Times of universal deceit —Dr Mohammad Taqi


The US government has now ordered all its employees to stay away from the WikiLeaks website even on their home computers and not read what the government still considers classified information. Big Brother keeps digging itself deeper into a hole


“Thoughtcrime is death. Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death” —Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984.

Last week’s WikiLeaks had a distinct Orwellian aura to it. One could almost hear the 1984 theme music playing with O’Brien asking, “What are your feelings about Big Brother?” “I hate him,” replied Winston Smith. And then, of course, the all too familiar retort from O’Brien, “You must love him. It is not enough to obey him. You must love him.”

But, apparently, thoughtcrime has been committed. Some, who did not love Big Brother, decided to disobey him too. The 250,000 secret diplomatic cables started becoming public, one bagful at a time. Big Brother, of course, is writhing in agony because the commoners did not heed its warnings invoking sacrosanct national security or the presumed disruption of the world order. However, the agony is not just of defeat but is also compounded by the fact that “one man with a laptop” and a private, first-class sergeant carry far more credibility with the public around the globe than the super or quasi-superpowers and their clients. Prometheus has stolen the fire from Zeus and has handed it over to the mortals.

The humpty dumpty of the official truths that these diplomats and the governments that they worked for and with had so painstakingly created has taken a great fall. The common citizens feel vindicated, as they had known all along that the gospel of official truth is nothing more than a mirage they were supposed to believe blindly. All the king’s men and women have now set out to put their humpty dumpty back together again — through whatever means it might take.

What is still lost on the government functionaries around the world, and especially US officials, is that this trust deficit between them and the public did not develop overnight. Whether it was lying about the Hiroshima bombing, overthrowing Iran’s Dr Mossadegh, the slaughter of thousands of Chileans including Dr Allende, creating the Afghan mujahideen monster, the Iran-Contra scandal, lies about WMDs and stage-managing the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue, the list of the skulduggeries perpetrated on the world is endless. Decades of disinformation, half-truths and lies have contributed to a credibility gap between the words and actions of governments, especially the US government, which is now wider than the Grand Canyon.

What also remains lost on the US government and those abetting its campaign against the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is that going after him on grounds as flimsy as broken condoms (the charge against Assange being that he allegedly proceeded with sex, despite protests from his previously consensual partners, after protection broke down), is eroding whatever little credibility they might have left.

From the outset it became clear to most observers that the US literally has no case against Mr Assange and would very likely resort to pressing Sweden to pursue the alleged sexual harassment charges against him. Last week, the Voice of America’s Pashto service Deewa Radio conducted a special on WikiLeaks and whether they constituted espionage or journalism. Special Representative Richard Holbrooke recorded this ‘exclusive’ observation for the telecast: “The WikiLeaks is very unfortunate. This is an appalling breach of security by whoever did it — we think we know who it is — but whoever did it violated his oath of office to the US and committed an act for which he will be charged to the full extent of the law.”

The host then asked me and other participants to comment on Holbrooke’s remark. My take was, and remains, that the US does not stand a chance in hell to prosecute Assange under the present US and international laws and that Richard ‘the bulldozer’ Holbrooke was alluding to pulverising sergeant Bradley Manning — the little guy who allegedly disobeyed Big Brother.

How much more Orwellian can it get? Apparently it can. The US government has now ordered all its employees to stay away from the WikiLeaks website even on their home computers and not read what the government still considers classified information. Big Brother keeps digging itself deeper into a hole.

At the time of this writing, Julian Assange is being remanded in British police custody, after being denied bail in the Swedish case referred to above. Republican Mike Huckabee wants Assange assassinated, a few others want the use of military force against him, and Sarah Palin wants him “hunted down like Osama bin Laden”. What these right-wing hacks keep forgetting is that, despite being subjected to decades of controlled media and manufactured truths, the world at large retains a voracious appetite for the unvarnished truth. Call it left-wing, name it anarchism or brand it treasonous, upwards of four million new-user hits on the British daily The Guardian’s website on day one of the cables’ release show that the people do not swallow the official truth. Even if nonsense is shoved down their throats, they puke it up the first chance they get.

When The New York Times had confidently reported ‘No Radioactivity in Hiroshima’ and all journalists had been ushered to see the Japanese kneel before General McArthur, Wilfred Burchett was reporting — through cable — in his landmark story for London’s Daily Express ‘The Atomic Plague’ that more than just a bomb blast had caused the deaths at Hiroshima. The US censor came down hard on Burchett and vilified him and any paper that reproduced the report. We now know that it was the first report that documented the radiation fallout and the nuclear holocaust.

Henry Kissinger used to say that states could not be held to the same moral standards as ordinary citizens. Many officials around the world apparently continue to subscribe to his thought that not only are they above any moral standards, they also have a privilege to stomp on them secretly and deny such dealings publicly. But the common man clearly subscribes to Claud Cockburn’s proviso of “do not believe anything until it is officially denied”.

George Orwell had observed: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” While Assange may not be a revolutionary himself, he has revolutionised the way tech-media has forced the traditional media to take note of information that may otherwise have ended up being much like The New York Times reporting of the Hiroshima bombing. Thoughtcrime remains the perfect antidote to universal deceit.

The writer can be reached at mazdaki@me.com