-- Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses, Book Three, Chapter 1 --
NOTE: Part 1 of a three-part series.
Many accuse Julian Assange of being Machiavellian.
I say he is not Machiavellian enough.
Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, recently made headlines. He declared in a CNN interview that Ecuador, which granted him asylum, was "insignificant" -- one of the "small countries" and "not a world player."
Assange misspoke. Every nation is significant -- period. They are all world players. That is a fact, not a pious wish. All countries are equal in the eyes of the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which set up the nation-state system governing the world today.
Assange needs to acknowledge his mistake. It only serves to constellate an already-existing, full-blown complex of prejudices, doubts, suspicions, i.e., that Assange is a loose cannon about whom John Milton gave the best advice: "Farthest from him is best"; that Assange is an incorrigible floater who has no home, only paces to rest; that his knowledge of computers is as big as his understanding of people and politics is small; that he is half-baked and half-educated -- an "idiota especializado" (José Ortega y Gasset); that he is a callous Gyro Gearloose -- arrogant, disdainful, imperious; that as a citizen of the Anglo Saxon "developed" world, he views Latin America as a laughable basket case; that, when the lights are turned out he is a bigot, a racist.
Here is the official reaction of WikiLeaks to the "insignificant" affair:
“It was set that the theme [of the interview] was the abuse of mass surveillance and it’s known that Ecuador is not a power of abusive surveillance. Assange said that the South American country ´is insignificant´ in this context."
Sorry, WikiLeaks -- your statement doesn´t, well ... hack it. Watch the CNN interview again. The context was clearly, unequivocally, in Assange´s own words, "small" and "not a world player."
Assange needs to say simply and clearly -- and, above all, quickly -- that his choice of words was poor, for which he is sorry. An error acknowledged is an error abolished.*
His enemies are praying no such acknowledgement will be forthcoming. They know that silence will relegate Assange and his supporters to play The Blivet Trick, i.e., trying to shove 10 pounds of horse shit into a 5 pound bag.
Assange founded WikiLeaks with a certain excellence by which WikiLeaks gained its first reputation and made its meteoric first growth. He needs to be reminded of those beginnings and to restore his organization to what it was at first.
He isn´t the only one who needs to be so reminded.
In trying to distort the context in which the "insignificant" statement was made, WikiLeaks is showing signs of wavering from its initial excellence. That drift is the strategy of Obama and Hillary Clinton, who are trying to fake Assange out of position by making raw survival concerns, mostly financial and legal, override everything else. They are aware that if they can catch WikiLeaks lying just once, they will have it made. To be founded with excellence is not without its own peculiar burdens.
In real politics -- as opposed to playing at politics -- if the opponent has a good point, you do not dispute or deny it; rather, you support it. However, you leave it to him to promote his point. Likewise, if you make a mistake, you do not deny or dispute it You acknowledge it and move on.
Here, an expression from golf is singularly revealing: Miss ´em quick. The meaning is, if you make a bad stroke, don´t bemoan or belabor it. Move on to the next stroke.
Ecuador`s President Rafael Correa quickly reacted to the "insignificant" affair on Twitter: “Don’t pay attention to the corrupt media. Reactions like this are exactly what they look for.” In other words, CNN set a trap. For Assange, it was the second time around. On October 23, 2010, he walked out of a CNN interview in which the host tried to divert him from a discussion of Iraq war logs released by WikiLeaks to the Swedish sex allegations against him.
President Correa´s choice of the word corrupt to describe CNN is not the choice we would make.
Corrupt, as the above quote from Machiavelli indicates, implies that at some time in the past, excellence -- i.e., high principles and practices such as integrity and a concern for the truth -- prevailed. In fact, no such golden epoch ever existed for CNN, the Washington Post or any other American mainstream media. As our post of February 12, 2012 discussed, the founding father of the American media was not Jesus or Aristotle but Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), a loud-mouthed warmonger and inventor of yellow journalism. All the news that was fit to make money he printed.
As the hoopla surrounding the Pulitzer Prize demonstrates year after year, American newspapermen are proud -- indeed, ecstatic -- to be associated with him. To the contrary, two of America`s best fiction writers refused the Pulitzer: Sinclair Lewis and William Saroyan. Hard-charging reporters and editors, you might want to wonder why.
To describe the reality of American press, therefore, we would use another expression President Correa frequently employs and which is literally right on the money: los medios mercantilistas. No translation needed.
All of which brings up this basic question: why are you talking to CNN if you already know who they are? Years ago, I wrote an article based on my TV appearances, revealing how the media will censor you via facial gestures, sniggers and other nonarguments. I tossed the piece when I discovered that French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu already had said everything I had in mind. His On Television and Journalism rips a hole in the black bag of media tricks. They are as limited as they are childish, however, they trip and trap the unwary.
The CNN Assange interview is a superb case study of what Bourdieu castigated. For starters, hit the pause button on the start of the interview; you will see a vintage CNN snear: Assange apparently agreed to the interview because he wanted to promote his book and to discuss serious issues such as surveillance. CNN obviously wanted to do something else -- and did it. The interviewer -- who is so famous I never heard of her -- typically did zero research and misled Assange about the topic to be discussed. I don´t know where CNN recruits its stable of false-pride, no-shame urinalists,** but it is the hairspray capitol of the world.
Which brings us back to our basic question asked above. It is also Bourdieu´s concluding point. Before agreeing to appear on TV, you mght want to ask yourself: Why? What for? If you can`t come up with a good answer, don´t go.
Will the "insignificant" incident be the Machiavellian accident that renews WikiLeaks?
Over 2,000 years ago, Heraclitus observed that character is destiny. We would extrapolate: it takes one type of person to found a successful organization; it takes another type to maintain it. Rarely are both types found in one and the same individual. Time will tell if Assange is an exception to the rule.
* * *
The Treaty of Westphalia aside, is Ecuador insignificant?
I am aware of only one United States organization that in its heart of hearts believes Ecuador is significant:
When you get past all the hubris, Hugo Chávez is not so bad for Uncle Sam. America continues to import 11% of its oil from Venezuela.
Ecuador´s President Correa is a case apart.
There are three reasons why the C.I.A. and Pentagon would give their eye teeth to get rid of Correa:
(i) In September 2009, Correa forced the Pentagon to close its military base in Manta, Ecuador.
(ii) Correa continues to be the most popular leader in Latin America. As of September 2012, his approval rating was 80%.
(iii) Other Latin American leaders and politicians cannot help but notice the numbers. Correa is an example -- and all examples are contagious. The United States has over 20 military bases in Latin America, therefore ...
Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, reported that after the October election victory of Hugo Chávez (see this blog, posts of October 5 and 9, 2012), the CIA tripled its Ecuadorian war chest to $87 million. That money will be stuffed into the 2013 presidential election in an all-out effort to defeat Correa.
Correa´s response was not long in coming. On November 3 he referred to the Murray report and denounced the impending C.I.A. intervention. A few days later, the United States Ambassador to Ecuador, Adan Namm, rejected Murray´s report and Correa´s denunciation: "It is completely false."
$87 million. You still think Ecuador is insignificant?
Two months prior to the Murray report, we discussed (post of August 27, 2012) the C.I.A.´s 7-step strategy to defeat Correa:
"6. Correa receives less than 50% of the vote in the upcoming presidential election of February 17, 2013. He is forced into an April 7, 2013-runoff election with the United States-backed candidate, conservative banker Guillermo Lasso. Lasso has highly competent consultants; his campaign is being conducted extremely well (but not perfectly) given the context of Correa´s popularity. To wit:
Lasso`s media timing, style, and message closely resemble those of Jeff Bingaman`s senatorial campaign of 1982 in New Mexico. Bingaman did what everybody said was impossible: he defeated the internationally known and highly popular Harrison Jack Schmitt, incumbent senator and former astronaut. Diogenes in search of one good man is the powerful, unconscious archetype that Bingaman and Lasso activated ...
It will be interesting to see if Correa and his campaign team know how to counter the unconscious forces set in motion.
(7) Finally, nonstop megabucks stop Correa in the April Correa-Lasso election.
There is a fatal flaw in the Washington strategy. Do you see it?"
If Craig Murray is right, the nonstop megabucks are in place. But what else?
Coming soon: Part 2: The Significance of "Insignificant" Ecuador. Rafael Correa and The C.I.A.
*Robert Kennedy: "I was involved in many of the early decisions on Vietnam, decisions that helped set us on our present path. It may be that the effort was doomed from the start ... If that is the case, as it well may be, and then I am willing to bear my share of the responsibility, before history and before my fellow citizens. But past error is no excuse for its own perpetuation. Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live. Now as ever, we do ourselves best justice when we measure ourselves against ancient tests, as in the Antigone of Sophocles: `All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only sin is pride.´"
**For a working definition and discussion of urinalism, see our posts of February 12, March 19, and March 28, 2012.