Times are good for Nick Davies of the Guardian. Thanks to the trove of documents Julian Assange brought his way, he gets to be played by the ultimate cool character actor David Thewlis in the new Wikileaks movie Fifth Estate.
And yet Nick Davies’ continuing role in this affair is chiefly to discredit Wikileaks and Assange at very opportunity and play up his and the Guardian’s own glorious contribution. Here he is doing it again today:
In a film muddied by fictional detail, the new Spielberg production Fifth Estate’s portrayal of the Guardian’s work with Wikileaks is accurate in describing the running dispute between journalists who wanted to redact documents to make them safe and Julian Assange who wanted no such restraint. We ran dozens of stories, based on the biggest ever leak of military and intelligence material. We caused plenty of political embarrassment but we did so without jeopardising anybody’s safety or damaging any nation’s security.
And yet I can’t help feeling that Nick Davies is playing a role – doubtless unwittingly – he is familiar with from earlier examples of whistle-blowing confrontations with the security services. In the same piece, he describes how it works:
Which brings me back to the Daily Mail and a cautionary tale from the experience of the former MI5 officer [Cathy] Massiter. When first she tried to sound the alarm internally about the service’s targeting, for example, of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, her bosses told her (with a gentle combination of sexism and Stalinism) that she was just being emotional and needed to see MI5’s approved psychiatrist, which she did. When later she blew the whistle, MI5 used a compliant Tory MP as messenger to carry the wretched smear that she’d been treated for mental illness. You’ll guess which newspaper put that on its front page.
Yes, Nick, the lesson is clear: we all need to be wary of those who would smear others trying to free us from the surveillance state.