Though many of the most decadent features of the Alan Rusbridger-era Guardian have gone – not least Rusbridger himself – one obsession remains: their petty war against Julian Assange. The latest manifestation of this is a giggling, peekaboo report around a memo of understanding between the Ecuadorian government and Assange, still currently seeking asylum in the country’s embassy. The guts of the report suggests that Ecuador’s government has simply set out the conditions under which Assange lives there, including medical visits and the care of his cat. But the construction of it is in the form The Guardian loves: Assange as a naughty teenager.
Honestly, haven’t they had enough of this by now? The Rusbridger regime never got over the fact that WikiLeaks hadn’t simply handed over the Cablegate files, and let them get on with it, and instead wanted an ongoing role in their distribution. The Guardian’s pique was, at root, an awareness that they needed WikiLeaks to innovate mass exposes, in a manner that they hadn’t been able to develop themselves. Since then, mass releases that have dropped into The Guardian’s lap, such as the Panama Papers, have been because the WikiLeaks flood of material established the paper as a place for that sort of journalism.
The payback for that was that The Guardian committed one of the gravest breaches of journalistic ethics in recent times, allowing a journalist who had publicly fallen out with Assange – Nick Davies – to report on Assange’s extradition hearings, and the Swedish police inquiry into sex crime allegations, in real time. The misconstruction of the police report had a huge effect on the misperception of the events Assange was accused of. It was not difficult to assume that Assange was being targeted by a bunch of vengeful Oxbridge arseholes.
Rusbridger is gone now, barred from further involvement in The Guardian, after having nearly bankrupted the thing with the “Guardian Unlimited” project. Perhaps the paper could ditch this last vestige of the ancient regime, and report on WikiLeaks and their former collaborator honestly?