Piet Mondriaan Self portrait 1918
Guardian columnist Owen Jones, a self-described left activist and socialist, was attacked in the streets of London at 2 am Saturday morning in what he himself describes as “a blatant premeditated assault” by a bunch of guys. He says he was kicked, punched, but then saved by the friends he was with, and nothing really happened to him. Or he would have taken photos and published them. Owen was fine, before and after. But his pride was not.
No pictures of black eyes or anything, but a brick load of indignation. No matter that in Britain, people are attacked all the time, certainly at that hour, in bar fights, in knife fights, people die every weekend. But for some reason Owen Jones thinks his role in this is special. That the incident happened because of his political views, and because the far right is getting more aggressive.
From Jones’s own Guardian:
The Guardian columnist and activist Owen Jones has been physically assaulted in London while celebrating his 35th birthday with friends. In an attack he called “a blatant premeditated assault”, Jones said he was kicked, punched and thrown to the ground by a group of men in the early hours of Saturday morning. He said that he and his friends went to a pub and left at 3am.
“We were about 30 metres away, saying goodbye to each other, when four men charged directly towards me: one of them karate kicked my back, threw me to the ground, started kicking me in the head and back, while my friends tried to drag them off, and were punched trying to defend me. “It was clearly a premeditated attack and I was their target. They all attacked me and only assaulted my friends when they tried to defend me.
“In the past year I’ve been repeatedly targeted in the street by far right activists, including attempts to use physical assault, and homophobic abuse. I’ve had a far-right activist taking pictures of me, and posting threatening messages and a video. “Because of this, and escalating threats of violence and death, I’ve had the police involved. My friends felt it was a matter of time until this happened. Give the context, it seems unthinkable that I was singled out for anything other than a politically motived premeditated attack.”
A second article in the same Guardian appeared on Sunday:
Jones said: “I’m just a symptom of a wider phenomenon, an emboldened, increasingly violent far right.” He said he believed there had been a “dramatic escalation” in the level of threat faced by him and others in the last eight or nine months. He said far-right protesters were being radicalised by what he described as “hate preachers” in politics and in some parts of the media.
“We all know who the hate preachers are: one of them is the most powerful man on earth, the occupant of the White House. But there are also multiple politicians and people in the mainstream media who deliberately stoke tensions, who demonise minorities and who demonise the left,” he said.
[..] “The far right are trying to achieve political ends through coercion and violence, so there’s no way I’m going to change. Yes, I’ll take precautions, but I’ll be at my protests, fighting against racism, for socialism. What could I have done? Not had a birthday thing? Of course everybody should be vigilant, but I’m not going to be intimidated. I’m not changing my politics.”
I’m not sure (but of course I wasn’t there and I’m not in Jones’s shoes), but given the time of day, his ‘celebrity’ status and the fact that he’s openly gay, I could imagine this was not about politics. Not that that’s the crucial point in this, which is that everybody should be able to have a birthday party and be left in peace.
I must admit I smiled when I read that Jones said his attackers “charged out of the pub with military precision”, and then ostensibly failed to hurt him even a little bit. That sounds like either the most inept right wing militant unit ever, or they were all just piss drunk.
Still, calling Trump a hate preacher is also demonizing, and I do wonder why Jones feels that is appropriate while other comments are not. The Proud Boys vs Antifa ‘party’ this weekend in Portland, Oregon would seem to establish this, at least in the US, as a two-way street, but I’m not even going to try to convince both sides that there may be some blame in their camp too.
Because I think the following is much more important in the Owen Jones story. A few lines from the first article referenced above say:
Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of the Guardian and Observer, said: “We deplore the outrageous attack on Owen Jones that took place late last night. Violent assaults on journalists or activists have no place in a democratic society.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sent a message of “solidarity” to Jones. He said: “Owen believes it was politically motivated, and we know the far right is on the march in our country. “An attack on a journalist is an attack on free speech and our fundamental values.”
Look, neither Katharine Viner, nor Owen Jones, nor the Guardian as a company, nor Jeremy Corbyn, have any right whatsoever, none, zilch, to present themselves as defenders of journalism or journalists. The reason for that is dead simple, and it consists of only two words: Julian Assange.
Jeremy Corbyn sits in the British parliament, while Assange sits in a high-security prison designed for terrorists, and those two things should never happen at the same time, lest Corbyn loses the right to speak. Hereby lost. And pretending to be a defender of journalism while a man who has won dozens of international awards for … journalism, rots away a few miles from that same Parliament, is too ridiculous to even talk about.
Owen Jones writes for the Guardian, and knows exactly what his employer has done to Julian Assange. And he can whine about an ‘attack’ on him all he wants, but there’s a journalist who’s really under attack, life-changing, life-threatening, if not lethal, and I have never seen Jones speak up for him. So spare us the hollow talk about hate preachers. It’s your own employer and your own government who preach hate.
As for The Guardian, it has been engaged in a vile anti-Assange smear campaign for many years, perhaps culminating in, but by no means limited to, the article last November that claimed Trump’s one-time adviser Paul Manafort had visited Assange many times in the Ecuador embassy, which was thoroughly debunked but never withdrawn or corrected.
Publishing an article such as that while you know it to be a bag of lies, makes you unfit to talk about journalism, period, for the rest of your lives. Sure, many of your readers may believe in you, and in what you tell them, after you’ve fed them smear and falsehoods for so long. But even if they believe you, that still doesn’t make you a news organization, it makes you a propaganda outlet. It makes you a pitchblack stain on your profession.
Australian journalist Mark Davis worked with Assange and the Guardian on the publication of the Afghan war logs in 2010. He recently spoke out about those days. And added a nice little -legal- twist to the story.
At a Sydney “Politics in the Pub” meeting on Thursday night, award-winning Australian journalist Mark Davis revealed new first-hand information exposing the extent of the betrayal of Julian Assange by the Guardian and the New York Times, and refuting the lies both publications have used to smear the WikiLeaks founder.
Davis recounted his experiences documenting Assange’s life in the first half of 2010 for programs screened on the Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). Using excerpts from the documentary “Inside WikiLeaks,” the journalist explained that he was present when WikiLeaks worked closely with media partners, including the Guardian and the New York Times, in the publication of the Afghan War logs.
[..] Davis said the assertions by Guardian journalists that Assange exhibited a callous attitude towards US informants and others who may have been harmed by the publication of the document were “lies.” David Leigh and Nick Davies, senior Guardian journalists, who worked closely with Assange in the publication of the logs, have repeatedly claimed that Assange was indifferent to the consequences of the publication.
Their statements have played a key role in the attempts by the corporate media to smear Assange, and dovetail with US government claims that the 2010 publications “aided the enemy.” In reality, the US and Australian militaries have been compelled to admit that release of the Afghan war logs did not result in a single individual coming to physical harm.
Davis explained that he was present in “the bunker,” a room established by the Guardian to prepare the publication of the documents. “Nick Davies made the most recurring, repetitive statement that Julian had a cavalier attitude to life. It’s a complete lie. If there was any cavalier attitude, it was the Guardian journalists. They had disdain for the impact of this material.”
[..] Davis explained that despite the vast technical resources of the Guardian and the New York Times (NYT), it was left to Assange to personally redact the names of informants and other individuals from the war logs, less than three days before scheduled publication. Davis said Assange was compelled to work through an entire night, during which he removed some 10,000 names from the documents.
“Julian wanted to take the names out,” Davis said. “He asked for the releases to be delayed.” The request was rejected by the Guardian, “so Julian was left with the task of cleansing the documents. Julian removed 10,000 names by himself, not the Guardian.”
Davis refuted the attempts by the Guardian and the Times to downplay their central role in the publication of the leaks. He stated that the relationship between the corporate reporters and Assange was not that between journalists and their source. Rather, both outlets were intimately involved in preparing the publication of the documents.
This included, Davis said, the Guardian assigning a technical division to prepare the entire set of logs in a publishable and searchable format on the WikiLeaks website. Davis explained that even in 2010, the Guardian and the NYT had employed “subterfuge” to shield them from any legal repercussions over the publication. Despite the explosive contents of the leaks, they had both insisted that WikiLeaks should publish first.
This, Davis stated, would allow them to claim that they were not primary publishers of the material, but were merely reporting material that had been released by WikiLeaks. This was the equivalent of the publications “pushing Julian out to walk the plank,” he said. “Julian’s in jail now because of that subterfuge.”
Tellingly, Davis stated that this plan was disrupted as a result of technical issues on the WikiLeaks website. The Guardian and the Times nevertheless ran their scheduled stories, reporting on WikiLeaks’ supposed publication of the logs, despite the fact that they had not yet been placed on the WikiLeaks website.
WikiLeaks published the documents two days after they had been reported by the corporate publications. “WikiLeaks did not publish for two days,” Davis said. The Guardian and the Times had “reported a lie. They set Julian up from the start.”
Davis’s claim potentially has significant legal implications. The espionage charges, under which the Trump administration is seeking to extradite Assange to the US and prosecute him, include among their offenses WikiLeaks’ publication of the Afghan war logs.
Davis’ timeline, however, indicates that the Guardian and the New York Times were in fact the initial and primary publishers of the material. These publications, which are pillars of the media and political establishment, are “in the frame” for the supposed offenses that the Trump administration is seeking to prosecute Assange for. As Davis bluntly declared, “If Julian’s in jail, they should be as well.”
I’m sure the fact that this last article was published on the World Socialist Web Site will only add to the fun, if not credibility, of it, for self-described socialist Owen Jones.
But -more- seriously, you can’t let the most decorated journalist of your time wither away in a concrete box designed for Hannibal Lecter, and at the same time preach about some threat to journalism and the freedom of speech. Because if you do, you ARE that threat.