Tonight on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert interviewed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. We were wondering how Colbert would handle a subject as serious as a video showing 12 people being killed. Well, he handled it pretty seriously.
Unlike Jon Stewart's often-substantial sit-downs, Colbert's interviews usually tend more towards the frivolous. But his chat with Wikileaks founder and editor Julian Assange actually revealed some new insight into the notoriously mercurial Australian and the organization he runs.
One constant criticism of Wikileaks' helicopter video has been that its heavy editorial slant clashed with the supposed objectivity of the material they presented. Colbert challenged Assange on this point: "You have edited this tape, and you have given it a title called 'collateral murder.' That's not leaking, that's a pure editorial." Assange responded that Wikileaks promises their sources that they will "try and get the maximum possible political impact for the material the give us." According to Assange's formulation, Wikileaks is essentially an advocacy group whose strength lies in its ability to secure incriminating documents.
Assange also elaborated on Wikileaks' earlier, tweeted claims that Robert Gates was "a liar" for suggesting the troops in the video were in a "combat situation." When Colbert brought up the combat argument, Assange replied: "we have classified records to show that all there was... was a report of small arms fire," Assange said. "28 minutes later, after circling around the suburbs of Baghdad, the helicopters identified these men and killed them."
Colbert's blow-hard character usually just inspires his (mostly-liberal) guests to fall back on tired talking points. But tonight his criticism seemed actually reasonable, and it provided new understanding into Wikileaks and the hybrid form of journalism-advocacy it's pioneering. We'll be able to put this understanding to use soon, when Wikileaks unveils video of a U.S. air strike which killed dozens of civilians in Afghanistan.
(Oh, and before the interview Colbert pretended like he was going to play the helicopter video, but instead showed footage of kittens. That was funny!)
Here's the full interview:<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Exclusives - Julian Assange Unedited Interview
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