Read Part One: We Steal Secrets (2013)
Jemima Khan, The Unlikely Activist?
Above: “Jemima Khan in the sitting room of her Fulham house, which she decorated herself.” (Photo by Eva Vermandel. Photo and description, New York Times)
By Danny Schechter
In case you missed my last dissection, “New WikiLeaks Movie Infuriates WikiLeaks,“ when I was watching the movie, I was put off by the inordinate attention paid to Julian Assange’s “house arrest” stay at the home of British millionaire who put him and some of the bond money up. It made Assange, who wanted to be seen as a man of the people, look like an aristocrat living in luxury.
As it now turns out, one of Executive Producers on the film is an aristocrat who lived like that all the time and like others backed Assange, before betraying him. Her story, with an over the top photo plush spread gets a fawning tabloid treatment in the new New York Times’ SYTLE Magazine. Check this out:
“Jemima Khan may live the grand life of an English aristocrat, but behind the famous boyfriends and the important hair is a serious political journalist and a budding documentary film producer. Her latest project? Taking on WikiLeaks…
(Where else but the NYTimes, which loves the British aristocracy, do we find a term like “important hair”?)
“I haven’t done any interviews for quite a while,” Khan said. “I am naturally quite an open person, and I always end up saying too much.”
But she has made an exception in the service of “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” a film about the online anti-secrecy group and its founder, Julian Assange, that was directed by Alex Gibney (“Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer“) and of which Khan is an executive producer. Khan has been involved with Assange’s case since he was arrested in December 2010, and she helped post bail for him, but the movie examines him and his work with a cool dispassion. (SIC!)
As she talks about her own work, Khan realizes there is a bit of a perception problem, a slight disconnect — her charmed upbringing and potentially frivolous existence at odds with, as becomes increasingly clear, the serious-minded, hyper-busy reality of her working life.
The tabloids persist in calling her “socialite Jemima Khan,” as if that were an official title, like “doctor,” and Khan, 39, has indeed appeared often in the party-photos sections of glossy magazines and Web sites. Her father was the late financier Sir Jimmy Goldsmith; her mother is Lady Annabel Goldsmith, a legendarily charming hostess whose first husband, Mark Birley, named Annabel’s nightclub after her. The two had 10 children between them; Jimmy Goldsmith was an inveterate keeper of mistresses (in fact, Annabel was his mistress before she became his wife) who fathered children with four different women. Life around the dinner table was complicated, noisy and filled with vociferous debate about the issues of the day.”
This NYT article celebrates Ms. Kahn as an “unlikely activist.”
“We Steal Secrets,” which was released last month, examines the complicated case of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. It also examines in fascinating detail the equally complicated and possibly more interesting, because it is so shocking, case of Bradley Manning, the troubled, sexually confused Army intelligence analyst whose leaking of secret American diplomatic and policy documents allegedly to WikiLeaks led to his arrest three years ago. (He is currently awaiting trial.) As for Assange, the movie dissects all his contradictions, examining him as hero and villain, as an advocate of openness and transparency who is also a deeply secretive, possibly paranoid control freak — an ultimately unknowable person.
Khan’s connection to the movie came because she was an admirer from afar of WikiLeaks and, for a time, a high-profile supporter of Assange’s in Britain. “There was a lot of stuff coming out about Pakistan, which confirmed suspicions I had about the sort of double-dealing of the government,” she said of the WikiLeaks material. And more simply, “I don’t like lies,” she explained. “WikiLeaks exposed the most dangerous lies of all, which are those that are told to us by elected governments.”
She was drawn into Assange’s odd, charismatic orbit after the British authorities placed him in solitary confinement while he fought extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted on charges of sexually assaulting two former WikiLeaks volunteers. Along with other sympathizers, Khan helped post his bail, which ran to the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But then several things happened. Working with Gibney on his WikiLeaks documentary, Khan served as his liaison to Assange and was sucked further and further into the morass of Assange’s suspicious, conspiracy-theory-suffused mind. Assange at first seemed amenable to an interview on camera, but became increasingly, maddeningly obstructive, finally heaping so many conditions and demands that negotiations over the terms completely broke down.
Then Assange suddenly jumped bail — Khan and the other supporters lost their money — and dramatically sought political asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy, around the corner from Harrods, where he has remained, confined to a small studio, since last June.
You can read the rest, including the fact that she lost money when Assange jumped bail….. So, she felt betrayed and then soon betrayed him in a film that is as much a hit job as a profile.
And now we have the “back story” of yet another member of the film’s bizarre team who loved Assange until they turned on him. The story of the movie is now becoming as fascinating as the story the sleazy movie posing as a serious documentary purports to tell.
News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org, blogs at news dissector.net, and has an NYT eXaminer column. Danny is also an independent filmmaker. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.