Guest post by Mara
Much of the media frenzy surrounding Assange is born of the fact that little is known about him. Thirty nine years old. Australian. No fixed address. Parents ran a touring company. Attended thirty seven schools. Has a child from a failed relationship. Malcolm Rifkind describes him as a ‘frighteningly amoral figure’, Edward Heathcoat-Armory as ‘paranoic and archaic’, one who lives a ‘bizarre peripatetic life’. Assange has been ritualistically demonized by the media as a shadowy, sinister and above all wicked figure who will stop at nothing in order to print a sensational story. In a savage evocation of the McCarthy era, politicians across the world have been baying for his arrest, his silence, and even his blood. It is ironic that some of these politicians, Attorney General Eric Holder who refused to prosecute the CIA for torture in particular, are now mounting a moral crusade using the ‘forces of darkness and light’ narrative to achieve their ends.
The latest move to silence Assange lies in the lap of a Swedish prosecutor who, despite a wealth of contradictory evidence, has issued a European Arrest Warrant in order to prosecute him for the alleged coercion and rape of two women. Prior to the issuing of said warrant, the case had been thrown out by a second Swedish prosecutor for lack of evidence. The first woman invited him to stay at her home, had intercourse with him, and threw a party for him the following evening. The second, evidently starstruck (describing him as ‘interesting, brave and admirable’), invited him to her home and paid for his rail fare in both directions. Later, the two women got together, the first “victim” having attempted to expunge an entry on her blog entitled ‘7 Steps to Get Legal Revenge’ and to erase a Tweet which read ‘Sitting outside ... nearly freezing, with the world’s coolest people. It’s pretty amazing!’ They appear to have blown the whistle based on the fact that Assange had Biblical knowledge of them both within a matter of days. Whether this is a case of ‘sexfalla’, which may be loosely translated as a ‘honeytrap’, or two women seething with indignation that Assange shared his sexual favours impartially, there is negligable evidence that any crime was committed. Indeed, Assange has been attempting to meet face-to-face with the Swedish prosecutor for over a year in order to set the record straight.
The typical media response, imbued as it is with a prurient need to know the explicit details of this and every other case involving sex and a kneejerkist Puritannical desire to punish those involved for their morality or lack thereof, has been to define Assange’s character in relation to the allegations. Sex, though a powerful motivation, is not sufficient to explain, or detract, from Assange’s desire to see justice done: to make public a file passed on to him by Bradley Manning, a man whose own character has been torn to shreds, in order that global governance may not get away with covering up its sins. The release of a number of diplomatic telegrams, which has prompted Sarah Palin to call for the death sentence to be imposed on Assange, is both important and necessary. The intelligence that the Obama administration views ours with suspicion, believing that our PM isn’t up to the job and our military is inadequate, has a profound effect on our supposedly ‘joint’ efforts to pacify Afghanistan. Why should we continue to expend resources and lives to assist those who have no faith in us?
The fact that Hilary Clinton deliberately gave orders to pervert the course of justice by covertly obtaining biometric and personal data of UN delegates, including the Secretary General, highlights the fact that the United States believes itself to be above petty legal concerns. Such a profound insult, perversely, may make those waiting to be groped by the TSA at US airports or exposed to radiation via body scanners feel a little more solidarity with the powers-that-be. In relation to Iraq, US troops were commanded not to release details or investigate tortures of Iraqis under an order called 'Frago 242’. And the latest ‘atrocity’ to be leaked, a list of defence facilities which has been characterised by the US State Department as ‘arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way,’ a move that puts the ‘national security of the United States has been put at risk; the lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk; the American people themselves’ at risk, despite the fact that said information has been available in the public domain for a considerable time. The claim that such an act is tantamount to ‘giving a targeting list to groups like al-Qaeda’ is risible. Though it is easy to represent those committing atrocious acts as the Other, an amorphous mass lacking both in intelligence and self-governance, it is more than likely that said group has both access to the Internet and a fair idea of what they want to target.
On balance, I would applaud Assange’s stance. He has, at personal risk, sought to expose the prim-lipped hypocrisy employed by Western governments towards each other, towards those nations they attempt to subdue and subvert in the name of ‘democracy’ and towards their citizens. This information is very much in the national interest. It is in the interest of each and every working man and woman because they are the ones who bear the financial and moral burden, and the after-effects, of governmental decisions taken on their behalf. Far from villifying Assange, we should applaud his endeavours; to hold those responsible for gross travesties of justice, rather than embarking on a witch hunt. We should overcome the Washington-driven jargon that seeks to make a laughing stock of Assange in order to sweep their dirty dealings under the carpet. Media analyst Glenn Greenwald noted that:
‘this kind of character smear (‘he's not in his right mind,’ pronounced a 25-year-old who sort of knows him) is reserved for people who don't matter in the world of establishment journalists - i.e., people without power or standing in Washington and, especially, those whom American Government authorities scorn. In official Washington, Assange is a contemptible loser - the Pentagon hates him and wants him destroyed, and therefore the ‘reporters’ who rely on, admire and identify with Pentagon officials immediately adopt that perspective - and that's why he was the target of this type of attack.’
And, in making such an attack so personal, all accountability passes to the person being demonised. Higher standards need to be employed by those journalists who, despite bleating about impartiality, hop on to whatever political bandwagon happens to be rolling out that week so they gain approval. Where the bravery, where the unflinching honesty, that once used to epitomise reporting, from Deep Throat to the Killing Fields? Ironically, what most party line journalists seem to have overlooked is that in villifying one of their own, they are encouraging the establisment of a system wherein their own right to free speech, should they ever use it, could be revoked. An unhappy notion for the ‘global’ world we live in. And harping on about ‘responsibility’ and the ‘balance of liberty and power’ simply won’t cut it, for if they are willing to shore up the system unquestioningly, they are willing to shore up its abuses of liberty and power too. As Assange stated, ‘when governments stop torturing and killing people, and when corporations stop abusing the legal system, then perhaps it will be time to ask if free-speech activists are accountable.’
Guest post by Mara