Floyd Abrams whizzes on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

Media criticism.
Dec. 29 2010 3:57 PM

Floyd Abrams Whizzes on WikiLeaks

The First Amendment litigator disparages Julian Assange's secret-busting enterprise.

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To calm Abrams down, I suggest that he read the single best piece written about WikiLeaks: Gideon Rachman's Dec. 13 op-ed in the Financial Times, "America Should Give Assange a Medal" (registration required). Among the greatest of WikiLeaks' revelations, Rachman writes, is that "the public position taken by the US on any given issue is usually the private position as well." Much to the disappointment of conspiracy theorists the world over, Rachman continues, the cables provide "very little evidence of double-dealing or bad faith in US foreign policy."

Rachman saves the best for last by closing: "America's foreign policy comes across as principled, intelligent and pragmatic. That was, perhaps, the best-kept secret of all."

Abrams seems suffocated by a narrow idea of what constitutes an act of journalism, criticizing Assange because WikiLeaks "offers no articles of its own, no context of any of the materials it discloses, and no analysis of them other than assertions in press releases or their equivalent." Is he trying to say that if Assange stitched some journalistic needle-point of his own into his document dumps that his anarchistic opposition to government secrecy would be more tolerable?

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News is the thing they don't want you to know. Will somebody tell Abrams?

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Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.