Video: Colbert smacks down Wikileaks founder over "Collateral Murder" video

Or does he? Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite believes Stephen Colbert to be in “hardcore journalism” mode in this, as does Rusty over at The Jawa Report. I’m a little skeptical, mainly because the entire Colbert schtick is to parody the kind of questioning liberals think conservatives use. However, as MacNicol points out, the argument he uses is the correct one and the Right one, so to speak. Pay attention to the beginning, but don’t stop there:

Julian Assange
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MacNicol gives the journalist’s assessment of Colbert’s piece:

After a sort of jokey opening in which he had his face pixelated and voice altered Colbert got down to business.

“Let’s talk about this footage that has gotten you so much attention recently. This is footage of an Apache helicopter attack in 2007. The army described this as a group that gave resistance at the time, that doesn’t seem to be happening. But there are armed men in the group, they did find a rocket propelled grenade among the group, the Reuters photographers who were regrettably killed, were not identified…You have edited this tape, and you have given it a title called ‘collateral murder.’ That’s not leaking, that’s a pure editorial.”

And that’s not satire, that’s hardcore journalism. Assange, meanwhile, did not appear to be at all put off by the tone of the questions, admitting that the point of the video — including the editing and the title — was to gain as much political impact as possible. In fact, he goes on to point out that the full unedited material is available to the public in order that they may draw their own conclusions. “I admire that,” says Colbert, noting that by putting ‘Collateral Damage’ on the first thing the public see “you have properly manipulated the audience into an emotional state you want before something goes on the air.” Snap. Again Assange is unfazed; this is a man who clearly believes in his mission.

Rusty has some sharp things to say about Julian Assange and his own dedication to the truth:

Wow, what a liar Julian Assange is. Again, lying by omissions and slight of hand. Maybe the word “RPG” wasn’t used before the go signal for firing on the insurgents, that might technically be true. … It’s at this point that they are given permission to engage. Weapons were identified, an RPG could be clearly seen, and AK-47s were identified before permission to fire was granted.

Again, the founder of Wiki Leak isn’t technically lying when he says the “word RPG” isn’t used, but this is a distraction meant to fool the casual observer into thinking that the order to fire was given before weapons were seen.

My own take on the Wikileaks imbroglio can be found here, and nothing Assange says here changes any of it. There was a firefight in the vicinity, which is why the gunships were up in the air looking for threats. As Rusty notes, the weapons can be clearly seen, and the man with the RPG can also be clearly seen attempting to set up a firing position around the corner as an ambush. He’s not carrying that long tube as an exercise tool for a light jog with his friends in New Baghdad. The pilots and gunners considered that a threat to American troops, quite reasonably, and conducted their mission accordingly. The only people who don’t understand that are those who conceive war as some kind of law-enforcement exercise with cooler weapons. It’s not. War means killing your enemy and breaking his will to fight, which is why war is hell and shouldn’t be entered into lightly.

As for Colbert’s performance here, I’d like to think he was being serious, but to be honest, I’m not enough of an expert on the show to know. Whether or not he was, he asked the right questions and derived the right analysis of the dishonest method Assange used to promote the clip and himself. If Colbert was on the level, then kudos to him for an excellent takedown.

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