Personally, I do not believe the baseless sexual assault charges thrown up against Julian Assange in order to silence him. Here is a man whose work in revealing some of the secret machinations of some governments, has served to show (in some graphic detail) the shocking extents that some highly placed government officials could go to in conducting their business. Whether the released memos were damning to the respective governments concerned is worthy of consideration, but of even graver concern is the legality or even moral soundness of the various actions secretly hatched and implemented by these affected governments. Wikileaks’ action in releasing hundreds of these classified government memos and the possible threat to national or regional security such actions could precipitate merit passionate debate and discussion, but I do not support the fierce and sustained attempts by shadowy figures to muzzle Julian Assange.
This persecution has to stop; these trumped up charges have to be decried. Having found nothing tangible with which to discredit Julian Assange and Wikileaks, they have resorted to the same well-worn smear tactics i.e sexual molestation and rape. Not surprisingly, two women have appeared out of the woodwork with sexual molestation claims. Suddenly, we are expected to believe that he sexually molested 2 women he had consensual sexual relations with for the ‘crime’ of failing to wear a condom on one occasion when the complainant requested it; and on another occasion for the ‘crime’ of having sex with her while she maintains she was asleep.
Were these women minors? Of course not. Could they have resisted Julian Assange and stopped the sexual intercourse if they really felt like they were being sexually molested? That is, when complainant 1 insisted that Assange should wear a condom and he made no apparent moves to do so, could she have ended that lovemaking session and walked away or else screamed for help? Of course she could; indeed, she would have gone to the authorities the next day to report the incident if she felt sexually violated. As for complainant 2 who claimed that she was sleeping at the time Assange supposedly had sex with her, it makes you wonder how on earth she knew what was going on if she was asleep. It also makes you wonder what sort of horrible rape scenario it really was when the supposed victim was comfortably and sleepily ensconced in her assailant’s bed! It gets ridiculous as you examine these charges. The very woman (complainant 1) who claimed that she was sexually molested on August 14, 2010, which day she claimed that Assange had sex with her without using a condom, happened to have met and had sexual relations with Assange again only 4 days later! On August 18, 2010, this time she maintains she was also sexually molested again somehow when Assange’s erect penis pressed against her body.
It is not surprising that Assange has dismissed these molestation accusations as baseless. But how will public opinion judge him? In western societies where allegations of rape are enough to ruin and discredit any man, how will Assange be viewed or dissected by the wider public? Is it possible that in order to turn the tide of public opinion against a man who has bravely fought titanic government figures and their allies by revealing highly-placed secret government machinations and subterfuge, some women who have had dealings with Assange could be manipulated or paid off to launch baseless accusations?
For months Julian Assange has been fighting extradition to Sweden for these accusations. He believes that the ultimate reason why he is being considered for extradition to Sweden is not really to answer to these allegations but so that he can eventually be handed over to the US authorities. One might consider his thinking paranoid, but given the dangerous nature of his job, especially the depths that could be sunk to punish a public whistleblower, one can appreciate his concern. If you can remember, the US considers Assange’s work in exposing hundreds of diplomatic government cables ‘treasonous’ even though Assange is not a citizen of the United States. However, he has thus far not been successful in completely stopping the extradition proceedings and is therefore due to be sent back to Sweden around the 28th of this month.
So what did a desperate Julian Assange do to forestall this possibility? Yesterday, he entered an Ecuadorian embassy in London, and sought political asylum. He considers himself rightly or wrongly as being persecuted and hounded for his investigative journalism. His actions in breaking pre-arranged protocol and seeking asylum in an Ecuadorian embassy before his court-delayed extradition date of June 28 are now described as ‘breaching bail’ and so, he is likely to be arrested eventually and extradited.
As I write, metropolitan police are camped around the embassy waiting to nab Assange if he ever steps foot outside the building whilst Ecuadorian authorities consider his request for political asylum in Ecuador.
Now, I suspect that in the coming days, following intense diplomatic pressure on Ecuador, they are going to decline Assange’s request for political asylum and then hand him over to the police. At any rate, what sort of drama is going to play out on the mean streets on London if for example Ecuador accepts Assange’s request and decides to whisk him away to Quito? Will we see a Hollywood-style clash of Ecuadorian mercenary forces with London’s metropolitan police as they engage each other in a hail of bullets while Assange, disguised no doubt, is ferried hurriedly to some undisclosed aircraft and hastily extracted out of the UK? One can only wish—but one has to just marvel at the absurdities going on.
Is Assange’s life in danger? If yes, where is the outrage of a concerned public for an individual’s personal freedom and his right to self-expression without being bullied by instruments of state? Where is the concern of fellow journalists that forces beyond Assange’s control might have conspired to silence a member of a supposedly free press? Sure, it is tempting to simply dismiss this with a wave of the hand whilst asking that Assange return to Sweden to clear himself of sexual molestation charges, but is there a bigger fish to fry here? I guess we’ll find out in the coming days……
The international drama circling the WikiLeaks story compels me to visit the issue. At first, I didn’t give much thought to the matter. After all, in our information saturated world, what is one more media platform anyway? Well, the issue cannot be ignored any longer given the precedent it could set for the way governments treat online publications of content that they may consider injurious to their personal interests.
So what exactly is this WikiLeaks issue and why has it grabbed global attention?
If you have ever heard about Wikipedia and its phenomenal online success, you’d be grateful for open source. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that is slightly different from other kinds of encyclopedia. Whereas a group of people come together, compile and then publish other regular encyclopedia (of course retaining all the rights to their content), Wikipedia is markedly different. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that is formed by the vast collaboration of the global public in compiling and vetting the content. It is more popular than traditional encyclopedia because of: 1) its vast global reach in being able to reach people of many languages, 2) its availability for editing incorrect or perhaps non-substantive information, and 3) its incredibly vast informational database. All thanks to open source. There are a number of websites that work the same way or with the same wiki or user-generated functionality—WikiLeaks is one of them.
WikiLeaks is a site which publishes anonymously delivered and often secret government cables or memos to the public. These are usually sensitive and perhaps classified documents which offer some insight into proposed or implemented policies of several governments. One can ostensibly imagine that the revelations that come from WikiLeaks can and often do go at variance with the public representations of elected officials. In an age marked by its remarkably quick and global dissemination of information, you can see why WikiLeaks has gripped the global public and perhaps generated consternation amongst government figures. Suddenly, as has not been possible before, the oft-misinformed public can get that rare glimpse into the machinations of theirs and others’ governments. When the global public does come into contact with these revelations—barring those living in a country with government-imposed sanctions on some internet content or repressive regimes—there is usually a flurry of political activity expressing some public outcry at the dissembling tactics of government bureaucrats.
The US government, it has to be noted, feels especially threatened by the release of hundreds if not thousands of US government cables. In the minds of certain political power players, Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of this internet-based activist group, should be condemned as a terrorist for releasing these documents online. Apparently, it may not have dawned on some of these officials that there are millions of Americans who do not cherish the idea that they may not have had an accurate picture of their government’s activities on a local and foreign scale. Similarly other governments are expressing concern if not rage at the fact that their private dealings have become fodder for public consumption.
I am no conspiracy theorist—but why is WikiLeaks suddenly the victim of vicious and sustained cyber attack designed to shut it down or at least make the access to the information they contain insufferably difficult? Amazon has bowed to government pressure and is no longer hosting the website. WikiLeaks then went to the UK, but the hosts have also caved to pressure whether cyber-based or political. Then it went to Switzerland, but I think they are also experiencing that massive denial-of-service attack. Moreover there is also a Europe-wide manhunt for Julian Assange on some sexual misconduct charges. I don’t know how real these charges are but I think it is somewhat convenient that these charges are now making the rounds with increasing ferocity at this time when some governments have deemed the actions of WikiLeaks inimical to their safety or global interests. This obviously forces the question: Is there an international cross-governmental campaign to censor or destroy WikiLeaks or its spokesperson Julian Assange? Is Julian Assange a hero or a villain?
A lot depends on the outcome of any jury if he is eventually brought before a court. If it is successfully proved that he committed the crimes that he is charged with, I suppose that will go some way in tainting his reputation in the eyes of an actively engaged global audience. Nevertheless, I do not believe that this man is a villain. Some of the ignorant public, given to emotionalism and paranoia in a post 9/11 world, have even dared to call Assange a traitor to the United States. Perhaps someone needs to remind these people that Mr. Assange is not even a citizen of the US and thus cannot be sensibly designated a traitor to the US!
I especially laud his courage to share information and knowledge with the rest of the online international community when such actions have the increasing potential of jeopardizing his life or freedom. Anyone who believes in the freedom of speech especially the freedom to online speech should vehemently protest the “persecution” meted out to this man. Just think about it—if this whistle-blower is silenced easily with the co-option of myopic cyber commentary, the same fate could easily be visited on these cyber analysts by the government and all manner of internet-censorship advocates if they feel that they have enough reasons to warrant such an action! This represents a rapacious assault on free speech as far as I am concerned. WikiLeaks, with its dogged commitment to providing free information to a thirsty global public, seems poised to continue its activities despite these besetting inconveniences.
Finally, I would like to suggest that making a scapegoat out of Assange isn’t going to make the WikiLeaks phenomenon disappear neither is it going to satiate the appetite of the global public for glimpses into the backroom orchestrations of governments all around the world. In silencing Assange, or even in dismantling WikiLeaks, I think they would unwittingly be attempting to slay the Lernean Hydra—the result will be a mushroom of little and even more dispersed outfits boldly attempting to shine light into decisions or policies that several government would prefer to keep the public in the dark about.