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Assange Speaks Out

August 20, 2012

Julian Assange spoke publicly for the first time in two months from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. You can read about what he said elsewhere – typically naff and self-righteous as Assange tends to be, but nonetheless not diminishing his points; which included calling Barack Obama to call off his war on whistleblowers, a reference to Pussy Riot, and commending the solidarity of Latin American nations, each coming with a cheer after their names, although one must question why Mexico was mentioned, after almost always being governed by right-wing autocrats, to whom they have now returned. Regardless.

I would reference Guy Rundle’s piece in today, but unfortunately Crikey is largely a member-based news outlet. Regardless, I shall quote the more interesting part, about how Assange is being perceived in the media, particularly amongst the so-called left:

Assange’s getting of asylum has coincided with a further backlash against Assange — one curiously, which did not emerge when he spent two years fighting extradition through the courts. Centre-left figures have always lined themselves up against Assange and the WikiLeaks project, which they find to be a disruption to business as usual. But now there are those from the further left, who believe that Assange should simply go to Sweden and face the accusations.

One of the most prominent is Owen Jones, the young, rising author of Chavs, a vigorous denunciation of the culture-hate directed towards the white working class, who wrote an article in The Independentcalling on Assange to renounce asylum and face the accusations. The article was full on inaccuracies — Jones had Assange accused of two r-pes, not one, mangled a quote from one of his accusers, is ignorant of Sweden’s peculiar extradition laws, and makes no mention of the clear and visible threats of further extradition to the US.

The piece has become a rallying point of sorts, for those who are willing to question state power — Jones says, for example, that “democracy in the UK has been corrupted and destroyed” for a generation, by the hacking scandal — but are curiously unwilling to apply that scepticism here. Why? The answer is obvious. The mere cry of r-pe is sufficient for people to withhold their critical faculties.

It’s encouraging to see other people note how the rape charge is an effective smear – as Cenk Uygur says, it’s always sex charges that the establishment throws at people they dislike. Despite the preposterous nature of these allegations, many people seem to actually accept the idea that they are coincidence, when Assange has not even been charged with any form of sexual assault, when the Swedish government has rejected his compromises to face the authorities’ questions, when the US clearly is on an anti-whistle-blower tirade and when the other individual in this saga, Bradley Manning, has faced, as Assange has said, over two years in detention without trial. It’s beyond disgusting how cynically these governments have manipulated these people and their well-intentioned defence of women and the fight against rape for their own political purposes. It’s unfortunate that some people suspend their critical faculties based on emotional responses.

You’ll likely read an article this week, whether it be in SMH, NYT, the Guardian or even Honi Soit, and it will go something like “Assange needs to face the music, he needs to shut up and quit whining”. And it’ll be written by somebody who is either too stupid as to see the bigger picture, or simply doesn’t care. Because that’s contemporary journalism for you.

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