Thursday, 16 August 2012

Julian Assange: a summary for dimwits

1. Julian Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning in relation to allegations of sexual assault. He has not been charged. He has not been 'incarcerated' for aeons as Wikileaks keeps saying - most sex crime suspects are banged up on remand, not bailed to a massive mansion in the countryside before diving into the Ecuadorian Embassy.

2. Julian Assange is innocent unless charged and proven guilty. There's nothing progressive about celebrating a man's refusal to assist an inquiry by the police force of a country which is much, much more equitable and liberal than the UK.

3. The UK and US are definitely infuriated by Wikileaks' activities, and no doubt the US would love to spirit him away from Sweden to somewhere like Texas. This doesn't mean he should seek sanctuary in Ecuador - a largely admirable country though ironically lacking a free press - but that he should face the music in Sweden and our progressive comrades in that country should help resist any US extradition proceedings should that come to pass. I don't see anything wrong with asking the Swedes to guarantee Assange won't be extradited to the US. While we're on the subject, I'm rather confused by the British government's hostility to Assange - after all, when General Pinochet came to stay, hands dripping with the blood of thousands, it protected him from extradition to Spain, in one of the most shameful episodes of political history.

4. Confusing Assange with Wikileaks, and assuming that his sexual conduct must automatically be as stainless as his position on big power duplicity, is a distortion of progressive politics which leads to the dead-end of conspiracy theories.

5. The new element - Ecuador's diplomatic rights - is genuinely worrying. If the UK decides that it can violate international law by entering an Embassy in pursuit of Assange, then there are no more rules in this arena: why should the Chinese not retrieve dissidents sheltering in Western embassies, or the authorities of any other repressive country? It doesn't matter whether it's Assange or the most sainted individual: this aspect of the case is really worrying.

6. The whole affair has unmasked a lot of so-called leftists who think the alleged victims' rights are far less important than their hero's worries. If your politics depends on you downgrading sexual assault and vilifying women when it's politically convenient, you need to take a long hard look at yourself. Of course there's a long history of this kind of vicious masculinist Stalinism: Gerry Healy (Workers' Revolutionary Party, bankrolled by the Iraqi and Libyan reactionary regimes) was a serial rapist, violent thug and hypocrite, yet his cult's members rarely wavered from the argument that all criticism was CIA or KGB-inspired propaganda. Healy and his friend Ken Livingstone claimed it was all MI5-inspired. Sound familiar?

7. Socialists don't need heroes. We understand that individuals are flawed, weak and often contradictory. Instead, we believe in the Cloud: the collective wisdom of the intelligent human race. We know that ideas survive individual and generational failure, defeat and death. We believe that a massive never-ending argument, while not always efficient, will guide us towards humane, workable relations between us all. Hero-worship is a dead end, the fantasy of those determined to bring about the apocalypse/class-war/race war or whatever regardless of prevailing conditions.

8. Automatically adopting positions because you don't like those on the 'other' side is what Lenin called 'infantile leftism' (though it applies to the right as well). 'My enemy's enemy is my friend' is a vicious, destructive mantra. What kept billions of people poor and oppressed during the Cold War? The West's deliberate support for any regime - Israel, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Pinochet's Chile, Iraq etc etc - which promised to be anti-Communist. The same goes for the Soviet Union's puppet states - Ethiopia, Angola and Romania. This kind of mindless, obedient politics is the exact opposite of true, humanist communism. It's weird having to point this stuff out because it seems so obvious, but clearly not, given the continued tolerance of Kissinger, George Galloway and most of the Tory Party.

Assange is a diversion. Wikileaks is a noble enterprise, but he is - like us - weak and complicated. By all means resist American/UK efforts to demonise him, but understand that canonising him is simply the mirror of demonisation, and doing so plays their game.


Emma said...

I read article somewhere, not sure whether or was BBC or Wikipedia, defending Assange. It stated the actual charge was having unprotected consensual sex which is classed as sexual assualt under Sweedish law. The writer seemed to infer it was not worth pursuing as an allegation.

Paul Nelson said...

I love the way faux-feminists and sanctimonious Guardianistas revert to abuse when discussing Julian Assange. So Naoimi Klein, John Pilger, Mark Thomas, Tariq Ali, George Galloway and a host of others, myself included, are "dimwits" now, eh? PMSL. Way to expose the weakness of an argument, especially from someone who has TWO point fives!
Being under house arrest, be it in the countryside or in an Embassy, is STILL incarceration no matter what nonsense propaganda is spewed by allies of US Imperialism and the faux-feminist brigade. It is removal of freedom of movement. To suggest he has not suffered that is idiotic in the extreme.
Your second point: "There's nothing progressive about celebrating a man's refusal to assist an inquiry by the police force..." Erm, Assange offered to help them WHEN HE WAS IN SWEDEN. They failed for the fortnight he was there despite Assange being voluntarily available. They've REFUSED to question him for the entire time he has been in the UK, despite him offering on numerous occassions. Why? They are certainly happy to go an interview murder suspects in Croatia.
You assure us "our progressive comrades in that country should help resist any US extradition proceedings"
Forgive me if I also would not rely on a bunch of lefties to organise my defence against the most powerful imperialist country in history, especially in a nation that HAS ALREADY assisted the US in illegal renditions in the past!!!
Sexual assault is wrong, as is rape, but Assange has not even been charged with either so the faux-feminists labelling him a "rapist" like a baying mob of Daily Mail reactionaries, pitchforks in hand, are neither progressive or leftist and are certainly not from the proud tradition of intelligent, rational feminism I grew up in.

The Plashing Vole said...

Oops - forgot to change the numbering. Thanks for the tip.

Note that I haven't called Assange a rapist. I couldn't work out what the charges amount to despite a fair amount of digging, and I'm very conscious that he's not been charged, he's simply wanted for questioning.

I think you'll find that the UK was the most powerful imperialist body in history. The US is merely the most powerful one currently.

'Offering to help' is not quite the same as being compelled to take part in an investigation. Things have to be a little more formal than that.

I'm unconvinced by your claim that Assange is somehow being singled out by being bailed to a massive mansion in the countryside. Lots of innocent people are imprisoned on remand in very unpleasant places. Does he deserve special treatment because he's done something good (i.e. Wikileaks)?

I don't know what PMSL stands for, and 'dimwits' is both pretty mild and applicable to people on both sides of the Assange argument. Note that I've made a distinction between the UK's approach to international law as it relates to embassies (interesting that Pinochet - a mass murderer - was afforded more protection than Assange by the UK government.

As to your list of prominent leftists: oh dear. Did you not read my paragraphs on heroes and demagogues? Pilger, Ali and Galloway in particular are discredited windbags who prefer posturing to analysis.

As I keep saying, I have no idea whether or not Julian Assange sexually assaulted anybody. I don't trust the UK government, nor do I trust the US government. I trust the Swedish government a tiny bit more. I do not accept, however, that sexual assault should go uninvestigated because we (and that includes me) happen to like the political positions taken by the accused.

Artog said...

Something's definitely going on and if I was Julian Assange I'd be paranoid as fuck. It's obvious that the USA want to nail him and if he falls into their hands they'll either imprison him for 500 years or execute him.

I don't think that our government would threaten to storm an embassy at the behest of the Swedish government, it seems obvious that pressure is coming from America, but I'd have thought they'd find it easier to extradite him from the UK than Sweden?

I think what Julian Assange/wikileaks did was revolutionary but that doesn't mean I see him as some kind of saint. However, I strong believe that the charges he faces are (blatantly) politically motivated and am undecided as to whether he should just roll over and play the good guy.

The Plashing Vole said...

I'd be totally paranoid too - clearly the US and the UK governments are out to get him. It's possible that the charges are politically motivated, but it's impossible to know this one way or the other from our positions. I think his current antics make him look weaker: taking the moral high ground and playing the good guy would serve him better in the long run, I think. As long as he's innocent, that is. If he turns up in Sweden and is subsequently carted off to the US, the stakes are much, much higher and we can all fight an obvious injustice.

Part of my worry is that if supporters are completely dedicated to Julian the Man rather than Julian the Activist, it's easy for our opponents to paint us as moral relativists or exceptionalists. Especially if he did commit a sex crime, whether rape or a lesser offence.

Historian on the Edge said...

Here is a very sound and well-informed piece that effectively dismantles all of the Assange-apologist's 'points' above: