seems designed to make anything that any government does to Assange a fait accomplis.

Has everybody — and I mean everybody — forgotten that Assange was denied bail yesterday not on any matter of “national security” or “terrorism” but on rape allegations?

Also: Joe, you ignorant slut.

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