It’s not exactly a secret that I’ve long been a fan of professional wrestling. These days, this also means being a fan of Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and its current top star John Cena. But not every fan likes Cena. In fact, some downright hate him. Though packaged as the ultimate good guy—whose say-your-prayers-and-take-your-vitamins appeal worked perfectly for Hulk Hogan two decades ago—many fans have come to resent Cena as someone they simply don’t want to accept. For every fan who cheers him, there are always two more who jeer him—vigorously. For the life of me, I cannot understand the vitriol. But I do understand the power of established narrative.
Wikileaks is the organization the entire political class and media establishment told us we must hate. When the whistleblower outfit famously made its mark in November of 2010 by releasing thousands of classified US government cables—which revealed everything from Saudi Arabia’s desire for an American strike on Iran to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s attempts to obtain the DNA and credit card information of United Nations officials—Washington went into immediate demonization mode. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange a “high-tech terrorist.” Vice President Joe Biden would reiterate McConnell’s charge. Clinton said Wikileaks’ actions were “an attack on the international community.” Marc Thiessen wrote in the Washington Post: “WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise.”
I distinctly remember talking to a family member about Assange in the heat of last year’s Wikileaks controversy. “He sounds like a really bad dude,” he said.
The official narrative had been established: Wikileaks was the enemy and Assange was a terrorist. But what actual danger did any Wikileaks revelation ever pose, then or now? Was it a risk to “national security” to reveal in detail that the Afghanistan War was not going particularly well? Were liberals simply embarrassed that Wikileaks revealed it was the Obama administration that helped kill the probe into Bush-era torture abuses? Did conservatives really not want to know that the Obama administration bullied scientists and foreign governments that might have undermined the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009? Did anyone really think it was wrong to learn that Vatican officials were reluctant to cooperate in sex abuse investigations?
In late January of this year, MSNBC thought it proper to run the following headline during the revolution in Egypt: “WikiLeaks: Mubarak lets Egyptians suffer to avoid ‘chaos.” In fact, the news about the soon to be ousted Egyptian president’s many abuses ran everywhere—primarily thanks to Wikileaks. A few months later, I remember watching a CNN report about the sinister behavior of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s sons. The corner of my television screen read “Source: Wikileaks.”
Had MSNBC and CNN become “terrorist” outfits? Or had Wikileaks become a credible news source?
Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald has noted that “publishing classified information about what governments do is not actually a crime. Every day, media outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN publish government secrets.” To date, no government, anywhere, has found Wikileaks guilty of criminal activity. A regular defender of Wikileaks, Greenwald also noticed the consistent establishment narrative concerning Assange’s organization last year: “I’ve done many television and radio segments about WikiLeaks and what always strikes me is how indistinguishable—identical—are the political figures and the journalists. There’s just no difference in how they think… how completely they’ve ingested and how eagerly they recite the same anti-WikiLeaks, ‘Assange = Saddam’ script.”
Script indeed. Truth be told, John Cena is one of the best wrestlers alive today. Such performers are typically judged among hardcore fans by weighing their actual in-ring skills against their microphone talent and overall entertainment abilities. Cena is almost a ten on each front—something that should be undeniable and yet people who logically should know better deny it regularly. But Cena hatred has little to do with logic, or as WWE legend “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels said in a June interview: “There isn’t anyone who puts in more time than John Cena. The only thing that works against John, and I tell you this with love…..you hardcore guys just decided to dislike him.”
The political establishment decided to dislike, discredit and destroy Julian Assange not because he is a bad journalist—but precisely because he is a good journalist who exposes bad leaders. The campaign to destroy Wikileaks last year was never about logic, but creating a bulletproof narrative to protect establishment interests. Wikileaks has said it takes great care to not release any information that might actually harm innocent parties, as any decent journalist outfit would. Today, it continues to do much of the work the mainstream media won’t—even as those same outlets now cite Wikileaks as a respectable source.
In defending Wikileaks last December, I wrote: “Government officials who now attack Wikileaks don’t fear national endangerment, they fear personal embarrassment.” The reason you don’t hear much about Wikileaks six months later is because it never really was a threat and to bring it up again is only to relive the embarrassment suffered by those in power.
In orchestrating such false narratives, political and media elites always know exactly what they’re doing—and in retrospect, concerning Wikileaks, hardcore political observers should’ve known what the establishment was doing too.