The Wikileaks activist was arrested in absentia, not arrested, investigated but free to leave, defamed but not actually charged, with rape, sexual molestation, and plain molestation in various combinations over the last few weeks, by two women who did not know they were assaulted until they discussed it days later with their lawyer. That is not the curious part.
Since the non-charges, there have been three very curious side effects even in the ranks of his supporters.
A call for him to step down.
Wikileaks captured the world’s imagination by openly antagonizing almost every powerful organization in the world. The image of Wikileaks has been centred around Julian Assange, a tall, silver haired man of brilliance and eloquence, who has been compared, depending on the speaker, to everyone from Lucius Malfoy to Saruman to an angel. Personally, I like to compare him to Martin Luther King. He has published documents harmful to the very governments he seeks shelter from, harshly criticized the media that might be seen to be his natural supporters, and refused to compromise the truth and his vision of rightness for any consideration of personal safety.
At the first indication of opposition from his enemies, a call has been made, and supported by some, for him to step down because: “wikileaks should have spokes people that are conservative and not strong persons, rather dull, so to speak so that the message will be delivered without the messenger getting all the attention”.
What this person is effectively saying, is that anyone who is accused of even the most ridiculous ‘crime’ and slandered by the media, should instantly disappear in voice and action. Which is ridiculous on so many levels, I won’t even outline them here. Except to quote Daniel Assange re. his own brush with the media “… if you find yourself needing to self-censor purely out of fear of what conservative tabloids might make of your words, then the war for freedom of expression is already lost.”
More importantly, this person completely fails to recognize that the point of the war, the image of the war, and the war itself may be summed up by the picture of one individual, Julian Assange in this case, thumbing his nose at the entire military industrial complex. That is the message. Isolated documents that relate to individual acts of abuse are not the point; private individuals standing against the abuse and holding the MIC accountable are.
Much as some ‘Wikileaks insiders’ would like to believe that all supporters are equal, that is also incorrect. The US civil rights movement was huge and existed both before and after Martin Luther King, and had many other prominent supporters, but the image of him as a civil rights icon is extremely powerful. Assange has captured the public’s imagination in a way that none of his predecessors or coworkers have. Powerful charisma is not nearly as common as some would like you to believe, and Wikileaks’ enemies certainly know that.
A critique of him exercising the freedom he is fighting for.
In some of the coverage of this case, there has been a condescending sort of eye rolling that ‘someone in his position’ would have sex at all. Surely, that wasn’t wise. From the newspapers that report that Assange ‘admitted’ to having sex, as if that in itself was a crime, to the reports that call him naive, ill-judged, or much worse, there is a feeling that a person who is fighting for freedom should not have sex.
If it is foolish to have sex, then it is foolish to eat what might be poisoned, foolish to travel or appear in public, foolish to speak, foolish to publish, foolish to stand up and be known … foolish to attempt to live freely, which is what he is fighting for. If we are afraid to exercise our freedoms, they are already lost, and all the words in the world cannot change that. Setting aside the fact that if he didn’t have sex he would surely be painted as a deviant pervert of some sort, there is nothing wrong with a 39 year old single man having adult consensual sex. Neither is there anything foolish, naive, or ill-judged about it. There is no point, and indeed no possibility, of fighting for freedoms which you are afraid to exercise. Ironically, this reminds me of the old arguments against rape victims. ‘Well, yes, of course they shouldn’t have done that, but what on earth was she doing there? And wearing THAT dress!’
‘Someone in his position’ is us. All of us who have ever or may ever offend the MIC, and as anyone reading the news this year must realize, that is all of us. There is no line between his freedoms and ours. We are all private citizens. Regardless of whether he is guilty of anything, his name should not have been released to the press and a responsible press should not have contributed to his persecution. Private information on a private individual (yes, he is, as much as you and I, despite speaking in public, as we do as well) is not the business of public media. It is not for us to judge the wisdom of his private choices; all we can do is defend his right to make them. Or not.
Instead of blaming the victim, we need to hold the people tormenting him accountable. If we are to succeed, we need to all of us be aware of the injustice of this and all irrelevant persecutions, to fight against it and to demand a response that is actually relevant to what he has done, and to demand privacy and freedom in our personal lives no matter what we say in public.
A feeling that invasion of Julian Assange’s personal privacy is just retribution for his invading the privacy of public organizations.
In these troubled times, there is so much confusion regarding private and public information in a democracy. While the US government is declaring that their war crimes cannot be tried because the crimes themselves (not just the evidence) are secret information, we are constantly told that we have the right to know whether or not an actor has had plastic surgery. Here is the key. A true democracy is governance by the people. We need access to information that we require to help us govern ourselves. One of our rights in a democracy is freedom from unwarranted persecution and invasion of privacy. Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations is “Freedom from interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence.”
Do we need to know the information that Wikileaks is releasing in order to govern ourselves? Absolutely. We could only survive without this information in a dictatorship.
Do we need to know the details of Julian Assange’s sex life in order to govern ourselves? Possibly, if he is convicted of a crime. Until then, he is entitled to his privacy. Even in the case of a guilty conviction, the media coverage should be only what would be normal in the case of any other private citizen. He is not accused of misleading the public or acting in any way contrary or relevant to his position, therefore we do not need access to this information in order to judge his organization’s contributions or his fitness as its leader.
The media’s insistence on constantly publishing the wrong information is not just an invasion of the rights of private citizens, it is purposely distracting the general populace from the information we need to know to govern ourselves. Papers that ought to be filled with real verified news about local and world events, are instead filled with pictures of entertainers’ private lives. Julian Assange is not attacked with legal arguments or analysis of the data he has provided, he is attacked with salacious speculation on his sex life. Fight this.