Remember Julian Assange, the guy behind WikiLeaks? Well, he’s back. Despite facing rape charges in his native country of Sweden, he’s started a new internet T.V. show, which Russia Today is hosting online. RT.com, a Kremlin-controlled station, may be a strange choice for Assange’s new show, given his quasi-anarchic ethos, but stranger still is his first interviewee—Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader.
Nasrallah hasn’t given an interview to a Western reporter since 2006—that is, Hezbollah’s last war with Israel. But he shows few signs of change. “The state of Israel is an illegal state,” he says to Assange. “The progress of time does not negate justice. If you go occupy my house by force, it doesn’t become my house in 50 or 100 years. We believe that Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people.”
Nasrallah has some nicer things to say about Bashir al-Assad, the Syrian dictator. Despite a few ever-so-gentle criticisms of Assad, Nasrallah tells Assange: “This is the first time I say this – We contacted […] the opposition to encourage them and to facilitate the process of dialogue with the regime. But they rejected dialogue. ..Right from the beginning we have had a regime that is willing to undergo reforms and prepared for dialogue. On the other side you have an opposition which is not prepared for dialogue and it is not prepared to accept reforms. All it wants is to bring down the regime. This is a problem.”
OK. So Nasrallah’s views aren’t exactly surprising. But what’s more interesting is Assange. There isn’t anything inherently shocking about his choice of Nasrallah for his first interview (although apparently Nasrallah asked him for the chat), but there is something deeply frustrating about Assagne’s continued disregard for any conventions of mainstream journalism.
To be fair, I admire Assange’s pluck, and the truth is that he has more courage than even some of the most brazen journalists I respect. There a few who are willing to thumb their nose at the most credible, and refuse to peddle the dubious compromises even the best journalists often make. But Assagne’s downfall has always been his depraved ethics and conspiracy theory thinking.
In all likelihood, it is his same sense of alienation from anything even remotely resembling the mainstream that has allowed him to persistently break important news stories. Yet in an ironic twist, those same suspicions of convention severely hinder his credibility. Interviewing Nasrallah is hardly a coup on the level of WikiLeaks—any self-respecting journalist, no matter her political leanings, would be shunned for turning down the chance. But since his primary motive seems to be to upend conventional wisdom—rather than tack to something closer to truth. His actual interviews therefore tend to simply invert common perceptions, if not just soft-pedal. What’s left is inconsequential drivel.