Many journalists are outraged that James Rosen, a Fox News correspondent, stands accused of criminal activity (though he is not being prosecuted) for soliciting classified information from government sources, something all national security reporters do. But there hasn’t been the same outpouring of support for Julian Assange of Wikileaks, who has long been investigated for the same behavior: allegedly soliciting classified material from Bradley Manning, his source.

Why isn’t Assange being defended as zealously?

Matt Steinglass has a persuasive theory. “What we are seeing here is basically class solidarity on the part of the mainstream press,” he writes. “When the offender was just a weird foreign hacker running a blog staffed with encryption-happy radical volunteers, people who thought of themselves as regular journalists were often disdainful of the effort and ambivalent about how the government treated him. Yes, he felt the full force of the US government come down on his strange white-blonde head, had his money flows interdicted, and ended up as an international pariah, but you know, what he did was pretty shady, right? But now that it seems the US government has leveled the same charges, for the same behaviour, against someone working in the classic model of mainstream American journalism, a regular old reporter like us–well, that’s another story.”

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