Wikileaks likes to say it's concerned with truth. Its media cheerleaders like to take that claim at face value. So we have to ask, why is Wikileaks lying about the Tucson massacre?
And it is lying. In a press release today, the organization claimed that Saturday's shooting was the result of "incitement" akin to threats against Julian Assange and other Wikileaks staffers from American political figures. But to date not a single piece of evidence exists that Jared Lee Loughner, the shooter, was driven to violence by political rhetoric of any kind.
But that didn't stop Wikileaks from trying to make the connection:
“WikiLeaks: treat incitement seriously or expect more Gabrielle Gifford killing sprees.”
Wikileaks today offered sympathy and condolences to the victims of the Tucson shooting together with best wishes for the recovery of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords, a democrat from Arizona's 8th district, was the target of a shooting spree at a Jan 8 political event in which six others were killed.
Tucson Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, leading the investigation into the Gifford shooting, said that "vitriolic rhetoric" intended to "inflame the public on a daily basis ... has [an] impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with." Dupnik also observed that officials and media personalities engaging in violent rhetoric "have to consider that they have some responsibility when incidents like this occur and may occur in the future."
The release went on to cite all the American political figures supposedly inciting violence against Wikileaks and its staff (remember, violence brought against Assange or his organization has nothing to do with their admitted goal: to undermine American foreign policy). It claims that Wikileaks staff "have also been the target of unprecedented violent rhetoric from prominent media personalities." The "also" in that sentence implies that Wikileaks is like Giffords in that regard.
The fact that the release implied that connection, rather than stating it outright, does not make the connection any less untrue. Neither does quoting Sheriff Dupnik absolve Wikileaks of the responsibility to back up these charges with evidence.
But they can't provide evidence, since to date it does not exist, as Charles Krauthammer noted in his Washington Post column Wednesday:
As killers go, Jared Loughner is not reticent. Yet among all his writings, postings, videos and other ravings - and in all the testimony from all the people who knew him - there is not a single reference to any of these supposed accessories to murder.
Not only is there no evidence that Loughner was impelled to violence by any of those upon whom Paul Krugman, Keith Olbermann, the New York Times, the Tucson sheriff and other rabid partisans are fixated. There is no evidence that he was responding to anything, political or otherwise, outside of his own head.
The notion that Loughner was incited to violence is simply, in light of all existing evidence, a lie. Granted, the release never actually states that Loughner was incited to violence by any American political rhetoric, it just heavily implies that assertion, and lets another, Sheriff Dupnik, make the dubious connections. In that sense, Wikileaks' lie is a form of Ace's Underpants Gnomes strategy:
Suppose I want to say "Jared Loughner was inspired by a steady diet of Rush Limbaugh, episodes of Sarah Palin's Alaska, and Tea Party rallies."
What is the defect in that? Well, if you're a leftist, it's perfect in every single way: It connects a shooting to your political enemies and gives you an advantage you can't get via your policies. But the one problem with it -- which isn't a problem so much as an obstacle -- is that it's simply not true…
But you can't write it. Because of that one little problem obstacle. If you write it, you will immediately have it fact-checked, and facts being stupid things, you will be forced to state it is not, in fact, true.
This is a symptom of what I mentioned yesterday, the lack of any "Phase 2" (in South Park Gnome terminology) to connect Phase 1, steal underpants/complain about rhetoric of violence from the right, with Phase 3, Profit!!! Two out of three ain't bad, liberals figure, and so what if there is nothing to connect 1 to 3? We'll just talk up 1 and 3 until we're blue in the face and assume 2.
See, assumptions and implications can't be fact-checked. You didn't actually say them, so no one can claim you said something untrue. You didn't say it; you just implied the living fuck out of it. But there's no such thing as an implication-check, now is there?
The Underpants Gnomes strategy purports to prove a point even while omitting an essential step in the argument. In this case, political rhetoric did exist, and Loughner was driven to violence. But Wikileaks didn't bother with step two - demonstrating that it was the rhetoric that drove Loughner to violence and not one of a host of other (much more likely, given existing evidence) factors.
Wikileaks knew it couldn't flatly say that political rhetoric is responsible for the shooting, so it just heavily implied that it is, and quoted another politically-interested party who likewise provided no evidence to back up his claims.
Regardless of Wikileaks' rationale for lying about the Giffords shooting, the fact that it did lie should undercut any claims that the organization is interested in truth for its own sake. As Assange has written, his goal is purely political - he says his endgame "justice," a politically-loaded term if there ever was one.
Assange's disregard for facts that impede his agenda should concern all those eager to bestow upon him the label of "journalist." Though, if the actions of so much of America's media establishment since Saturday are the measure of a journalist, perhaps Assange does deserve the title.