During the past 24 hours, much criticism has been passed, some of it highly adverse, upon anyone suggesting that the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is anything but a straight black-and-white-with-no-shades-of-grey one. The problem for those thus criticising is that straight black-and-white is exactly what the Assange saga is not.
It is possible to be wary of any tendency to gratuitously crack down on dissent in order to preserve a state’s freedom to behave outside its own laws, while not lauding Assange as a hero of the first order. It is possible to support whistleblowers, while pointing out that WikiLeaks has become a partisan political actor - and one supporting the alt-Right.
Freedom of speech, and freedom of information, are non-negotiable. The problem for those prepared to defend Assange to the last is that he does not equal those. As an exasperated Michael Walker concluded yesterday, “solidarity with @AyoCaesar who has become subject to tirades by the incredibly tiresome bunch of twitter leftists who don’t think you can hold two thoughts at once”. Ash Sarkar spoke up for the women who had filed the initial complaints of sexual abuse against Assange. Think about that for a moment.
It is possible to agree with Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Yanis Varoufakis, Alan Rusbridger and Nick Davies on the worrying potential for the USA to abuse its powers in order to silence an inconvenient actor, while agreeing that those women should be able to seek justice, however famous or infamous the man they accuse.
It is also possible to be an unswerving supporter of whistleblowers, while abhorring what Ben Collins related on WikiLeaks’ partisan, and indeed unforgivable, behaviour during the 2016 US Presidential campaign. “Reminder: WikiLeaks, fully knowing murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich did not give them hacked documents, repeatedly dogwhistled a conspiracy that he did—as Rich's family begged people to stop”. There was more.
“Wikileaks also claimed Hillary Clinton was taking ‘wake up pills’ as she had recently read an article in her hacked emails about ‘decision fatigue’ … ‘Decision fatigue’ is not a disease; it's a marketing term for too many choices at the supermarket … Five days before the 2016 election, Wikileaks linked to a ‘significant’ development: A Reddit post on the virulently racist and conspiratorial subreddit r/The_Donald by a now-deleted user, claiming Hillary Clinton was involved in trafficking children.” And more.
“Two days before the election, Sean Hannity and Drudge cited WikiLeaks in claiming that Hillary Clinton was a literal Satanist … Driven in part by two Wikileaks tweets with 20k total retweets, ‘Spirit Cooking’ trended on Twitter 48 hours before polls opened”. Getting into bed with Fox News Channel, a falsehood and misinformation operation. Yes, well.
Not that this partisan approach will benefit Assange: as I posted yesterday, Combover Crybaby Donald Trump doesn’t do favours, and won’t do unless WikiLeaks has something like the original Golden Showers video. Hence Sam Stein telling “‘I know nothing about Wikileaks. It’s not my thing’ Trump says just now in reference to an organization he previously said he loved”. Assange has been thrown under the bus.
Moreover, the pro-Trump actions were not the only partial behaviour demonstrated by WikiLeaks, as Neera Tandin has hinted: “There are many cultists on this site, but the Assange cultists are the worst. Assange was the agent of a proto fascist state, Russia, to undermine democracy. That is fascist behavior. Anyone on the left should abhor what he did. Not celebrate it”. What might she be hinting at? Ah well.
Ashton Pittman had the answer to that one. “In 2016, Julian Assange declined to publish 68 gigabytes worth of leaked Russian docs that could have helped exposed the Russian government’s corrupt activities in Ukraine, even as it selectively leaked thousands of files designed to harm Hillary Clinton”. Declined to publish.
That is the kind of behaviour that many - most of them on the left - have condemned when exhibited by our free and fearless press. The selective release of information, the shielding of favourites by enforcing that culture of Omertà, all to favour one side over another, as the press establishment did to protect John Whittingdale (for instance).
Yet Ms Tandin has has a torrent of abuse in response to her - factually correct - accusation. There has even been a playing down of the accusations made by those two women against Assange which began the whole saga.
What some are finding increasingly difficult to grasp is that it is possible to endorse wholeheartedly the ideas of free speech and whistleblowing, while being uneasy about the idea that Julian Assange should be lauded as their figurehead. Put it another way: mounting a defence of journalism as A Good Thing is not difficult.
Anyone want to defend this? ANYONE?
Mounting a defence of journalism as A Good Thing when the only examples to had were Trevor Kavanagh, Richard Littlejohn, Allison Pearson, Isabel Oakeshott, Rod Liddle, Doug Murray The K, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, Kelvin McFilth, the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and Julia Hartley Dooda - that might be more challenging.
And that is why, for Julian Assange, it is the right cause, but the wrong hero.
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