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Friday 12 April 2019

Julian Assange - Right Cause, Wrong Hero

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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Anonymous said...

What accusations from two women are you referring to?

Tim Fenton said...


Wikipedia has an explainer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assange_v_Swedish_Prosecution_Authority

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the swift reply and link.
The link does not back up your assertion. The two women have not accused Assange of rape nor have they accused Assange of sexual assault.

Take time to look deeper into the case. Take a look at the extraordinary rendition from Sweden of two asylum seekers who were flown to Egypt, tortured and then flown to Guantanamo Bay. Make a note of who signed the authority and note who he is related to in the Assange case. Note that the man who signed the authority fled to the USA.
Note that there are politicians and officials in Sweden with strong connections to extreme right wing groups in the USA. One group in Sweden sent a woman to Cuba and that woman was kicked out for offering sexual favours to officials in return for information damaging to Fidel Castro - It is alleged that the woman is one of the two in the Assange case.

Anonymous said...

Ashton Pittman
‏ @ashtonpittman

a. Don’t encourage hacking
b. Don’t encourage stealing
c. Use judgment — https://twitter.com/ashtonpittman/status/1116459738118729729

So no journalist would ever do anything illegal to get or to stand up a story? Or does is Pittman just a typical Yank, seeing hackers everywhere?

On the two Swedish women: haven't they changed their minds and their allegations a few times? And didn't the first prosecutor drop the investigation?

Tim Fenton said...

@3 @4

You have both proved my case.

Diss the two Swedish women. Spin it all as some great conspiracy. Anything to defend the hero Assange.

Dispiriting. But all too predictable.

Anonymous said...

By claiming that the Two women have accused Assange when they haven't, you do yourself a disservice. Please look at all of the coverage and background.
I do not think that Assange is a hero. My gripe is with people who assume guilt without evidence and use events that are not related to support them.
I'm surprised that you appear to support the Swedish judicial system of acting without the accusations from those involved, of secret courts before 'judges*' on laws rewritten in a way that makes innocence virtually impossible.
* They are not real judges, they are political appointees with little or no legal training. How would you like your innocence or guilt decided by a panel of the female equivalents of Roger Scruton and Robbie Gibb?

Anonymous said...

@6 I'm not having a go at the women. The story was changed and my understanding is that one was not in favour of continuing.

If Assange was a hero the case would be simple but I would not wish to see even Assange banged up by the US.

Anonymous said...

Seems you were right Tim. Some people believe the leader can do no wrong.

But it's not a cult. Really it's not.

So many examples of this phenomenon among politicians these days.

Gonzoland said...

Well, Tim, are you in favour of Assange being extradited to the USA where leading Republican Party politicians want him executed?

I note that some politicians in the UK want Assange to be sent to Sweden even though the warrant has been withdrawn. I suspect those politicians want Assange to be somebody else's problem as their real reason.

Assange is no hero to me, but he has been holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London in fear of his own life. He has many enemies and some of them are highly trained in the art of 'terminating with extreme prejudice'. How many people, if they were in the situation Assange is in, would dare to release documents exposing Russia's activities in the Ukraine?
As for outside involvement, by foreign agents, in democratic activities in the USA and the UK, why aren't there Government funded safeguards in place to stop them?

Anonymous said...

The warrant was withdrawn because he was in the embassy. The Swedes are considering reactivating it, as is their right. This is common knowledge.

He's been found guilty of skipping bail which is a standalone offence. Once he is sentenced, the legal arguments will have plenty of time to play out in court.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 20:48
The warrant was withdrawn after Assange had been interviewed in the embassy by Swedish lawyers acting for the prosecution.
The whole matter could have been resolved years ago if Sweden had given an absolute assurance that Assange would not be extradited from Sweden to the USA.