In private chats, including the WikiLeaks + 10 chat group, the official WikiLeaks account (the only place other than the website authorized to make “official WikiLeaks statements“) establishes a pattern of making racist and antisemitic remarks.
WikiLeaks’ private use of the ((( ))) brackets was made exactly one month after WikiLeaks came under fire for appearing to suggest that their critics were Jewish.
The next day, WikiLeaks sent a tweet that echoed their denials that they referenced the (((brackets))) in an antisemitic sense, claiming it was becoming “a tribalist designator for establishment climbers.” WikiLeaks’ explicitly connecting the (((brackets))) to someone being Jewish seems to undermine this denial. While WikiLeaks may be accurate in stating that Satter is Jewish and was involved in pushing back against perceived antisemitism, WikiLeaks connected Satter being “a rat” and involved in the (((brackets))) issue to being Jewish – an association that is inherently antisemitic due to it being used to dismiss and discredit him.
This is not the only instance where WikiLeaks went out of their way to mention that a critic of theirs was Jewish or had connections to Israel. When WikiLeaks was informed that Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson criticized their Saudi Cables, WikiLeaks responded by asserting that “his wife is an Israeli diamond miner. Connected to the arms industry.”
WikiLeaks’ issues with Israel and Jewish people appears to extend into editorial bias. In 2017, WikiLeaks tweeted a link to an article written by the author. According to WikiLeaks’ tweet, the U.S. reclassified files “to hide Israel’s involvement in Iran-Contra.” This was a misrepresentation of both the article and the documents cited, which clearly showed that Israel’s role was still acknowledged even in the partially reclassified documents. Neither the article nor the source materials ascribed intent to the reclassified documents, and the article explicitly stated that some reclassified information involved “the extent of CIA and Israel’s involvement.” In the context of WikiLeaks’ dismissal of criticism due to connections to Israel, and their repeated antisemitic use of (((brackets))), it’s difficult to accept this as a good faith editorial error. This particular anti-Israel distortion from WikiLeaks’ has received over 1,600 retweets.
Jewish and Israeli heritage is not the only instance in the chats where WikiLeaks used someone’s heritage as a way of discrediting or dismissing a perceived criticism of WikiLeaks. In response to one of WikiLeaks’ most active supporters quoting a passage from Jonathan Franzen’s fictional book, Purity. (It seems likely that WikiLeaks meant to refer to Franzen’s grandfather, who emigrated from Sweden. Franzen’s father reportedly grew up in Minnesota.)
In some instances, WikiLeaks makes sweeping statements about Swedes. In October 2015, for instance, WikiLeaks’ blames the absence of a story in the Swedish press on “the ability of that culture to ‘play the Swede’.”
A comment made the next year repeats the sentiment, calling Sweden “a vile little society” because they “refuse to talk about the JA/WL angle.”
While some of WikiLeaks’ criticisms of Sweden could, on their own, be interpreted as merely criticizing aspects of the culture, other statements point to actively racist thinking. In one set of messages, WikiLeaks dismissed someone as not a troll, but “just a Swede… Swedes will never accept criticism of brand Sweden.” Immediately following this, WikiLeaks stated that “Swedes are a different race and like sharks have extra rows of teeth.”
At first glance, the comment seems like it could be dismissed as merely a bad joke made in poor taste. A minute later, however, WikiLeaks responded to a request for a source on their comment with a link to an image of someone with two rows of teeth, commenting that it’s “a condition that’s unusually frequent in Sweden.”
In one instance, WikiLeaks describes Sweden, the U.S. and the U.K. as cultural imperialists that underwrite “the entire free speech circuit,” simultaneously referring to and dismissing Zeynep Tufekci, a critic of WikiLeaks.
This is not the only instance in which WikiLeaks’ has privately attacked Zeynep. Referring to her role with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, WikiLeaks called her “appalling” and made the issue racial by calling her a “pseudo-Turk.”
In a subsequent message, WikiLeaks’ called her “a disgraceful person and a fraud as an academic.”
The leaked chats, the author’s own discussions with WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks’ public statements cumulatively paint a picture that’s questionable at best: one in which WikiLeaks distorts and misrepresents facts to cast Israel in a bad light, uses Israeli and Jewish ties to attempt to discredit their critics, and in which WikiLeaks asserts that theirs critics are unreasonable and untrustworthy because of a nationality that makes them “a different race.” While racist thinking would be objectionable on its own, the apparent influence on editorial representations (and misrepresentations) goes beyond what should be considered acceptable for a group that bills itself as a journalist organization dedicated to truth, transparency and a 100% accuracy rate.