Risk, BBC 2 10pm, directed by Laura Poitras

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b095vnpx/risk

I didn’t like Julian Assange after watching this programme, but I didn’t have to spend six or seven years filming him and his cult of followers, much of the time in the Ecuadorian Embassy, as director Laura Poitras did. It’s unusual for a director to speak directly to the audience with her misgivings about Assange’s motives as Poitras does. It’s the equivalent of actors breaking the third wall, while in character, and speaking directly to the audience from the stage. Poitras feels she’s being played and used by Assange and I think she’s probably right.

Assange reminds me of a slicker version of the moron’s moron in the Whitehouse, Donald J Trump. Ironically, Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange is fingered as the patsy behind leaks from Hillary Clinton’s email server while she was Secretary of State in the Obama administration and prior to running in the Presidential election against Trump. In 2011, the opening shots of Risk set in Norfolk (England) has Julian Assage having one of his team phoning the Secretary of State and asking to speak to Hilary Clinton. It creates drama for the camera. But if I phone up Buckingham Palace and ask to speak to Prince Charles the likelihood of me being able to do so would be extremely slim. I’d be speaking to one of his  flunkies. Predictably, that’s what happens. Assanges’s flunky speaks on the phone to Clinton’s flunky. But it’s claimed as a moral victory for Assange, because as leverage he claims to have access to 700 000 classified documents, 250 000 United States documents classified as secret. ‘We don’t have a problem,’ he says. ‘You have a problem’ when we release them onto the internet, which he did.

Fast forward to June 2017.  James Comey then director of the FBI testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that there had been a sustained cyber-attack on the Whitehouse by a foreign power, Russia, that had close links with the Trump administration. Comey was sacked by Trump, allegedly for leaking state documents.

I googled a question. ‘What is Wikipedia?’   ‘Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia, written collaboratively by the people who use it. It is a special type of website designed to make collaboration easy, called a wiki.’

Wikipedia tells me about Wikileaks: [It is] an international non-profit organisation that publishes secret information, news leaks,[6] and classified media provided by anonymous sources.[7] Its website, initiated in 2006 in Iceland by the organisation Sunshine Press,[8] claims a database of 10 million documents in 10 years since its launch.[9] Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, is generally described as its founder, editor-in-chief, and director.[10]

 

The group has released a number of prominent document dumps. Early releases included documentation of equipment expenditures and holdings in the Afghanistan war and a report informing a corruption investigation in Kenya.[11] In April 2010, WikiLeaks released the so-called Collateral Murder footage from the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike in which Iraqi journalists were among those killed. Other releases in 2010 included the Afghan War Diary and the “Iraq War Logs”. The latter allowed the mapping of 109,032 deaths in “significant” attacks by insurgents in Iraq that had been reported to Multi-National Force – Iraq, including about 15,000 that had not been previously published.[12][13] In 2010, Wikileaks also released the U.S. State Department diplomatic “cables”, classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department. In April 2011, WikiLeaks began publishing 779 secret files relating to prisoners detained in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.[14]

 

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, WikiLeaks released emails and other documents from the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta suggesting impropriety against fellow Democratic Party candidate senator Bernie Sanders, among other issues. These releases caused significant embarrassment to the Clinton campaign, and to Hillary Clinton, and is speculated to have contributed to the Democratic Party’s loss’.

The motto of Google is famously, ‘don’t be evil.’ The motto of Wikileaks, ‘We open governments’. The promise of transparency is always an easy selling point. Assange was teenage cyber hacker uncovering those hidden secrets of government departments. These are the guys that are wearing the white hats, cyber writing what was wrong and bringing it to the light.

Google’s dictum, of course doesn’t extend to paying taxes to governments or allowing competition. Algorithms rule the world. What you don’t see is what you get. Google are appealing a 2.4 billion Euros fine by the European competition commissioner for among other things favouring, not surprisingly, its own online shopping services. Facebook were fined 110 million Euros for using Whatsapp accounts as a Trojan horse for data mining individual’s preferences.  Apple, the richest company in the world, which provides much of the hardware to allow the software to date mine, was fined 13 billion Euros for having an effective corporation tax of 0.005% in Ireland. If you want to know how much power Apple has the ‘Double Irish’ wasn’t that the Irish Government wasn’t being cheated of tax, but they claimed they didn’t want the fine levied. The openness of a free society does not extend to the largely American conglomerates that peddle power and claim no allegiance (in theory) to any one nation. Donald J Trump, of course, spent almost all of his campaign funds of $90 million on Facebook fake news and tweaking accounts of potential backers and voters.

When we look at the power of transparency in post truth society, what do we see looking back at us but our own image. Assange holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for six years, we know he’s a celebrity because we see Lady Ga Ga visiting him. The twin charges of rape in Sweden have been dropped. He claims this as a victory. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires (Satire VI, lines 347–348). It is literally translated as ‘Who will guard the guards themselves?’

Juvenal was referring to sex scandals. Like misogyny and a hatred of government that’s something that runs through these high-tech companies and is in the foreground of the moron’s moron and Assange’s cabal. The guards that the rich Roman’s paid to watch their wives and keep them having sex with others, were the ones they were fucking. Transparency is always a good thing, but let’s start with ourselves. Truth is often not plain and rarely simple. I’m with Assange for greater transparency, but I don’t want less government, I want more. I want to tax the Trumps and those hi-tech boys that deceive us and manipulate the truth and mix it with lies. If that sounds familiar, remember those things called bonds. A bond was something established something you could trust.  There derivatives financial weapons of mass destruction. They were in plain sight. No need to hide them. Transparency wasn’t an issue. Complexity was. But somehow, in one of the richest countries in the world, the poorest members who had the least stake in the 2008 implosion, took the biggest hit and took the blame. Welfare. In a Post-Truth world propaganda has its roots in a lack of transparency, but more in a lack of power. Those without power know what’s coming and how they’re going to be hurt, but can’t do anything about it.  Assange might have opened up a Pandora box, but if you look who is in the White House and look at Russia and Turkey and Syria, what has he done? I don’t know. But I don’t like him. That’s my truth. We don’t judge things rationally. Again and again it’s been proven empirically we feel first and think when we need to later and construct a truth around it.

 

National Treasure, Channel 4, 9pm.

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http://www.channel4.com/programmes/national-treasure/on-demand/61953-001

‘They think I’m fucking Jimmy Saville,’ says Paul Finchley (Robbie Coltrane) when he’s arrested for rape.

A writer could have a lot of fun with this four-part series, as I’m sure Jack Thorne does. The litmus test for National Treasure is whether the named and shamed celebrity such as Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris or indeed our very own Cliff (although the tabloids are playing coy on that one) was allowed to hob-nob with the Royals and had Prince Charles, or poor old Diana, on speed-dial or Messenger. Oscar Wilde, who knows a thing or two about how fickle celebrity was, tended to rattle on about: ‘All that I desire to point out is the general principle that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.’

Thorne sets up the before and after of the celebrity death spiral. I was a bit confused at first. Viewers see Finchley hobbling with a walking stick behind a glamourous lady host in evening dress, in what to me looked like cells in a prison, and because I knew the nub of the story, I thought this was him getting jailed, with possibly some kind of hallucinatory episode. But it was more prosaic and simply the backstage setting of a London theatre. Finchley was shown hyperventilating before he went onstage to present a lifetime achievement award to his comedy partner and he deadpans, in all seriousness, that it wasn’t him getting the award and that wasn’t fair. Nobody loves him, but of course they do, they just love his partner more, but he’s still in the business, with a daytime quiz show and his agent is still trying to cut deals with the big hitters. This is the before.

Before anything happens normality is a big house in London, but not too big, he still bumps into his neighbour taking his bin out. The grandkids are bickering and his wife, Marie (Julie Walters) is keeping an eye on them. Later, we learn he’s been cheating on her for years, and she’s shown to be a religious maniac because she says the Hail Mary and prays. Finchley when he stays the night with a prostitute laments Marie’s loss of beauty and gives us a Wildean epigram about women being beautiful in a way that men never are. Quite so old boy, quite so, hide all the mirrors.

Now we are in the after territory, all that’s gone before changes shape. In particular, when Finchley visits his beautiful but troubled daughter, Dee (Andrea Riseborough) she rambles on about a dream, or vision, she had about her Dad and her husband, which makes you think that the trouble with the daughter, may be dad. Incest. Finchley seems keen to establish that she’s got the money he sent her for her keep . But this may be the red herring.

Bang, bang, bang it goes and ends with a bang, with police trawling for other cases and finding them. One of them being the baby sitter, which pisses off even the saintly, or dim, Marie, depending on what point of view you take to her wifely duties. Finchley said he didn’t do it. Does anybody believe him? The real scoop would be if he does, indeed, prove to be innocent. Somehow, I doubt it, there’s more chance of getting ten minutes of drama without a break for adverts.

 

Holocaust Memorial Day, BBC 2, 7pm

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The BBC commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz, 70 years ago, the site of almost one million murdered, but also a symbol of  the six million other Jews killed and hundreds of thousands others killed in a genocidal purge of the pure Aryan-Nazi race that took place in a ring of hundreds of other camps.

As a Catholic the service itself was one I was familiar with. The solemn intonation, readings from extracts of Primo Levi, If This is a Man. Prince Charles bumbling on about the three lines scratched into a wall at Auschwitz: ‘I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. I believe in love even when I don’t feel it. I believe in God even when he is silent.’ Then there was the music of Thereseinstadt sung by fresh-faced children of every creed an affirmation that even though the body may suffer and burn away the joy of creation of music and art will transcend self and for that moment shine.

I get all that. I understand the paradox of man being a flimsy thing, yet somehow indestructible. I understand that when the rule of law is subverted and twisted the oppressor and the oppressed can share the same body and it becomes literally every man for themselves. Then we had the  wisdom of David Cameron.

As a holocaust survivor kept repeating: ‘Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’

http://unbound.co.uk/books/lily-poole