The Guardian and WikiLeaks can be seen as the matter and anti-matter of modern journalism—each represents a pole at the farthest extreme, with the journalistic enterprise as a whole being torn between them. The Guardian sees itself as a mediating institution, one that applies knowledge and judgment to the gathering of facts. It believes mediation is necessary for understanding, and it knows that institutions must be built and tended with care. The high-minded creation of the Scott Trust, long ago, epitomizes this sensibility.
In contrast, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks disdain the notion that anything should come between the public and the vast universe of ostensible information you can evaluate for yourself, if only someone will let you. The ideal role of a journalistic outlet, in Assange’s view, is to be a passive conduit for reality, or at least for slivers of reality, with as little intervention as possible—no editing, no contextualizing, no explanations, no thinking, no weighing of one person’s claims against another’s, no regard for consequences. The technology that Assange has worked on for most of his career possesses immense capabilities, and cannot be controlled by a single institution or voice. It is perhaps for this reason that WikiLeaks—ultimately replaceable by the next technologically savvy anarchist—is so disturbing to so many.