Julian Assange: ‘Cablegate’ needed for the New York Times

A “cablegate” is needed to expose the truth of what goes on inside the New York Times, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange claimed on Saturday.

Speaking at a special Frontline Club event on Saturday alongside renowned philosopher Slavoj Žižek and investigative journalist Amy Goodman, Assange claimed a Cablegate was needed not only for US and Russian intelligence services but for the American daily which first published in 1851.

"It would reveal the extent to which stories have been suppressed and how they have been managed,” said Assange, who told the audience that Daniel Ellsberg claimed the New York Times had been in possession of 1000 Pentagon Papers before he passed them onto the Washington Post and 17 other newspapers in1971. 

Only when it realised its rivals had the papers did the New York Times begin publishing the documents on 13 June of that year, Assange claimed.

Since he was propelled “inside the centre of the storm”  by the publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs and the Embassy Cables last year, Assange said he had learnt the extent to which history “is shaped and distorted by the media.”

Contrasting Fox News’ decision, on account of its "hunger" for ratings, to show more of the July 2010 Collateral Murder video than its rival CNN had "under the pretext of sensitivity", Assange said:

"The truth that we got out of Fox was greater than we did out of CNN and similarly for many institutions in the media that we think are liberal."

The 400,000 Iraq War Logs documents, which were published in October 2010, were "the most detailed, significant history of a war to be published," said Assange. Among them were details of some 15,000 hitherto unrecorded civilian deaths:

"Just think about that 15,000 people whose deaths were recorded by the US military but were completely unknown to the rest of the world, that’s a very significant thing."

Responding to claims that have been made that WikiLeaks has not told us anything we didn’t already know, the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek said WikiLeaks worked in the same way as "that beautiful old fairy tale" the Emperor’s Clothes. He added:

"WikiLeaks is not simply telling the truth. You are telling the truth in a very precise way of confronting explicit lines of justification, rationalisation of the public discourse."

Asked about his decision to collaborate with more than 80 media organisations, Assange said it was necessary in order to "maximise the impact" of the material.

"If you want to have an impact and you are an organisation that is very small then you have to coopt or leverage the mainstream press," he said, raising the question of what what impact a new "internet educated" generation working in News Corp and other big corportations might have.

Discussing the impact of WikiLeaks in the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt this year, Assange said it was "hard to disentangle". He described how a number of factors, including the rise of staellite TV, and Al Jazeera’s decision to film protests in the street, had meant the regime could no uphold its claim that opposition was merely "an outcast voice".

"What the media does is censor those voices and prevents people from understanding that actually what the state is saying is the minority is in the majority," said Assange.

"Once people realised their view was in the majority then they understand that they physically have numbers," said Assange, adding that it also became impossible for US to support the regime in Tunisia after Embassy Cables likened President Ben Ali’s family to a Mafia elite.

Žižek said it was significant that WikiLeaks publication of material meant that politicians could no longer operate on the basis of ‘I know that you know but we can still play the cynical game of pretending that we don’t know’.

He added: "The function of WikiLeaks more than to tell us something that we don’t know, is to push us to the point when you cannot pretend you don’t know."

Full coverage of the event can be found here. Video can be watched here and you can read our live blog of the event here.