domingo, febrero 13, 2011

Not crazy about Assange

Enough with the Julian Assange hero worship

We are probably risking getting our website sabotaged by saying it, but the unthinking cult of personality that has swelled around WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is appalling on several counts. For those who can see past the groupthink glorification, it reveals another example of the dissident space traditionally held by the left being assumed by the populist right—a frightening and growing phenomenon. We will make this case primarily in the words of Assange himself, and his supporters. So, as the ubiquitous catch-phrase in his defense goes, "Don't shoot the messenger"...

Demonizing "revolutionary feminism"
The most blatantly irritating thing is abject demonization of the women who have made the charges of sexual abuse against Assange. In any other context, the summary dismissal of a woman's rape accusations would be seen as utterly politically incorrect. But Assange gets away with anti-feminist rhetoric that would do Rush Limbaugh proud. In an interview now receiving widespread coverage in the British press (e.g. The Telegraph, Dec. 26), Assange says: "Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism... I fell into a hornets' nest of revolutionary feminism." Assange added that one of the women who said she was assaulted took a "trophy photo" of him lying naked in her bed. (TMI, Julian.)

Especially sickening is Naomi Wolf, who sneers in Huffington Post at the international "Dating Police" that have snared Assange. Flaunting her supposed creds as a "longtime feminist activist" in the opening sentence, she writes that "Assange is accused of having consensual sex with two women, in one case using a condom that broke." A Dec. 17 account in The Guardian (based on Swedish police documents that were—ahem—leaked) paints a rather different picture. (E.g.: "She told police that she had tried a number of times to reach for a condom but Assange had stopped her by holding her arms and pinning her legs.") John Pilger, who presumably wasn't there when the putative leg-pinning took place, nonetheless told ABC Sydney on Dec. 8 the case against Assange is a "political stunt." Wolf's glib dismissal of the allegations is especially ironic in light of her own sexual harassment claims against Harold Bloom, which many had similarly dismissed as spurious (e.g. Meghan O'Rourke in Slate, Feb. 25, 2004).

The Cuban connection —or not?
The apparent ties of one Assange accuser to Cuban dissident organizations is being used as evidence that she was part of a "honey-trap" arranged by US intelligence agents. The Miami Herald informed us Dec. 8: "She visited Cuba about four times between 2002 and 2006 as a representative of Swedish social democrats, said Manuel Cuesta Morua, head of Cuba's Arco Progresista, a social-democratic dissident group." But Arco Progresista—like most of the groups highlighted in the accuser's Uppsala University thesis on Cuban democratic opposition—is a left dissident group, not linked to the right-wing "gusano" establishment in Miami (or, presumably, to the CIA). If anyone has really got dirt on Arco Progresista, we'd like to hear it.


Equally disconcerting are Assange's recent comments to Time magazine expounding his political philosophy—which turns out to be fashionably muddle-headed and reactionary. This is winning Assange some friends among our (supposed) enemies.


WikiLeak's uncovering of US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan is morally unassailable, and we owe every support to Bradley Manning, the courageous military whistle-blower who now faces charges for his leak. Nothing we say here changes that. But a bandwagon is still subject to the pathologies of mass psychology—even if it is a left-wing bandwagon. And if you look at the actual politics, the Julian Assange bandwagon isn't even all that left-wing.

See our last post on the WikiLeaks controversies.

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