Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Julian Assange and the Wrath of Sweden

Wikileaks has caused quite a stir, I think it's fair to say. I tried to ignore it for quite some time, being that I'm suffering from stress at the moment and I thought it would do my heart no good to get involved with something so deep and meaningful. However, when a story makes it into every single paper as a slightly different entity, I become interested.

As Roy Greenslade noted in his blog last week, the strangeness of Assange's case is not in what he has done, but how differently his actions on Wikileaks have been interpreted in order for America to be able to arrest him. America as one singularity, that is. The flag-waving, deer-shooting, God-loving America we all like to pretend is just a hilarious joke for Jon Stewart to roll out every day, but which then gets folded back up and put in a dusty cupboard in the back of the studio. Of course, Sarah Palin, the woman who inspires anger and violence in every human being on the planet (she made me punch a door once) has decried that Wikileaks and therefore Julain Assange to be "Anti-American" - whatever that bandied-about phrase actually means - and senior republican Mike Huckabee (not a cartoon bear, as I had hoped) has called out for his execution, claiming that "anything less would be too kind a punishment".

That, in case you hadn't noticed, is a pretty severe declaration for someone who fist-smashingly demands freedom and a just society in front of the star spangled banner.

It isn't just republicans who are baying for Assange's blood though, so don't start feeling all superior and British. The Daily Mail have reported the whole affair with a very interesting slant - calling on his current sexual offense allegations in Sweden and reporting several times that he suffers from manic depression; adding that Americans are calling him a terrorist and claiming that he has put lives in danger.

Let's just think about that for a second. He has put lives in danger for spreading memos and information already being passed by those who rule over us. He has endangered our wholesome little lives by revealing that Hilary Clinton ordered diplomats to spy on members of the UN. Luckily not all of our press coverage has been so childish, and despite The Sun, The Times and The Telegraph largely dismissing Wikileaks as either dangerous attention-seeking or a bally good laugh respectively, they have all printed large swathes of Assange's work, leaving the public in no doubt as to his (and his now adversaries') intentions.

I tend to agree with John Naughton when he says that either we live with a Wikileaks world, or shut down the entire Internet. Either governments accept that their misgivings about other ministers, their underhanded deals, their snide comments about backbenchers, campaigners or their own supporters will be revealed at some point by another person who has some idea of how to find incriminating documents (if Assange didn't do it, let's face it, somebody else would). What next? Do we ban all passage of information from the powers to the proles? Do we arrest all those capable of uncovering secrets and place them in high-security solitary confinement until they blubberingly promise not to tell tales on their masters? If that is how we supposedly keep our countries safe, then perhaps everyone should have their abilities to communicate revoked. Even a do-gooding low-down member of a corporation can occasionally find a slightly dodgy memo. What then? I once heard a previous boss of mine call his manager a dickhead. Does that mean I have to go to jail now for endangering the rights of big business?

Then there is the whole awful business of Assange's Swedish sexual assault case. According to an article in The Guardian, in the past, Assange has dismissed the allegations, stating on Twitter: "The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing." He believes that Sweden is acting under the heavy influence of America, using smear tactics to humiliate him into handing himself over to the authorities. His lawyers are refusing to extradite him for trial, claiming there is insufficient evidence to say it is even worth sending him over. Nevertheless, it does give critics the chance to claim that not only is he mentally ill, he is also a rapist. Which is nice to have on the front of a paper when the only other news is dominated by snow ploughs and late trains.

Assange is now asking his supporters, much diminished by his handling of Afghanistan war logs, to help him make bail should it come to that, which he predicts will be somewhere in the region of £150,000. Quoted in The Australian newspaper; "As far as I can see he (Mr Assange) hasn't broken any Australian law," Senator Brandis, a QC, told Sky News. "Nor does it appear he has broken any American laws."

 So while the debate rages on about whether a potentially invented sexual assault case has anything to do with sharing secret documents meant for our superiors' eyes only, I suggest we start up a new debate, thanks to @Selectronic on Twitter. "Finding Julian Assange hotter by the day. Come find me when all this blows over @ " Assange - would you?

1 comment:

the_man_in_the_middle said...

Would you?

I read that he was keeping back his coup de grace for in the event that something should happen to him. I'm hoping this arrest could be catalyst to it being revealed. Any guesses? Aliens orchestrated 9/11. I bet you!

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