In a case of exceptional but unsettling timing, I published my rumination on the demise of the First Amendment a few hours before I heard the news of Glenn Greenwald’s indictment. While I’m not nearly as conversant with his legal crisis as I am with Assange’s, I have wondered for a while now how Greenwald, living and working under the Bolsonaro Administration, has evaded prosecution for his investigative journalism. The arrest of Assange was horrifying in large part because it took place in a western nation, in clear contradiction of western liberal standards, whereas Greenwald’s freedom in a Latin American dictatorship has been more surreal than his imprisonment would be. Our first reaction, then, should be to disregard these illusory distinctions between western liberty and southern authoritarianism, as they are so called, and to understand the global nature of the threat—and the subsequently global nature of the fight.
The implications of the war on journalism are massive, yet the rebellion feels awfully slight. I have a small group of friends who know of this war and who fight against the tyrants, but none of them live within two hundred miles of me. I’m surrounded by the victims of mass media propaganda, the apathetically pacified as well as the hatefully programmed, none of whom take any interest in these portentous developments. If they pay any attention at all, is to the anticlimactic impeachment trial, the circumstances of which no one understands. Of course, this ignorance doesn’t lend itself to reticence; on the contrary, the benighted can’t help themselves from loudly endorsing a side in this fictitious “campaign for democracy”.
Apart from their own embarrassing gullibility, the two camps in the impeachment circus share an appalling willingness to revoke civil rights in the interest of halting their political opponents. Much has been made of the Trumpeters’ calls to imprison the staff of MSNBC, but what of the liberals’ desire to see Assange convicted for indirectly “helping” Trump win the election? The difference is that the corporate media is safe from federal interference (because the corporate media is a form of federal interference), but more important is the commonality: these spectators are so frightened of “the other side” taking their liberties away, they voluntarily surrender their liberties to the party that claims to fight for them. Americans are notoriously incapable of seeing beyond their first step, but even in this instance, their myopia is striking.