TRIGGER WARNING FOR DISCUSSION OF RAPE, MISOGYNY AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE
This week the cowardly, creepy face of Julian Assange seems to be everywhere again. The reasons for this are many and awful. Wanted for questioning in relation to a sexual assault investigation, he has now been hiding from justice inside the Ecuadorian Embassy for over a year. He faces extradition to Sweden under a European Arrest Warrant.
In a (failed) attempt to defend him against the enforcement of the extradition, his legal team did not dispute that he had sex with 2 women against their wishes. Normally, I’d err on the side of caution when reporting these things – regardless of my personal beliefs – but in this situation there is no need. The case made by Assange’s team was that he shouldn’t be extradited to Sweden, because forcing yourself on non-consenting women isn’t a crime in the UK, if they continue to have sex with you. I’m no legal expert and I don’t know if what’s been suggest happened represents a criminal offence, either in Sweden or in the UK. But the actions described by his legal team represent rape by the standards of any decent human being, and hiding from that fact is not a radical or defensible position.
He’s clearly bored as fuck, being holed-up in a plush house in the middle of London must be awful. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, this has resulted in this horrendous video doing the rounds. Why it’s appropriate for him to be goading the women he’s running away from, no-one seems quite sure.
Much more offensive than some silly video is his attempt to further reduce his risk of ever being held accountable for his actions, by getting himself elected to the Australian Parliament. The time-honoured tactic of becoming a lawmaker to escape the law has served countless drug dealers, criminal warlords and dictators over the years. It even worked for Silvio Berlusconi…for a bit. His new “WikiLeaks Party” is further proof of how little he has in common with genuinely radical and progressive forces. The Australian electoral system is odd. They have a preference system and voters can, in theory, rank all the candidates in numerical order, if they so desire. However, 95% of voters choose instead to vote for a single party, who then assign any residual votes to other parties on the voter’s behalf. The sole benefit of this system is that backroom deals are done before the election, so voters know the kind of coalitions they’re likely to get at local and national level. In the New South Wales Senate race, the WikiLeaks Party indicated their preference towards the white nationalist “Australia First Party” and the pro-gun “Shooters and Fishers Party” ahead of the Greens.
Their statement blaming this on an “admin error” stands in stark contrast to the resignation statements of the party’s 2nd-in-command and the woman who would actually have been elected if Assange was unable to take up his seat, for “whatever“ reason. Leslie Cannold stated: “Over the course of vigorous debates that have taken place over preferences there have been consistent challenges to the rights of the National Council, the 11 person democratic governing body of the WikiLeaks Party, to do its job: to make democratic, transparent and accountable decisions.” So “vigorous debates” and “consistent challenges” – not admin errors. Cannold spoke openly of plots to act against the will of the National Council’s decision on preferences (which was not to preference racists and gun enthusiasts over Green candidates). She also stated that perhaps Mr. Assange shouldn’t lead a supposedly democratic party but one which practiced “internal democracy.” Ouch.
Of course, Mr. Assange was making his intentions increasingly clear this week as well, which he cannae really blame on an admin error. He used a Q&A session with the young right-wing “Campus Reform” group to declare his support for “the libertarian aspect of the Republican Party” and most specifically Rand and Ron Paul, the batshit conspiracy theorists who, unlike “libertarians” in general, are fiercely opposed to LGBT* and womens’ rights. This doesn’t bother Assange, far from it. He declares he respects their support for “non-violence.” His definition of non-violence seems to include, “don’t extort taxes from people to give to the federal government. Similarly, other aspects of non-violence in relation to abortion.” Anti-abortionists have never been associated with non-violence, but if having to pay for stuff like health and education is violence, then we wonder what peace looks like.
The Paul dynasty want to abolish welfare and get rid of tax and workers’ rights, which are apparently all the work of “the man.” They somehow attempt to make this sound anti-corporate, despite it obviously being the blueprint for a corporate model of unbridled capitalism and austerity. This occasionally works when they mention they wouldn’t spend money on war or drug prohibition, if you’re prepared to ignore the fact that he wouldn’t spend money on ANYTHING. Oh aye, and fuck the women and the gays, it’s the American/Australian way.
Assange knows what he’s doing, he knows most of the genuine left has no time for his nonsense anymore. He’s instead appealing to a new demographic; the myriad of conspiracy theorist internet warriors who think he is some sort of (non-reptilian) God, sent to awaken the world from its subservience to the one world government, or some shit. These self-same people were the first to throw muck at the women who Assange’s legal team did not dispute he had sex with against their wishes. It’s an illumanti plot to get their man, these women probably didn’t even exist, one of them once went to an anti-Cuban meeting, the crab people did it, they’re all just US-funded liars.
The usual myths of rape apologists filled cyberspace alongside more imaginative offerings about who might be behind all this. The timing (which was unlikely to be a coincidence – the authorities probably found dirt because they were looking) was used as further proof the whole thing was just another Islamist/CIA conspiracy. None of these people were falling for this Communist/Zionist ploy to frame Assange who was definitely a total hero who could do, or have done, no wrong. The fact that his lawyers were clear that these women did exist and that Assange did sleep with them is lost as, to this day, some continue to assert that the Pope/Queen are somehow responsible for all this. Sheeple are being encouraged to wake up on a regular basis.
Much as I mildly chuckle at these people at times, we’re talking about rape here. Sometimes the stuff they spout is just distracting or amusing. Doubting women and casting aspersions on their testimonies based on their political views isn’t funny, it’s dangerous. Politically active men who made these arguments in defence of a powerful, rich man need to examine why they choose to do so. If a woman’s political views invalidate her claims, then any women who disagrees with you becomes fair game. None of these people could possibly have known anything about the women involved or what happened and they have now been demonstrated to be incorrect in their many and varied assertions. Their behaviour has betrayed an instinctive hostility towards holding the leadership of political movements to account for their behaviour, especially where women *yuck* are involved. The continued existence of these attitudes has dangerous consequences for the safety of women in our movement.
It’s time we listened to women in our society and in our politics. Not just the women who were abused by Assange and his supporters but women like Leslie Cannold. His former deputy is just another victim of his stubborn refusal to be held accountable. Similarly, we should listen to fearless women like Salma Yaqoob, the former Respect Party leader who refused to stand by and watch George Galloway trivialise Assange’s behaviour or rape in general. It’s always the good guys who get forced out when we don‘t speak up, or rather, it’s always the good women.
A basic lack of accountability runs through everything the WikiLeaks founder does; even his decisions vis-à-vis Wikileaks, which often endanger his sources for his own ego, are questionable and highly contested amongst those he once worked with. If we hate the idea that governments can get hold of our data, we cannot be blasé about self-appointed vigilantes who’re accessing it either. We can’t just assume the people with the power to do these things always have good intentions. Who is assessing the quality of this data and decided what to do with it? Who has a say over its publication? Who decides if it endangers sources or lives or our security? Who gets to decide what’s right and what’s wrong? Assange? Some guy with a laptop? The Australia First Party? This stuff matters. Of course, it’s convenient for Assange and his assorted cheerleaders to avoid these questions. Don’t ask them to account for anything.
Doubtless a society where all information – and indeed everything was magically “free” (whatever that means) – and we had no “violent” tax – would be quality. However, we feel now might be the time to account for how we get there. The plan seems to be to slash public spending and regulation and embrace an even more relentless form of capitalism; in New South Wales it apparently involves guns and white supremacy. What seems radical on the surface, mainly because it’s wearing a V for Vendetta mask and ranting about revolution or the corporations, is actually just more right wing bollocks; a Trojan Horse/Virus infecting the bedrooms of the keyboard warriors and the Aussie teabaggers. It’s presented to be intentionally confusing, as a never ending array of mysterious interconnected baddies with hidden agendas are out to get their man and by extension all of us.
Really, it’s very simple; they are trying to confuse us into believing there is nothing we can do except trust their hero and vote to make him even less likely to be held accountable. This message isn’t radical at all and it represents no progress towards the stated aims of the WikiLeaks party – Justice & Freedom. It just steals our ability to enact change in our society or to analyse power properly; the world isn’t run by a secret conspiracy but by total bastards in plain sight. Assange, Ron Paul et al want us to chase imaginary lizards or believe that somehow support for a low tax, unregulated free-market society represents either “justice” or “freedom.”
His few remaining left wing defenders, unable to continue to just shout about how much women are liars all the time, are forced to repeat the few other things they know, in the hope we might be blissfully unaware of their startling revelations about geo-politics: America is naughty, imperialism is bad, not very nice people run things, nobody likes a tittle-tattle. What no-one can explain anymore is why Assange should be given the total freedom to do as he pleases to women with no accountability to the movement or the people he claims to serve, just because he doesn’t like America very much. Clearly, his new party is another victim of his selfish and destructive behaviour and the increasingly nonsensical “political” trajectory he is on. It’s a total embarrassment that left wing or social justice movements let him leech off them in the past, and we can only hope that his continued support for the destruction of welfare and regulation, as well as heaping praise on people who’s “libertarianism” doesn’t extend to women or LGBT* people, will be a wake up call.
We need to call out for Assange for his bullshit and hold him and his supporters accountable for what they say and do. But more importantly, we need to call him a wanker.
Julian – you’re not the victim of a Swedish-imperialist conspiracy or an admin error and you‘ve got some fucking cheek calling yourself an asylum seeker. You don’t support freedom, you don’t support justice, you’re JUST a wanker.
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