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The 200k Challenge Live Webcast

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. And welcome to the first Real News Annual Webathon. And we say first annual because I think we’ll be doing it again next year. So the issue here is we want to raise $200,000 by the end of December 9. This will cover about four months of our work. A very generous donor has agreed to match, dollar for dollar, your donations. So essentially we have to raise $100,000 to gain another $100,000. So your donations will be doubled. The other main objective of these evenings over the next three nights (and we’ll be going live tonight, tomorrow night, and Thursday night) is for you to get involved. It’s a chance for you to ask questions to us at The Real News and/or of our guests. And pretty soon, joining us will be Ray McGovern and Gareth Porter. We’re–they’re going to talk about WikiLeaks. And you can check the whole schedule on our website. You’ll see it on the home page. Underneath the banner there’ll be a link for the schedule. But let’s get to callers right away. So now joining us is Jane from Toronto. Jane, are you there?

JANE, CALLER, TORONTO: Yes, I am. Hi, Paul.

JAY: Hi. Thanks for calling. So go ahead, Jane.

JANE: Yeah. My question for you was: with MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, Amazon cutting off their connection with WikiLeaks and stopping the transfer of donations, how do you think that might play out down the road for alternative media sites like yourself?

JAY: Yeah, that’s a good question.

JANE: Do you think the US government or other governments might put pressure on similar streams that would block up and slow down or limit your ability to function on the Net?

JAY: I think it’s a complicated question, really, ’cause it’s–the bigger question is: where is politics going to go, particularly where we are in North America or in Europe? Right now people are already dealing with these kinds of issues in, say, China or Iran or some other countries where you have very overt Internet censorship and Internet control. There’s a lot of efforts being made to go there already, here in the United States, especially post-Patriot Act. I think something specific about WikiLeaks is, because they essentially broke down non-journalistic barriers, in a sense you could say the information was, quote-unquote, “stolen” or leaked at a scale that has never been seen before. That sort of created a situation where they’re trying to figure out in these countries, like North America and Europe, how to crack down in a situation they’ve never had to before. They’ve dealt with leaks, you know, on a much smaller scale to a newspaper, and sometimes they do go after newspapers and journalists, and some journalists have gone to jail refusing to give up sources. In the longer term we are also going to have to face up to the issue of perhaps needing some other kind of servers in other parts of the world. The biggest problem is what you raise, the banking system issues, the Visa cards, because that’s–will be the most difficult to get around. But a lot depends where the political motion goes. If there really is a kind of people’s movement in these countries, then I think it’s–it would be much more difficult, let’s say, to crack down in the way that we’re seeing with WikiLeaks. But one way or the other, I think if alternative media like us keep fighting and keep trying to do good journalism, courageous journalism–. We’ve seen, before, attempts to suppress this kind of activity usually leads to more support for it. So we’ll face what we have to face. But certainly when you’re this dependent on electronic banking and Internet, which are all pipelines and mechanisms that are controlled by, you know, major corporate interests or governments, it does make us vulnerable to that. It would be the same if we were on television or on cable. So if other callers want to come in–. So now joining us is Greg from Virginia. Greg, go ahead. Okay, I don’t think Greg’s right with me yet, so let me talk–.

GREG: Hello?

JAY: Oh, there’s Greg. Hi, Greg. Thanks for joining us.

GREG: I can’t hear you, Paul.

JAY: Okay. I hear you, Greg. Greg’s not hearing me, apparently. And we’re just getting started with our webathon, and this is a little bit new in terms of technology for us.

GREG: I can’t hear anything. Hello?

JAY: Okay. Someone on my control booth is going to have to tell Greg that, yeah, we’re going to call you back, Greg. So, the whole issue of WikiLeaks, we were talking about a question earlier about what’s the responsibility of WikiLeaks itself and what’s the responsibility of people who have downloaded the wiki-encrypted file. Does that mean they are somehow susceptible if they were to cross US borders? I think what we’re seeing here with WikiLeaks is something actually quite profound. It’s not just WikiLeaks that we’ve seen it, but it’s in another area, which is digital technology. It’s exploding all the old property relationships. Copyright in music and in videos is breaking down. The ability to control documents and the flow of–as we can see from WikiLeaks, even emails–people don’t understand, I don’t think, the extent to which people have–governments have access to people’s emails. If I understand it correctly, if you have your email parked on a Yahoo! or a Gmail, any government would have access simply by request and without warrant to those emails. In other words, you lose your expectation of privacy when your email is not on your own controlled server, where there would be a requirement and warrant. But what that means is that the new technologies are exploding the old property relationships. And in some ways it’s interesting that–there was a conversation on television the other day, I think on the Fareed Zakaria show, that a lot of people simply won’t write down anything anymore, and that’s the issue of–. Like, people that have been through litigation know that if you’re in any expectation of litigation on anything, you don’t send emails to anybody about anything; you do everything over the telephone. So it’s interesting. What WikiLeaks may do, in terms of this kind of diplomacy and these kinds of communications, is people may simply stop writing down things, which I guess will make it more difficult to have transparency. Now joining us: Greg from Virginia. Greg, go ahead.

GREG: Hi, Paul. How you doing tonight?

JAY: Very good. Thanks for joining us, Greg.

GREG: Paul, I’ve got a comment. Jon Stewart, you know, had that real successful rally on the Mall about a month, month and a half ago. And I was just wondering if you’d comment on the irony about a fake news personality being able to attract so much attention, and those like you that are working so hard to bring the real news are finding such–struggling financially, I guess. Would you just comment on that for us?

JAY: Yeah, sure. Well, of course, Jon Stewart’s not the first fake news personality to attract a large audience. Glenn Beck did it before him–although I guess Jon Stewart knows he’s a fake news personality, and perhaps Glen Beck doesn’t, but I suspect he does, too. Well, I think what we’re seeing there, amongst other things, is, first and foremost, the power of television. While the Internet is growing in significance, I think right now only a television personality could attract those kinds of crowds. I was talking to someone the other day who’s very involved in social media, and he was talking about how the Tea Party movement was able to gain so much strength, you know, without really even having a website that people visited, mostly through social media, you know, Facebooks and emails and some, you know, real-world gatherings, but no real centralized web presence. And I said, yeah, maybe they did it through social media, but they also had a television network. And television is still where the mass audience is, which is very important for us, that in this coming year, 2011, I think we really have to break into–onto television in a big way. And especially, I think, with the recession coming, the growth of digital, old TV, Web convergence that we’ve all been waiting for, what you’re seeing happening now, with Apple TV and other forms of, ways of getting broadband signals onto your living room television set, but the–it’s still about television. And the need to have our own not just show but really our own channel is every bit as much pressing as it was when we started the Real News project, you know, in 2005. In fact, I think it’s going to be easier to get on now than back then. With digital TV there’s a lot more channels available. Our big issue is how to monetize this. Donations are an important part of the revenue stream, but it’s not enough. And so we’re working on some ways to do some kind of merchandising that will have to be do with merchandising green, fair trade, union-made products, so that we can combine a revenue and a merchandising model to monetize television traffic. But the other thing about the Stewart show, I think, that’s–and why Stewart was successful is he had a pretty easy message to take, and he had a television platform to do it. But perhaps later in the evening we can talk a little bit more–if someone wants to ask a question about this–is this whole issue of one nation, are we really one nation or not, and, you know, is it really just a question of the right and the left or the conservatives and the liberals having a nicer dialog without screaming at each other. I think that’s a pretty erroneous message, and maybe we can talk about that later in the evening. Now joining us–tell me again? Jill from Denver. Jill, go ahead.

JILL: Hi. Okay. In the published documents released so far, WikiLeaks deliberately deleted names and other sensitive information, specifically for the protection of the named people and those associated with them. Much of what I’ve read in these documents with the secret classification is common knowledge found in our newspapers and magazines, and it appears that there’s an exaggeration of the sensitivity of what’s in these documents. And, frankly, it appears the overzealousness of our government is a rebirth of McCarthyism from the early 1950s. Now, my question is: what is the justification and the reasoning to support our government’s intent to prosecute Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for espionage?

JAY: Well, this is a good question to ask our guests that are coming in any minute, Gareth Porter and Ray McGovern, who’ve been doing a lot of work in this area. I’ll give my own take on it, but I’ll ask them–.

JILL: You’re going to–is this recorded, and you’ll–they’ll get to it later? Or–?

JAY: No, they’re going to be here in a few minutes, and I’ll ask your question again to them. And–but I’ll–.

JILL: Yeah, I’m really curious, because I think it’s more frightening, the reaction of our government, than the WikiLeaks themselves.

JAY: Yeah, I think there’s a certain–first of all, it’s a certain kind of principle for them, even though they created this SIPR Network, which apparently almost somewhere close to 2.5 million people had access to this information. So they would have to have thought that if you have 2.5 million people having access, it’s likely to leak. It doesn’t seem such a stretch that they should think it should happen. But there is stuff in–.

JILL: I’m losing you.

JAY: Huh? Well–.

JILL: You’re fading. Are you calling from Canada?

JAY: No, we we’re in Washington, DC. But maybe the best thing to do is to hang up and then watch it on the website.

JILL: Okay. Now you’re coming through loud and clear. Okay. How do I watch it on the website?

JAY: You go to, and it’s right on the website.

JILL: Okay. Will do. Thank you for calling.

JAY: Okay. Thank you. And I’ll just continue for a minute here. I think the principle is that these are supposed to be secret documents or confidential documents, and they’re going to crack down very seriously on [Bradley] Manning, the guy that supposedly leaked this stuff. They don’t like WikiLeaks. They don’t like the fact that stuff that’s supposed to be secret is not–is out there. And they’re certainly people that like to control everything, and certainly their own information. And there is embarrassing stuff in this. There may be some things that they really are concerned about. And we have yet to really know what’s in all of this 250,000. I think also Julian Assange’s threat or promise that the next batch is going to be about the banking system, that could be rather revealing if it really–if all the kind of inside information of what–how banks decided to speculate and make their money–I would think that would really scare the hell out of a lot of people, including governments and banks and other people, and it may be that in reality they’re more concerned about what’s going to come when the banking disclosures come. But just generally speaking, this just is not supposed to happen, and they’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I think they’re sending a message, not just to Julian, but they’ve sent a message to, obviously, Amazon, who took it down, PayPal, who won’t process. And this is what I think the caller was alluding to in terms of kind of McCarthyite atmosphere. I think the most important point here is there’s been no due process, there’s no trial, there’s–no one’s been charged yet, there’s actually no evidence anyone committed a crime. Major newspapers released this material, and they’re going to have great difficulty trying to go after them, but perhaps it’s a shot across their bow as well. So–but we’re going to–tomorrow night we’re going to do a panel all about the issue of what Amazon’s action of taking down the material and what that means for an open Internet. Are North America and Europe headed towards a more Iranian or Chinese style control of the Internet? And is Amazon taking down the WikiLeaks material? Kind of the way–the form it might take, not necessarily a direct law banning something, but just so much pressure put on private companies. And so much of the infrastructure is privatized that if private companies simply self-censor themselves out of fear, you could wind up with a closed-down Internet without ever having to pass a new law. Okay. Now joining us from Saskatoon is Bobby. Do I have the name right? Bobby? Bob?

BOB: Hi, Paul.

JAY: Hey, Bob from Saskatoon. Go ahead, Bob.

BOB: I’m wondering what your comments are about what’s–what I see is a trend in governments today to take an ideological approach towards policy rather than an evidence-based approach. In Canada we’ve seen things like the giving up the long-form census–form and things like that. Ray McGovern was talking a few nights ago about the intelligence that he was giving and he was managing that was being passed on to the American government, and they just were completely ignoring him.

JAY: Yeah, I think–well, I guess it’s partly two things. First of all, a lot of what they say is for public consumption; it’s not what they actually base real policy on. I think when the central bank in Canada or the Fed in the United States, when they make a decision, they do it as much on data points as they can. The people that are funding most of the bigger political donations, the corporate donations and such, both in US and Canada, you can’t run a major company if you don’t believe in evidence and you don’t believe in facts. So I think part of this is is that what’s given the public in rhetoric isn’t based on evidence and facts; it’s based on either what will get votes or what will persuade people to support policies that are perhaps not in their interest. But they believe on the whole, especially in economic policy, that they are basing it on facts. But the issue is that facts are not above the difference in interest. So, like, you always get the question of for whom: in whose interests are you looking at the facts? And you can look at the same set of facts and decide, okay, what we need now is austerity, we need cuts in social programs, because if your interest is primarily that of a bondholder or if your interest is primarily that as someone who has a big company with thousands of employees, then if something lowers wages, you’re going to think that’s good, you’re going to think high unemployment ain’t so bad as long as you still have enough market to be profitable, as long as that’s–if that turns out to be a pressure on lower wages. You know, it really is about for whom do you look at the facts when you make real decisions, and then over here it’s about what’s rhetoric for public consumption. And this is the biggest problem, I think, in the whole discourse about public policy is that we don’t face an obvious fact–and this is the number-one fact that media and politicians in general don’t want to discuss, and that fact is–in the United States, as an example, they love to say this is one nation. Well, anyone knows this isn’t one nation if you look at it. The elites certainly know this is a class society. And even in elections in both countries, you know, people will talk about the middle-class. Well–and people who watch The Real News have heard me say this before: if you’ve got a middle, then you got a lower and you got an upper, which means you’re in a class society. So there’s no set of facts independent from whose interest do you want to assess the facts from. And that’s what doesn’t get talked about openly in the media or in news. And that’s what we’re trying to do at The Real News. I mean, truth is, I think, you know, if a billionaire wants to look at this set of facts and come to this conclusion, what we need is austerity, and so on, I mean, why shouldn’t they? That’s their interest. It’s just about time the rest of us looked at these set of facts and decided what’s in our interest. So we’re going to take a very short break here, and right after the break we’ll be joined by investigative journalist Gareth Porter and Ray McGovern, who’s an ex-CIA Analyst, and we’re going to be talking about WikiLeaks. So please join us in just a few seconds–we’ll probably be about three, four minutes, and then we’ll be back.

End of Transcript

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