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Character assassination is a deliberate and sustained effort to damage the reputation or credibility of an individual by making false accusations, rumors, and manipulating information.
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- Character assassination is at once easier and surer than physical assault; and it involves far less risk for the assassin. It leaves him free to commit the same deed over and over again, and may, indeed, win him the honors of a hero in the country of his victims.
- Alan Barth, The Rights of Free Men: An Essential Guide to Civil Liberties (1984).
- He hasn’t been formally charged with any crime. His lawyers have heard that a grand jury in the United States has been secretly empaneled, and that a U.S. federal indictment is most likely forthcoming. Politicians and commentators, meanwhile, have been repeatedly calling for Assange to be killed.... Democratic strategist... Bob Beckel, who said on a Fox Business show: “We’ve got special ops forces. A dead man can’t leak stuff. ... This guy’s a traitor, he’s treasonous, and he has broken every law of the United States. And I’m not for the death penalty, so ... there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.” U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called WikiLeaks a “foreign terrorist organization” and said that the website “posed a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States.” He went on: “This is worse even than a physical attack on Americans; it’s worse than a military attack.”
- Conservative Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith blogged: “I find myself agreeing with those who think Assange is being unduly vilified ... it is not obvious what law he has violated. ... I do not understand why so much ire is directed at Assange and so little at The New York Times.” (WikiLeaks has partnered with several news organizations, including The New York Times, in its document releases.)... The U.S. Justice Department, if it pursues a case, will have to answer the question: If WikiLeaks is a criminal organization, what of its media partners, like The New York Times?"
- His "crime" has been an epic form of investigative journalism: revealing to millions of people the lies and machinations of their politicians and officials and the barbarism of criminal war conducted in their name. For this, as the American historian William Blum points out, "dozens of members of the American media and public officials have called for [his] execution or assassination"... In Britain, Assange's trial by media has been a campaign of character assassination, often cowardly and inhuman, reeking of jealousy of the courageous outsider, while books of perfidious hearsay have been published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or resuscitated on the assumption that he is too poor to sue.
- John Pilger, The dirty war on WikiLeaks is now trial by media in Sweden (10 March 2012)
- In a call with reporters hosted by the Freedom of the Press Foundation on Tuesday, board member John Cusack expressed his umbrage with the media’s “character assassination” of Edward Snowden and neglect of The Real Issues. “Why are the red and blue elites in the establishment press so afraid of an informed public?” he asked rhetorically. “Why do they keep changing the subject?” “Have the establishment media been so co-opted by government access that they’ve lost all sense of proportionality?”
- I have just watched We Steal Secrets, Alex Gibney’s documentary about Wikileaks and Julian Assange. One useful thing I learnt is the difference between a hatchet job and character assassination. Gibney is too clever for a hatchet job, and his propaganda is all the more effective for it. The film’s contention is that Assange is a natural-born egotist... This could have made for an intriguing, and possibly plausible, thesis had Gibney approached the subject-matter more honestly and fairly. But two major flaws discredit the whole enterprise... The first is that he grievously misrepresents the facts in the Swedish case against Assange... to the point that his motives in making the film are brought into question... So the question is why would he choose to mislead the audience?... his dishonesty relates not to an avoidance of facts and evidence but to his choice of emphasis...This documentary could have been a fascinating study of the moral quandaries faced by whistleblowers in the age of the surveillance super-state. Instead Gibney chose the easy course and made a film that sides with the problem rather than the solution.
- The corporate press’ “myths” include “that Edward Snowden is a Russian spy,” Greenwald noted. “While he was in Hong Kong . . . what was being said with the same authoritative tone: ‘It’s very obvious: Edward Snowden is a Chinese spy.’ When he ended up being trapped in Moscow, the very same people who’d said that, their accusations instantly morphed into, ‘Of course, he’s a Russian spy,' without any acknowledgement they’d been saying something profoundly different just weeks earlier."
...This character assassination includes the allegation that Snowden’s motive for leaking NSA classified information is due to his being “a narcissist”—although after initially coming forward Snowden turned down numerous interview requests from top media outlets, which, Greenwald quipped, is a strange way for someone craving attention to behave...He also defended Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, whom he said had been smeared in the press for blowing the whistle....Maligning dissidents as deviant or mentally ill is a technique repressive regimes use to marginalize dissenters, Greenwald said, the rationale being that only crazy people would resist the status quo, while normal, well-adjusted people support it. He added that those reporters who are professional flatterers of the powers-that-be can’t understand someone acting and taking risks due to “conscience” because they are cowards minus consciences.
- Glenn Greenwald Speaks Out, PR Watch (20 June 2014)
- While we can see Snowden’s experience as an instructional primer on both the value of whistleblowers and the costs of vilifying them, there are elements of his story—fed by the character assassination reprisal tactics of the government—that perpetuate many of the misperceptions about whistleblowers and contribute to the view that whistleblowers are problems to be addressed, rather than potential solutions. Snowden’s case also typifies the most egregious manifestations of the institutional belief that whistleblowers are problems to be addressed rather than sources of risk management and mechanisms for promoting compliance—the focus on the “messenger” rather than the “message.”
- That Assange has been right all along, and getting him to Sweden was a fraud to cover an American plan to “render” him, is finally becoming clear to many who swallowed the incessant scuttlebutt of character assassination. “I speak fluent Swedish and was able to read all the original documents,” Nils Melzer, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, said recently, “I could hardly believe my eyes. According to the testimony of the woman in question, a rape had never taken place at all. And not only that: the woman’s testimony was later changed by the Stockholm Police without her involvement in order to somehow make it sound like a possible rape. I have all the documents in my possession, the emails, the text messages.” ... WikiLeaks has informed us how illegal wars are fabricated, how governments are overthrown and violence is used in our name, how we are spied upon through our phones and screens. The true lies of presidents, ambassadors, political candidates, generals, proxies, political fraudsters have been exposed. One by one, these would-be emperors have realised they have no clothes. It has been an unprecedented public service; above all, it is authentic journalism, whose value can be judged by the degree of apoplexy of the corrupt and their apologists.
- John Pilger, John Pilger: Julian Assange Must Be Freed, Not Betrayed, Consortium News, (17 February 2020)