The antidote to George Orwell’s memory hole in 1984

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by Neil Godfrey

Assange now faces 18 charges related to publishing information leaked to WikiLeaks that attract 175 years in jail.2

2 Julian Assange charged under Espionage Act in unprecedented attack on First Amendment

Of the charges, 17 relate to publication, and one to acting to protect the identity of his source. He is not charged with doing anything other than what any journalist might do in the course of their work. . . .

The propaganda campaign to smear the name of Julian Assange has intentionally tried to divert the public from the message, from the information he has made available to all, about how governments lie to and betray their own citizens. So threatened have been the powers that be in the United States by the information released by WikiLeaks that prominent figures and politicians have called for his extrajudicial execution.

So effective has been that smear campaign in the mainstream media that the narrative many held about Assange was changed from him being a ‘truth-telling hero’ to being some sort of ‘evil and perverted traitor’. The facts have been ignored as this contest for a narrative continues. There can be no excuses for the abandonment of Julian Assange by the Australian government and by far too many journalists in the mainstream media.

(Ruby and Cronau, p. x)

A Secret Australia does not address the smear campaigns against Assange; it draws attention to his legacy instead.

For responses to the propaganda campaigns against his person see

Some things Julian Assange as said I do not like at all. I may not even particularly like to get too close to him as a person. But none of that matters. None of that should distract us from the political issue and the contributions Wikileaks has made in the interests of a free society.

Here is a recent discussion about “Wikileaks and its continuing influence on journalism and foreign policy” (on the Late Night Live program) involving several of the contributors to the new publication A Secret Australia.

Mentioned briefly in that discussion were the following four specific innovations Wikileaks introduced to journalism:

1. The Anonymous, Secure Digital Dropbox

When WikiLeaks introduced its dropbox, everything changed – and not just for those who read the news. It immediately put pressure on other journalists and media outlets to start taking the digital security of sources more seriously. . . . 


2. Verification Journalism

The use of datasets to figure out ‘What is the story?’ had been around before WikiLeaks, but the online publisher popularised it by having an enormous political impact that was difficult for anyone to ignore.

More to the point, WikiLeaks mainstreamed the concept of providing the full dataset so we could see if what was being reported was true. . . . 


3. Global Collaborative Journalism

WikiLeaks has innovated in global publishing as well, introducing a new model for large-scale collaborative global partnerships publishing across many media outlets with many different owners. Historically, media outlets have been competitive with each other – get the story, get it exclusively, and run it before your rival. WikiLeaks completely flipped this thinking. It built an alliance estimated to include at least 89 media partnerships across the world to analyse and publish the US State Department cables. . . . 


4. Journalism as a Permanent Record and Archive in the Digital Age

WikiLeaks’ model of journalism offers another benefit in the form of the digital archive.

. . . . One of Julian Assange’s greatest worries has been how easily truth can disappear in the digital age and how easily the historical record can be erased. Newspapers can silently remove news stories from their archival databases, and, with that act, the evidence of history. The story disappears. Evidence of what really happened on that day and place may not exist anywhere else.

The WikiLeaks innovation of not just publishing but keeping a public archive of all its source material supporting its journalistic stories is important. It allows the reader to verify the news story at the time it is published, but it also serves as a kind of failsafe for the future. As long as the archive is kept intact and available, it prevents the history that was reported in the stories based on it from ever being fully erased, even if the stories themselves are taken down by media partners. It is the antidote to George Orwell’s memory hole in 1984 . . . . 

(Dreyfus (in A Secret Australia), pp. 55-61)

Check it out: https://wikileaks.org/

Cronau, Peter, and Felicity Ruby, eds. A Secret Australia: Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposés. Clayton, Vic.: Monash University Publishing, 2020.


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Neil Godfrey

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3 thoughts on “The antidote to George Orwell’s memory hole in 1984”

  1. The complicity of major corporate infotainment concerns with the attack on independent journalism is worrisome. I get it that they don’t like competition that exposes their failings. I suppose it’s a big ask that they show a little courage and defend the public’s right to know.

  2. Well said Neil. This is a sensitive issue to me and I hope it’s OK to presume to lend support in principle and call on others to do so too, as I sense by the tone of your comments that you would agree.
    This afternoon on the Sydney Town Hall steps I was part of a group of about 15 supporters of Julian’s rights and press freedom and we asked members of the public walking by to sign a petition to Anthony Albanese, leader of Australia’s Federal Labour Opposition, to help Julian by distinguishing themselves from our Liberal Government and call for his immediate release, repatriation and compensation. Our signs were clear and the message was obvious but only a few people stopped to take information and ask questions. This group meets there each Friday at 5pm and you can come along and help support Julian.
    It makes me wonder if the average Australian
    (a) feels powerless to help, not wanting to be seen to challenge the government
    (b) doesn’t care that their own liberties are being eroded as it’s future stuff
    (c) doesn’t realise how Julian’s precedent case will open the gates wider to hit US targets world wide
    (d) thinks Julian has committed a crime and deserves whatever the Australian govt. allows
    (e) is just too busy with the problems of their own life
    I think that the bottom line is this : by punishing Julian, the US will deter other journalists and all whistleblowers from revealing US war crimes. It’s as simple as that.
    I urge everyone reading this to buy the book “A Secret Australia” and also to pursue their local member of Federal parliament to renounce Australia’s ties with the US. There are a number of petitions you can sign and ask your friends to sign :

  3. Is the WikiLeaks archive backed up by Block-Chain? THis maybe a good way to ensure that ALL Literature retains it’s original wording & content. Probably millions of digital copies online already of many works. Not sure how many are Block-Chained or in Faraday cages.

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