THE FIFTH ESTATE: A FILM DRAMATIZING THE WIKILEAKS SAGA AND JULIAN ASSANGE. A CRITICAL POINT OF VIEW OR A SMEAR? RATED C.
Filed under: A FILM DRAMATIZING THE WIKILEAKS SAGA, Apache Helecopter Attack, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bill Condon, BRADLEY MANNING, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Julian Assange, JULIAN ASSANGE, The Fifth Estate, The Guardian, Uncategorized, Wikileaks
THE FIFTH ESTATE POSTER
This film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and directed by Bill Condon (Gods And Monsters, Kinsey) is a comment on the impact of the internet on traditional means of communication. It also paces itself as if to emulate the speed of communication in the internet age by narrative and jump cutting to reflect the fast changing set of circumstances and relationships. It is shot in desaturated color giving it a nourish look. The film is based on two books critical of Assange by David Leigh of the Guardian and Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Assanges one time second in command. The fast moving film is shot in a semi-docudrama style with excellent performances by Cuberbatch (Assange), Daniel Bruhl (Domscheit-Berg), Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney (U.S. Diplomats), Alexander Siddig (Libyan informant) and others. The main conflict in the film is between Assange and Berg over what is Wikileaks moral responsibility to persons who may be killed or severely damaged as a result of the release of unredacted leaks without an assessment of the truth or falsity of the leak or the leakers motive.
The film labels Assange a megalomaniac who is indifferent to the consequences to innocent parties of the information distributed by his website. It shows two informants assassinated in Africa over matters they leaked. Then it gets to the main crux of the film: the massive data release by the then Bradley Manning. It is in parts redacted and published in the Guardian, N.Y. Times, Der Spiegel and other newspapers as well as on the Wikileaks website which posts some parts unredacted. Notably the candid diplomatic cables.
Stanley Tucci and Laura Linney play two American diplomatic officers who expereince the consequences of the cables to themselves, American diplomacy and its undercover agents around the world whose lives are put in jeopardy. (To date no loss of life has been identified and the two African informants who are assassinated in the film appear to be fictional.)
One of Assange’s alleged core principles is not to edit the anonymous leaks received and to put them out there regardless of the consequences. Another is, truth is more important than the lives of those involved. He believes once you start to edit the leaks you become a censor and then where will it stop. (Which raises the question is Wikileaks just a facilitator or a journalistic publisher with Constitutional rights. It is never raised properly or answered by the film.)
The narrative of the film loses its way when it says Assange was taken as a child into an Australian cult with severe disciplinary rules for children and the requirement that their hair be dyed white. It alleges he escaped with his mother and spent much of his childhood and youth running from the cult known as the Family. This, it is inferred, is the cause of his allegedly flawed persona. Anyway whether the allegations are true or not it is a cheap character assasination and detracts from the main thrust of the film; that Assange is an idealistic ego maniac indifferent to the consequences of Wikileaks posts. The other side of the coin is whether his acts are those of an idealist trying to expose criminal conduct by governments and large business entities. The film fatally dismisses the latter possibility with the personal attack. Apparently Assange believes untrue leaks will fail by themselves if the film states the first two principles correctly.
Allegedly without the Manning leak, including the infamous Bagdad Apache helicopter attack, and the subsequent, simultaneous publication and validation by the Guardian and other main stream newspapers Wikileaks would be two relatively unknown guys with a server according to the film never rising to a serious problem for the great powers. This is hard to swallow since the helicopter attack was released with out the aid of the Guardian or others and achieved international notoriety very quickly
The Guardian journalists, one of whom is Leigh (who is publishing a new book simultaneously with the film) tell Assange, after the publication of the Manning data, intelligence agencies around the world will smear his reputation. The film doesn’t touch on the Swedish problem and ends with Domscheit-Berg leaving Wiklileaks and disabling the reception platform for the anonymous leaks. All this leaves us with the impression that Assange is a lonely man imprisoned in the London Ecuadorian Embassy. It is silent on Assange’s role in the Snowden affair or the fact that apparently his support group was instrumental in securing Snowden’s asylum in Russia. It is also silent on the significance of the fact that Snowden went first to the Guardian for publication of his leak.
The film leaves one wondering if it is another smear against Assange and who benefits by it. It doesn’t appear to be a search for truth.
Julian Assange: Saint, Devil or Toxic Ego Maniac? Maybe Firmly Held Idealistic Principles Which He Is Willing To Act On Scare The Living Daylights Out Of The Media Elite .
The N Y. Times, Vanity Faire, New Yorker and numerous other journalistic mediums have done profiles on Mr. Assange and Wiki leaks lately. They all seem to be written in the same theme; Assange was a young genius hacker named Mendax convicted on 24 counts of hacking, with a $2500.00 (Aus) fine and suspended sentence at the age of 21. Now he is a former hacker run amuck.
Appararently Mendax gained entry to many systems but did no damage. Indeed it was his admonition to fellow hackers, who respected him, to do no damage to systems or data. Thus we have the N.Y. Times calling him a “notorious hacker” for something he was convicted of in 1992 at age 21 for crimes committed when he was a teenager. Since then he has been a programmer, inventor and a consultant. There is no mention of his honorable existence for 15 years or so years before Wiki Leaks. The media knows all this because Assange wrote a book about it and freely admits his misguided youth.
Then there is the leak of Afghan War documents allegedly naming 300 low level people who worked with the NATO Forces and who allegedly were put at risk. However no names of persons harmed or killed by this disclosure are identified or discussed. Just a nice round number tossed out and then the articles move on to his domineering personality and reckless behavior. Which is described as evidence of a loose cannon especially when he disagrees with the likes of the Guardian, N.Y. Times, Der Speigel and other establishment outlets, establishment media outlets which now have a vested interest in preserving the status quo.
When one monitors him on You Tube speaking in Sweden or on 40 minutes (and 20 minutes of commercials) and elsewhere Mr. Assange appears to anything but a notorious hacker or a loose cannon. He appears to be exceptionally intelligent, well spoken, sure of his positions and able to defend them against the best prepared journalists and interrogators.
It is granted that he supports transparency in World affairs. Transparency might have avoided World War I and all the secret treaties that caused one country after another to be dragged into the conflict. A belief that transparency might make the World better is a valid belief and the social networks and You Tube are proof of that in N. Africa and elsewhere. It does not equate with anarchy as some news media would like us to believe. Many notable diplomats, journalists, educators and intellectuals pose a belief in transparency but do nothing about it.
Then along comes Mr. Assange, apparently self educated except for a few years of middling college work, well spoken with a keen intellect and he does something in furtherance of transparency that those who formally extolled the concept are now attacking him, first because of his youthful indiscretions and particularly for release of the unredacted Afghan papers. The old saying goes if you can’t beat him on the facts then attack the man.
Assange says he decided to release the papers on a cost benefit analysis. Since the governments involved had always understated the number of civilian deaths he decided to let the truth out as to the actual number of deaths. (NATO deaths are around 2300 and increasing as are civilian deaths and Afghan Army deaths.) The cost benefit analysis is the same one the government made when it decided to extend the war. Thus his motivation was that the truth might end or shorten the war was on rational grounds and does not make him a madman.
Now in the eyes of his former correspondents he is personna non grata. ( The N.Y. Times, Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, La Paz and the like) he is seen as a bull in a china shop no matter how noble his motives are. The media is now disparaging him as a mentally unstable person. (N.Y.Times reporters John Burns and Ravi Somaiya, call him an ego maniac, anarchist hacker; Bill Keller Times Exec. Editor sees him as a Steig Larson character; a counter culture hero or villain; the Guardian, whom he first contacted now, calls him an imperious fool and a hypocrite, etc.) If that was the case why did they become facilitators of his leaks? One has to ask, just who are the villains and hypocrites in this matter.
Perhaps he is so gleefully attacked by the establishment media because as a man born of the internet he has usurped the media’s raison d’ etre , that is to get the truth out.