Continuing the discussion from Inadvertently confirmed: Julian Assange charged under seal. Press Freedom at risk worldwide:
Sums it all up pretty well, I’d say:
In this case, the adversary in the US crosshairs has been not only Julian Assange and Wikileaks, but the global populations that Wikileaks seeks to inform. It is our own vulnerabilities – the vulnerabilities in the information processing systems of all human beings – that have been leveraged and exploited in order to undermine and discredit Wikileaks.
Human reality-perception, moreover, as I shall explore more fully in a subsequent article, is an inherently vulnerable beast. It is driven by a range of unconscious psychological influences that are ripe for manipulation.
One such vulnerability, upon which the whole Assange smear campaign depends, concerns the narrative nature of human decision-making. Although human beings perceive ourselves as rational thinkers who weigh evidence logically and carefully, the truth is that we are inclined to understand the world, and particularly the social world, through stories.
Rather than reaching verdicts by carefully weighing facts and evidence, for instance, jurors have been found to decide guilt or innocence by constructing narratives. Using the information presented to them in court, they create stories that weave together what they have been told.
The story that most fluently ties the evidence together in a coherent narrative, which is consistent with jurors’ existing knowledge and world views, becomes the version of the case that they are most willing to accept. Whether the accused ends up as a villain or protagonist in that tale shapes verdicts of innocence and guilt.
The implication for smear campaigns, such as that against Julian Assange, is that in the court of public opinion, a smear-artist’s chances are only as good as the guilty narratives that he or she can weave. Casting the target in an unsympathetic role, as an antagonist, is key.