WikiLeaks is More Than Assange


7:51 pm - December 7th 2010

by Robert Sharp    


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As was debated a few days ago at Liberal Conspiracy, it is very difficult to know what to think about the Swedish allegations against Julian Assange. In such situations one can only hope that the evidence against him is presented in a timely fashion. Then he can be either charged and tried, or released, as the available facts dictate. We will know what to think in due course, there is no need to pre-empt a due process which so far seems to be progressing as it should.

But let us assert one thing right now: the personal exploits of Julian Assange tell us nothing about the morality of the Wikileaks project and it’s recent #Cablegate actions.

If Assange is convicted, watch out for those who use it to cast doubt on the idea and mission of the Wikileaks project. Such arguments will merely be an ad hominem that will add nothing new to the debate around Freedom of Information that the site has brought into sharp focus.

In the arts, many critics take the biographical approach when they analyse artists’ work. The classic questions: Is ‘The Wasteland’ reduced if T.S. Eliot was an anti-semite? Was Paul Gauguin a worse artist because he abandoned his wife and children? We might ask the same questions of political philosophies too: are we to abandon the American experiment because the Founding Fathers were slave owners? I don’t see how (especially when the principles which ultimately guaranteed the freedom from slavery were written by those same men in the Bill of Rights). Likewise, should we abandon the philosophy of Wikileaks if Julian Assange turns out to be a rapist? I think not.

Indeed, the very name of the website argues against this. It would be a very poor sort of Wiki that was vulnerable to a ‘decapitation’ strategy. Surely the whole point of a site worthy of the prefix is that it depends on a community, not an individual. Those who try to propagate the ‘Assange ⇔ Wikileaks’ meme in the next few weeks should be reminded of this.

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Reader comments


Proof-reader needed at table 1.

Crikey, you’re right Denny. This bad workman blames his tools, the WordPress iphone app. Will try to fix.

It has struck me as a shame for some time that Assange has been put up, or put himself up, as such a sole figurehead for the WikiLeaks project. Some of the articles not long ago about their internal conflicts and resignations led me to believe the same thing is being thought inside the organisation too. He’s clearly a man with a mission, and that mission is admirable, but he’s made it too easy to conflate his reputation with that of the organisation, so it’s now possible to attack the latter via the former.

There’s a lesson in here for ‘rock star’ activists, perhaps. It’s not about you, it’s about your cause… so think about the implications of that when you’re planning your media strategy and so on. WikiLeaks in particular is, as you say, rooted in the culture of distributed networking… it’s foolish in the extreme for them to have this single point of failure, or at least single point of leverage.

4. Chiase Guevara

In a perfect world, Robert, I’d be denouncing you as Captain Obvious, but you’re absolutly right, given that people are already using the accusation (FFS) as an ad hom.

“It would be a very poor sort of Wiki that was vulnerable to a ‘decapitation’ strategy”

Actually, I’m not sure if Wikileaks is a real Wiki

Woman accusing Assange of sexual assault may well have CIA connections.

I will leave you to lift your jaws from the floor.

http://www.zcommunications.org/julian-assange-wanted-by-the-empire-dead-or-alive-by-alexander-cockburn

(And it’s Alexander Cockburn writing, not some tin foil hatted troofer with a blog)

captainswing: heard that one already. Have you looked into what these alleged ‘CIA connections’ are? They’re completely baseless, unless you’re the type of conspiracy theorist who’ll take any association, however remote, as evidence of a ‘link’. See http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/12/07/julian_assange_rape_accuser_smeared/index.html

We have no good reason to doubt the authenticity of the allegations against Assange. But the important thing is what this post emphasises: Wikileaks is bigger than Assange. He may well be a rapist; he may well end up in prison, but even if so, that would do absolutely nothing to stop Wikileaks. And rightly so.

Personally, I don’t care for Assange – he can rot in prison for all I care – but Wikileaks is doing a great service to the world. Long may it last!

From the Guaedian “The US has welcomed the arrest of Assange. “That sounds like good news to me,” said Robert Gates US defence secretary. “The international manhunt for Julian Assange is over,” NBC television declared.

But Bin Laden remains at large after 9 years since 911.

And people laugh at those who believe in conspiracy theories.

“If Assange is convicted”

God, the blue-eyed naivety is breath-taking. Assange will either be convicted or – more likely – simply extradited to the USA where he will be imprisoned.

Coincidentally, the figurehead of the greatest bottom-up exposure of global elites happens to have coerced two women (how much did they get paid to say this?) into accusing Assange of rape. Wow, let’s all start believing in the return of Christ while we are at it.

This is about freedom of expression and the concerted attack on it. I absolutely believe that the sexual assault charge is part of this. The rule of law is being fully undermined and it is pathetic to retreat into theoretical musings about ‘let’s see what the impartial law tells us’.

He’s ‘guilty’ because political elites have decided that he is and in so doing hope to destroy wikileaks.

10. Daniel Factor

Are John Pilger and Ken Loach who are both defending Mr Assange misogynists?

While Assange thinks the prosecutors have a conspiracy, he has never so far accused the two women of having anything but personal reasons for making their complaints.

The so-called CIA connection is that one of the women, a socialist, wrote a thesis on the Cuban opposition, notably the liberal and social democratic parties. She was expelled from Cuba for interviewing members of opposition groups.

@8 Sally

Bin Laden – if still alive – is hiding in the mountain regions of the Afghan/Pakistani border, protected by sympathisers and warlords. Assange, on the other hand, was “hiding” in the home counties (judging from most accounts) and willingly gave himself up when the warrant was finally delivered. Slightly different things.

@9 Olching

You think there is no possible chance that Assange might, just maybe, have done something wrong here? You think that the CIA – four months ago – managed to pay two women to sleep with Assange and then “cry rape” afterwards? Bill Clinton was also the victim of a stitch-up by right-wing forces – he also happened to be guilty as sin of being a sexual bully. The two things can go hand in hand. A stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.

Agree with OP and it’s like I’ve been saying all along – Wikileaks is NOT Assange. Assange could be an al-Queda operative with a penchent for paedophilia and it still wouldn’t stop Wikileaks being A Good Thing On The Whole. What’s the opposite of an ad hom? Because people who think Assange is purer than pure and whiter than white on limited evidence other than his association with Wikileaks appear to be guilty of it.

IMPORTANT NB: I am not saying Assange is guilty. I don’t know. The point is, neither does anyone else.

Oops, html fail. It’s a conspiracy 😛

Thanks all for the positive comments.

He’s ‘guilty’ because political elites have decided that he is and in so doing hope to destroy wikileaks.

Hence my post, which did risk “stating the bleeding obvious” as one comment puts it. When this argument arises, we should argue against it.

@12 Mr S Pill

Of course he could be guilty, but then Christ might return, too.

I just find it staggering that – in what is a clear fix – rather than sticking up for someone who is being utterly shafted for arguing and employing freedom of expression etc…some step back and leave him to the wolves.

@14 Robert

That’s you included.

Of course it’s about the survival of wikileaks; I think we agree. But we cannot treat this sexual assault charge with seriousness (either, as some are arguing, as an impartial case or, as you are arguing, as an annoying aside).

This, with the current media onslaught against the anti-cuts movement, is open political violence. It’s quite a new development for these methods to be acted out so openly and ‘we’ (I unashamedly use the word progressive) should respond in kind.

@15 – hardly. that the timing of the charges is convenient for his detractors is not in any way proof of Assange’s innocence. At this point, crying conspiracy and slandering these two women is completely beyond the pale.

If the extradition goes ahead, we’ll get to see if the charges are justified or not – i hope we all know what a fair trial looks like to be able to judge. I must admit, i can’t think of what evidence could be presented to prove the charges being laid – the circumstances seem to suggest any prosecution is going to descend into his word against theirs – which probably explains why the charges were dropped the first time. So what evidence did they collect that I can’t think of that would have caused the case to be reopened? Or is it actually politically motivated? We’ll know when the trial starts…

If he goes missing between now & the court case, or the charges mysteriously dissipate once he’s in sweden to make way for an ectradition to the US, *then* we can shout conspiracy. And yes, that will be too late for Assange in those circumstances. But that’s all a rational person can do while remaining intellectually honest.

Oh, and I agree with the mauin thrust of the article unconditionally, of course. Go wikileaks! And Justice (real justice) for assange!

@15

Of course he could be guilty, but then Christ might return, too.

The way some people talk about Assange I’d say He is with us already …

@16

Well bloody said.

I agree with Robert. I also agree with Nick – it is outrageous to cast aspersions on the two women.

Obviously it will not change anything if Assange is convicted of a crime either in Sweden or the US. The fact that some people think it does shows that they still struggle to come to terms with the new world they live in. Just as was witnessed in the case a few weeks ago with the police trying to ban one website after the student protests. The next day hundreds of websites contained the same information. Decapitate Assange and persecute WikiLeaks and thousands more will pop up within days. It is the stateless power of the internet that makes the representatives of the nation state feel so threatened because they do not know how to control it. Previously a bog standard smear of anyone who presented a threat would have been suffice. I don’t know whether he is being smeared, but a smear by the US regime is no longer enough to stop a threat. They only succeed in making it go viral.

It does seem an extraordinarily political decision by the court to refuse bail to someone who voluntarily contacted the authorities and surrendered his passport. That does not seem like a person likely to abscond to me.

The best way for states to deal with WikiLeaks is to live up to their ideals and then there will be nothing for WikiLeaks to expose.

Well I wasn’t casting aspersions on the two women, but on the charge brought forward by Swedish prosecutors.

@16 Nick:

“hardly. that the timing of the charges is convenient for his detractors is not in any way proof of Assange’s innocence.”

Him being innocent until proven guilty is proof thus far of him being innocent.

And as I indicated earlier, I do think it likely that he will simply be extradited to the USA rather than running through this farcical charge. In so doing, the Swedish prosecutors save face (since the charge will never be disproved) and the US get their man. It’s so obvious, and no, I don’t usually subscribe to conspiracy theories.

http://www.chickyog.net/2010/12/07/assanges-mistakes/
This is an amusing take on the pickle Mr Assange has found himself in. Also a tad depressing if you start thinking about it.

crying conspiracy and slandering these two women is completely beyond the pale.

And completely unnecessary.

It’s clear from the charge sheet that Assange behaved caddishly towards them; it’s equally clear that the Swedish prosecutor has put forward no evidence that he raped them (I’m using the strict, UK definition of rape under which withdrawal of consent is rape, obviously – some US blogs pointlessly confuse the issue by pretending that people who say there’s no rape case mean no forcible rape case).

It is possible to accept *everything the women in the case have been quoted as saying*, and still to believe that there is no legitimate rape case against Assange, that charges were brought solely because of who Assange is, that an EAW was brought solely because of who Assange is, and that the English court yesterday remanded him in custody on no evidence solely because of who Assange is.

First sane thing I have read about Assange in days cheers. I am sick of the guy guilty or not guilty. Its Mannings who is facing fifty plus years for his bravery and he isn’t on a head trip shagging Swedes.

Those horrible people at Spiked-online just took a broadside at Liberal Conspiracy.

Ever since the drip-tedious-drip of cabled gossip began last week, the esteem of beleaguered Western liberals has gradually been building. For too long, PC-ness had kept their prejudices in check. For too long, the opportunities for a bit of foreigner-bashing, were just too damned infrequent. For too long, Guardian-reading, New York Times-approving types had been left with little more than attacks on China’s human rights record to go on. As a Westerner, as an American, as a Brit, there just wasn’t that much to feel good about. Then, with the release of loads and loads of confidential diplomatic cables, all their petty, prejudice-heavy Christmases came at once.

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/9978/

FYI, everyone: Crikey’s Guy Rundle, who was in court yesterday, is the first journalist to ctually explain what was meant by count 1 of the four accusations levied against Assange: it is unequivocally an accusation of rape against Miss A, alleged to have taken place on an occasion that hadn’t previously been mentioned by either side.

I’ve updated my post from yesterday to include Rundle’s reporting.

I’m impressed that it’s taken an Australian (London-based) reporter for their equivalent of Private Eye to explain what accusations the charges laid yesterday *actually involve*, with the entire UK and US press failing to do so.

But I unequivocally retract everything I’ve said in the last ten hours about the Assange case – the English court had no choice but to uphold the charges, because what he is accused of *does* correspond to what is described as rape under English law. And, unless the Swedish prosecutors are doing something *unspeakably* dodgy, we have an accusation from an actual person that Assange raped her, which we all have to take seriously. Not to presume guilt, but not to presume innocence based on the stupid laws and global powerpolitics surrounding the case either.

(I don’t retract what I said before the hearing: the other three counts, which were the only things either side of the case had mentioned, are still just poor bedroom etiquette, not rape, and would not be criminalised anywhere sensible.)

“if you want revenge on someone who cheated or who dumped you, you should use a punishment with dating/sex/fidelity involved

Guess who?

http://progressivealaska.blogspot.com/2010/08/strangest-blog-thread-yet-on-swedish.html

@johnband

Any idea how to read that Rundle piece without getting into a death spiral with their ‘paywall’?

Matt

I haven’t seen such a torrent of conspiracy theory, misogynistic victim-blaming and la-la-la-can’t-hear-you on the left since OJ killed his wife.

Assange’s rape or non-rape has no bearing on whether Wikileaks are publishing the truth – but if he’s releasing information indiscriminately so he can claim his prosecution is politically motivated that *is* relevant.

Damon – Spiked would fire a broadside against their own dying Mothers if they think it’d get ’em attention.

Shatterface – Who’s been releasing information indiscriminately?

I particularly love the idea that people have that the US want Assange taken from the UK to Sweden to make it easier to extradite him.

Now which European countries have signed one-sided and silly extradition treaties with the US? Clue, the only one I know about is not in Scandinavia…

Matt: you need to sign up for a temporary trial to read it, annoyingly. I don’t like paywalls at all, but Crikey is good enough that I pay the fee (if you want quality journalism on Australian issues, and randomly surprising journalism on global issues, it’s the only place to go).

33. Shatterface

‘Now which European countries have signed one-sided and silly extradition treaties with the US? Clue, the only one I know about is not in Scandinavia…’

Quite. If the American wanted him extradited they could have the British bundle him into sack and delivered via overseas interrogators sans fingernails.

Watchman: the full-on conspiracy theory, so far as it goes, is 1) if someone’s an alleged rapist, that makes them less of a hero to the left and so we’ll be more likely to stop supporting them; 2) if someone’s in jail in a specific place in the UK on specific charges, that makes it a lot easier to invoke the UK/US extradition treaty than if they were free and planning on disappearing. These are true, but obviously completely making up rape charges in Sweden would be an odd way to go about things.

The less full-on conspiracy theory, which I more or less subscribe to, is that the US is leaning on all its allies to be as nasty to Assange as possible, and the Swedish government were the only ones who had actual police accusations against Assange that they were able to help out with.

Whether the impact of this pressure is that a crime that would otherwise have gone unpunished ends up being properly investigated and solved, or whether it’s that someone has to face a criminal investigation and at least a month in jail despite not having done anything illegal, remains to be seen, although the scales seem to have tipped towards the former now that charge 1 from yesterday has been revealed.

“Quite. If the American wanted him extradited they could have the British bundle him into sack and delivered via overseas interrogators sans fingernails.”

Yes, but that would not play very well in the world of public opinion. The US wants to keep the public thinking they are a nice, warm, cosy country that wants peace and democracy. When in fact they are a fascist military state. So it must all be done with pretend process and bullshit charges.

What is fascinating about this case is the total silence from the tory party and their lackies in the right wing media. It is only a year ago we were being told by the likes of David (I have a big ego) Davis that the state was becoming too powerful and we were turning into a Stalin state.

Now we here nothing but the sound of silence, from the so called freedom, anti state liars in the tory party. And as we know the British govt what ever colour sucks up to the American corporatist state so much that even American diplomats laugh at us.

Always jaw dropping to see the so called libertarian tory trolls defending the arrest and extradition of a man who is guilty of publishing govt information. If was not so serious it would be laughable.

America is now a very dangerous Empire that passes laws that it thinks can be inforced all over the world.

“2) if someone’s in jail in a specific place in the UK on specific charges, that makes it a lot easier to invoke the UK/US extradition treaty than if they were free and planning on disappearing.”

This was backed up by a Bush govt judge on Newsnight last night who said that now he was in prison in the UK for a crime, any crime it is much easier for the American govt to step in and take him first.

But you are wasting your time trying to debate this with the tory brownshirts. Their so called liberarian bullshit only applies when we have a Labour govt.

37. Padraig Reidy

Why is Alexander Cockburn using Israel Shamir as a source?

John,

I was originally quite taken with the idea there was government pressure on Mr Assange to show the cost of sharing information.

However there is something a bit wrong with this (and to me the actual revelation of the charge is not the issue). I am not a great fan of the Obama adminsitration (very disappointing in my book), but are we expected to believe they are so petty as to engage in this sort of behaviour (Clinton administration probably, but that was a different story)? And if it is agencies without government consent, why is the Swedish government complying?

I now think it is coincidence (albeit the publication of the accusation has been politicised). And it makes no difference to Wikileaks, which does good work anyway.

sally,

Libertarians support wikipedia since it takes secret information and makes it public. But that would not fit your predetermined and rather strange narrative that seems to have me labelled as an opponent of Wikipedia. Do you actually read anything I write or just make assumptions about what it says?

And as to the US being a facist military state, I suppose you are one of those witty people who drew pictures of President Obama with a Hitler moustache then? Do you realise you are increasingly sounding like the nuttier members of the Tea Party?

Some interesting stuff here: http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2010/12/08/wikileaks-and-the-arrest-of-julian-assange/ and here: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B669H20101207

I’m pleased that Wikileaks seems to still be up and running despite Assange’s problem and the attacks on their funding. However if the Reuters piece is correct then assange appears to be a bit of an asshole.

“I suppose you are one of those witty people who drew pictures of President Obama with a Hitler moustache then? “

Oh dear you rally are very naive. It does not matter whether it is Obama, Bush, Elvis, or The Osmond’s as President. America is a military industrial complex and the politicians are just puppets.

Assange should resign from Wikileaks at least until the sex allegations business is cleared up. It is too important to risk being dragged down with him.

sally,

Ah yes, the country where they have elections to determine the candidates for election is clearly in the pocket of the corporations!

Do you know how many elected posts there are in the US, including many that are in the judicial side of things? Can you imagine how difficult it would be to ensure that no elected judge ruled against you in a small city in Alabama. If I was a corporation wanting to run a country, I’d pick a centralised one with weak local democracy, like say the United Kingdom, where it would be relatively easy to sneak nice and close to a government, especially one that wanted a centralised state with more power in their hands.

Niave maybe, but capable of recognising liklihoods, also.

A few more details have emerged from Radio Sweden news. The women’s laywer, Claes Borgström, asked whether the women are supporting charges being brought, says “yes, they are” (although if they weren’t, charges would still go ahead).

Asked about the “joke” that Swedish men need to seek written permission for sex, Borgström says, “It’s an unfair joke. Men want to repeat that joke… If a woman says ‘no, stop now, I was interested in the beginning but not any longer’, many men say, ‘I don’t care’.”

He also explains that it was he who asked for the case to be reopened after it was initially dropped by prosecutors.

http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=4229104

@18 “The way some people talk about Assange I’d say He is with us already …”

Too right! It bothers me that some people are prepared to prejudge the sex case, like making a leap in faith (in Him!), that the women accusers must be lying whores and JA (not JC!) is as pure as the driven snow. Scary,

captain swing – The words “Israel Shamir reports” really shouldn’t inspire trust in one.

These false rape allegations just make Sweden and the US seem despicable. I wont be going to Sweden now. In saying that, wasn’t that long ago Blair made the UK look just as despicable and with Cameron at the tiller, even more so.

Rae,

We don’t know if the sexual assault charges are true OR false. Please don’t prejudge the case before the evidence is properly revealed.

When cry “foul” when someone is assumed to be guilty before the case against them is tried in Court, and so we should. Assuming innocence before the case against is tried in Court is just as dangerous.

If there is anywhere in the World Assange may expect to get a fair hearing on this issue it will be in Sweden.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Wikileaks is More Than Assange http://bit.ly/faZBvj

  2. Paul Crowley

    RT @libcon: Wikileaks is More Than Assange http://bit.ly/faZBvj

  3. Alicia

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  4. Derek Bryant

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  5. Greg Sheppard

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  6. Police State UK

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  7. Denny

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  8. Sharron Ward

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  9. Tom Fowler

    RT @libcon: Wikileaks is More Than Assange http://bit.ly/faZBvj

  10. Vegan Panda

    @libcon Article like this http://bit.ly/faZBvj are acting like Julian Assange is finished, only handed himself in this afternoon! #Wikileaks

  11. Satan Smith

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  12. The Fat Councillor

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  13. conspiracy theo

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  14. Samuel West

    RT @libcon: Wikileaks is More Than Assange http://bit.ly/faZBvj

  15. nina

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  16. Spir.Sotiropoulou

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  17. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    RT @libcon: WikiLeaks is More Than Assange http://bit.ly/faZBvj

  18. robertsharp59

    I've put a blog on @LibCon: #WikiLeaks is More Than Assange http://bit.ly/faZBvj #Cablegate

  19. Jacob Richardson

    RT @libcon: Wikileaks is More Than Assange http://bit.ly/faZBvj

  20. robertsharp59

    @davidallengreen not I: http://bit.ly/faZBvj

  21. David Allen Green

    Sensible liberal post by the great @robertsharp59 on why #Assange and #WikiLeaks should be kept separate: http://bit.ly/faZBvj

  22. Leon Baruah

    But of course #wikileaks != #Assange http://bit.ly/fEEBMn

  23. Michael G Peckitt

    WikiLeaks is More Than Assange | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/fXCxQcF via @libcon

  24. Toni Pique

    #WikiLeaks is more than Assange: http://bit.ly/hhwkR3

  25. via multimedia

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  26. ????·???? -AMF-

    Alguém diga a esses facínoras que "liberdade de informação" não é inconsequência: http://is.gd/ioIFv

  27. Americans Debate the Fate of Julian Assange | society-society

    […] WikiLeaks is More Than Assange (liberalconspiracy.org) […]





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