In advance of tonight's documentary WikiSecrets, the PBS show Frontline has released an exhaustive recreation of Bradley Manning's Facebook page, in an attempt to illuminate the mysterious figure currently incarcerated for leaking government secrets to Julian Assange's pro-transparency organization. Manning, an Army private, was open online about his homosexuality despite "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and was not shy about sharing his political beliefs either. Welcome to the future, with Facebook as a window to the soul.
A website called The Final Edition launched today as a mock version of the New York Times website with the giant headline, "The New York Times, World's Newspaper of Record, Closes Its Doors Forever." (The lead photo shows the Times building in flames.) In layout, the homepage looks exactly like the Times', but all of the sections are crossed out and other headlines include, "Canine Date Rape: An Issue That Can't Be Woofed Away." According to a press release, the site is debuting as "a no-holds-barred parody" of the Times, but will transition more generally into "a satire site with teeth," presumably to compete with The Onion. But Tony Hendra, the man behind the site and long a perpetrator of media gags, may have a special reason to target the Times directly: In 2004, the paper published a huge feature in which his daughter accused him of molesting her when she was a child. More inside Press Clips, our daily media column.
Earlier today, we reported on the new information available about Guantanamo Bay, as some of the world's largest news organizations began publishing piles of previously classified documents about more than 700 prisoners detained there since 2002. The information was leaked to Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks organization, but the New York Times and the Guardian, both of which pissed off Assange personally and have ended their working relationships with the polarizing figure, also had scoops of their own based on the same info, adding a complex media component to an already multifaceted story. Yes, Obama promised to close Guantanamo and hasn't, all while human rights violations continue, but in Press Clips, our daily media column, we'll spell out the behind-the-scenes drama in publishing this week's leak.
On Sunday night, various media outlets like the New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, McClatchy, the Guardian and the Telegraph published numerous classified files and accompanying in-depth reports about the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay. WikiLeaks, Julian Assange's pro-transparency organization, received the leaks and offered them to organizations like NPR and the Post, likely due to ongoing issues with previous publication partners like the Times and Guardian (stemming from personal dramas with Assange), who got the info regardless from "another source." But now that it's all out there, a fairly clear picture is starting to emerge, not that it wasn't known already: Guantanamo Bay is a really screwed up place. And it's still open.
Julian Assange joins U.S. President Barack Obama, actor Colin Firth and designer Tom Ford on a list of the 20 best dressed men in the world from the French magazine Le Figaro Madame, as reported by CNN Mexico. Placement on the list is something of a coup for Assange, whose look was described derisively by New York Times executive editor Bill Keller in his tell-all account of working with WikiLeaks. Assange, when he first met with Times men in London, was "lanky, with pale skin, gray eyes and a shock of white hair that seizes your attention... alert but disheveled, like a bag lady walking in off the street, wearing a dingy, light-colored sport coat and cargo pants, dirty white shirt, beat-up sneakers and filthy white socks that collapsed around his ankles. He smelled as if he hadn't bathed in days." As he became a "cult figure" with "his hair dyed and styled" he began wearing "fashionably skinny suits and ties." Now the transformation has paid off in magazine love. Additionally, Assange is included in "The 2011 Time 100" as one of "the most influential people in the world."
The battle between Julian Assange and New York Times executive editor Bill Keller took place in person -- well, almost -- over the weekend, for the first time since Keller escalated the beef in a New York Times Magazine tell-all. (There, he called Assange "arrogant, thin-skinned, conspiratorial and oddly credulous," and said he smelled bad.) At U.C. Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Symposium, though, Assange made his presence known via Skype, while Keller too participated in the discussion moderated by Slate's Jack Shafer. SF Weekly's Matt Smith was there and has a run-down of the media drama, including an accusation from Assange that the Times buckled to please Pentagon's in a seemingly unethical way.
Assange, happier times
A new video interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is available today from Australia's ABC1, in which the troubled transparency advocate, who is in the U.K. awaiting an extradition hearing this summer, speaks on the current status of his anti-secrecy organization. "Even when I was in prison for 10 days we continued publishing," he says, insisting that WikiLeaks was "structured that way quite deliberately to avoid interruption to our publishing, although certainly there has been very aggressive efforts to do so, but also to provide disincentive for decapitation attacks on the organization." As would be expected of the man, Assange totally takes issue with his interviewer if he disagrees with the premise of a question. He thinks he is, in fact, very well liked, thank you very much.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently held by the British court in a "country manor" as he awaits extradition hearings this summer, spoke on April 4 to PBS Frontline's Martin Smith, insisting that "WikiLeaks is accelerating its activities with new releases soon to come." Smiths says he and Assange talked "for several hours," but the richest teaser tidbit Frontline is offering ahead of their WikiSecrets documentary, airing May 24, is about Assange's beef with Sweden, where he could be extradited to in order to face allegations of rape and sexual assault. "Crowns of Sweden," Assange explained of his "bright blue socks" with yellow crowns. "I walk on them every day." Sassy and slightly pompous, as expected! [PBS]