Hazel Press

The WikiLeaks Party's Post-2013 Election Media Posting Policy

March 29, 2014

On 21 August 2013, the WikiLeaks Party (WLP) announced an independent review into the party's preferencing during the Australian federal election. Details of the review were posted on the WLP's website by an 'admin' account.


From the website's first post to the time of the review post (a period of 141 days), the website's news content was as follows:


The number of posts in which the WLP's political platform was mentioned:


   Transparency: 1


   Asylum Seekers: 1


   Climate Change: 0


   Media: 3


   Shield Laws: 1


   Surveillance: 3


   Total: 9


The number of posts in which areas outside the WLP's political platform were mentioned:


   Aboriginal: 0


   Economy: 1


   Other: 3


   WLP Affairs: 13


   WIkiLeaks Affairs: 5


   Total: 22


The number of posts in which foreign affairs were mentioned:


   Syria: 0


   Ukraine: 0


   Israel: 0


   Venezuela: 0


   Russia: 0


   US: 0


   Total: 0


On 25 August, the WLP's admin account posted a party statement on the possibility of direct Western military intervention in Syria. The post was balanced and journalistic.


On 21 September, WLP NC member Gail Malone posted a video piece: 'Staging the Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria' which was produced by The Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), a Montreal-based non-profit "independent research and media organization." The CRG is not a reliable news source, any more than The Washington Post (WP), The New York Times (NYT), Russia Today (RT) or The Voice of Russia (VoR) are. Of these two spheres, the CRG belongs to the latter.


From the Syrian post onwards, the tone and content of the WLP's website shifted. The measured language of journalism seen in the admin statement was replaced (mostly in the field of foreign affairs) by pro-Russian propaganda. Whilst some good, even great articles remained elsewhere, they were invariably swamped by this sudden influx of faux-journalism.

From the website's review post to 23 March 2014 (a period of 214 days), the website's news content was as follows:


The number of posts in which the WLP's political platform was mentioned:


   Transparency: 14


   Asylum Seekers: 18


   Climate Change: 2


   Media: 14


   Shield Laws: 1


   Surveillance: 50


   Total: 99


The number of posts in which areas outside the WLP's political platform were mentioned:


   Other: 77


   Aboriginal: 29


   Economy: 46


   WLP Affairs: 26


   WikiLeaks Affairs: 22


   Total: 200


The number of posts in which foreign affairs were mentioned:


   Syria: 65


   Ukraine: 55


   Israel: 32


   Venezuela: 5


   Russia: 59


   US: 196


   Total: 412


With regards to the foreign affairs posts, it is important to note that in every story that covers Venezuela, Ukraine or Syria, the US is portrayed negatively and Russia is portrayed in either a positive or benign light.


• In the case of Syria, Russia is almost always depicted as playing no role in the conflict, according to the RT and VoR articles selected, despite the fact that it is well known that the al-Assad's regime is armed and financed by Russia. Similarly, Iran's role is rejected, despite the fact that the numbers of foreign fighters linked to Iran are roughly equal to those linked to Saudi Arabia.


• The conflicts in all three countries feature protest movements which are almost always depicted as being kindled by the US, whilst the mismanagement, corruption and repression within these countries is not cited as the prime agency behind the unrest. This rationale is often extended to other protest movements, including those in Turkey and Libya. An exception is made for protests within Western countries, which are usually considered genuine.


• The crimes of Israel and Saudi Arabia are almost always laid at the door of the US (this is part of a monolithic view of government and intrastate relations), despite the fact that both countries frequently pursue policies that are at odds with US interests.

Of course, US foreign policy demands significant criticism, but there is also much to say about the governments of all of the countries mentioned. None of them are benevolent (to say the least) and the WLP's moral hierarchy is simply the inverse of the propaganda they (rightly) accuse others of practising. What is the point of challenging media hypocrisy whilst clothing yourself in it, by systematically picking out simplistic and dishonest journalism that is uniformly one-sided?


Impartial and accurate news on US and Russian foreign affairs cannot be found in the WP or the NYT any more than it can be found in RT, the VoR or the WLP's favoured commentators. With patience and research it is possible to find high quality content, and where it cannot be found, one can always write it. But the WLP is not interested in journalism. The content it posts is the content (JPEG download link) it wants. This includes what can only be described as Russian military pornography and updates on al-Assad's military successes (amidst a total omission of his regime's crimes); and Russian and Chinese 'puff-pieces' (amidst a total omission of either empire's crimes); all of which is interspersed amongst virulent critiques of the US.


Is it only the victims of US crimes that matter?


The world-view projected by the WLP is a distortion and it possesses a chilling disregard for the seriousness of the issues at hand.


This disproportionate focus on foreign affairs has marginalised other topics. One example of the cost of this policy is the lack of climate change coverage. Thus far, the website has only featured this platform topic once (not including The Heartland Institute climate change denial article or the WLP's response to a Hazel Press article). If surveillance is worth 50 posts, surely climate change, as an equally, if not a greater threat to society, deserves a similar number? Further, the released sections (WGI, 27 September 2013, WG2, 31 March 2014) of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report (the WLP's policy document cites AR4), are yet to recieved a single post. Perhaps this imbalance is due to the fact that the surveillance posts are solely concerned with US-centric surveillance, and are therefore in keeping with an unstated policy. A policy that is clearly visible in the content of the foreign affairs posts and appears to have been prioritised above all other areas, including the WLP's political platform. The fact that it has resulted in the WLP failing to cover a policy platform (shield laws) of the utmost importance to WikiLeaks is shameful.


Even Australia’s surveillance 'Watergate', the infamous ASIO-East Timor spying scandal has gone unreported by the WLP. The affair culminated in a case (PDF link) between East Timor and Australia being brought before the International Court of Justice. However, during this period, the WLP's CEO John Shipton was busy elsewhere (giving interviews to the VoR), which predictably turned out to be the 'unstated policy': extolling Russian virtues and denouncing the US:

The last thing that the West has that works efficiently is the propaganda machine. Everything else is breaking down – the financial systems are breaking down, states of warring against each other. But that's mass propaganda against anything Russian. Particularly, in order to make the Sochi games fail, to lessen the prestige of Russia, they will do anything. They are not reliable partners in the management of the world at the moment.


The Russian diplomatic skills are a triumph, and with the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, the BRICs last year in Far East and this year Syria and the Ukraine. There is diplomatic triumph second to none, and in our view the Russian President and Foreign Ministry people wish to bring peace to allow development. The US and its allies wish to restrict development so that they will have no competition. This is the truth of the matter. They just wish to have states that are dependent ill organized and not undergoing any social or industrial development at all.

In the days following the ASIO-East Timor trial, the WLP's website posted several articles celebrating the Crimean referendum. These articles were apparently unaware or uncaring of the historic genocide of the Crimean Tatars. Of the fact that the Russian majority population only exists through conquest, mass-murder, total-deportation and re-population. Of the fact that the surviving Tatars view the return of Russian power with profound concern. Of the fact that Crimea was handed over to Ukraine (February 1954) by Nikita Khrushchev because the shame, horror and proximity (1917 – 1933, 1944) of these crimes was intolerable to that particular Russian regime. With such a history, the issue of Russian pluralism in Crimea is paramount - and conducting a rush referendum with absolutely no independent monitoring while the region is filled with soldiers and sieges is clearly inappropriate. However, the WLP's coverage does not have time for historical context or the questions it raises. But it does have time for something else.


The articles posted by the WLP act as though the percentage of votes in favour is the same as voter turnout, and then use this distortion to claim that not only all eligible Tatars must have voted (else the articles' absurd figures would not add up), but also that they must have uniformly supported Russian reintegration: "the so-called 'Tatar boycott' of this referendum is a complete fabrication of the western media." And yet, the WLP published both of these articles after the Tatars stated that only 0.5% of their population voted.


These articles are disgraceful pieces of propaganda. Even Vladimir Putin's referendum speech (which accurately states both the historical context and the urgency of pluralism, but does not provide independent turnout and voting figures) puts them to shame. No one impartial would ever cite them, expect to illustrate the dishonesty of both sides of the information war. It is here that the WLP and WikiLeaks part company.


Both WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks Press display peerless standards of journalistic integrity. The press releases of WikiLeaks, their famous Twitter feed and Julian Assange's interviews all exhibit multiple perspectives with the expected qualifications and contexts. WikiLeaks publications have assisted journalism (PDF link) throughout the world in producing informed, balanced articles on an endless array of subjects, including the Crimean crisis. With regards to WikiLeaks Press, it is a journalistic paragon that posts, examines and fashions stories based on WikiLeaks' releases.


There is clearly something concerning about the WLP's posting policy. Common sense speculation about the motivation behind such a policy provides few, if any, comforting possibilities. Beyond likelihoods, without question this policy bears no relation to WikiLeaks standards, and by association, it is damaging them.

Update: The 19 March WLP article stating that "the [Crimea referendum] results show that 96.77% of the eligible voters voted to join Russia" has been further contradicted by Russia’s Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, which has stated (21 April) that "in Crimea, various data show that 50-60% voted for unification with Russia, with a turnout of 30-50%". In other words, rather than the WLP's 96.77%, between 30% and 15% of eligible voters supported unification.


The plight of the Crimean Tatars has again come to the fore despite Putin's decree (21 April) to "restore historical justice and remove the consequences of the illegal deportation." Firstly, the Tatars' national leader and Ukrainian MP Mustafa Dzhemilev has been banned from returning to the peninsula for five years by the Russian government. And when the Tatars protested this move (3 May), Crimea's new prosecutor, Natalia Poklonskaya, labelled the dissent as "extremist activity" and "illegal". The following day she summoned the chairman of the Tatar Mejlis (council of representatives) and stated (in Russian) that if the "violations noted above are not eliminated," the "Crimean Tatar Mejlis will be liquidated" and "its activity on the territory of the Russian Federation will be banned." A 36-page UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission report (16 May) states that there has been “an alarming deterioration in the human rights situation in the east of the country, as well as serious problems emerging in Crimea, especially in relation to the Crimean Tatars.”


On 18 May the Crimean Tatars will commemorate the 70th anniversary of their forced deportation to Central Asia.


After decrying the presence of members of a far-right political party (Pravyi Sektor) at Kiev's Independence Square protests and later within the Kiev government, through a series of overwrought posts that mirror Russian propaganda and ignores the far-right's looming election disaster, the WLP has followed Russia in remaining silent on the far-right elements within Ukraine's pro-Russian movement. The fact that a former neo-Nazi (Russian National Unity Party), Pavel Gubarev, controls Donetsk People's Republic's militia as well as the position of People's Governor, and that his wife, Ekaterina Gubareva, has taken the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs ought to engender the same concern as given to matters in Kiev. But it does not.


Jamal Daoud (a former NC member) has recently stated that Gail Malone is responsible for the WLP's posts: "Since September 2013, only these three people [John Shipton, myself and Gail Malone] were doing all the jobs inside the “party”. [...] The Facebook page and the blog were assigned to John’s much-trusted Gail Malone."