Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Julian Assange: The Flashing Red Light

According to Julian Assange, censorship is always a sign of fear. It expresses weakness. It is like a flashing red light that tells everyone, "Hey, there is something to see over here." It is also a tacit admission by censors that their system can be reformed through the power of free speech - why else would they fear it?

In fact, as Julian told Hans Ulrich Obrist in May 2011, this understanding is a key to how and why WikiLeaks was first established:

"So, it was an epiphany to see the signal of censorship to always be an opportunity, to see that when organizations or governments of various kinds attempt to contain knowledge and suppress it, they are giving you the most important information you need to know: that there is something worth looking at - to see if it should be exposed - and that censorship expresses weakness, not strength."

From this perspective, it is fascinating to look at how many powerful people and supposedly benign institutions have tried - and failed - to silence WikiLeaks. What we discover is that Julian Assange himself has now become that flashing red light. By repeatedly trying to silence and smear him, the censors of truth have only exposed themselves.

In 2010, just when WikiLeaks revelations about Iraq, Afghanistan and the US State Department began rocking governments around the world, Julian was falsely labelled a "Double Rapist" on the front pages of global newspapers. Interpol issued a warrant for his arrest, even though the allegations (which remain unproven, because Sweden never filed charges, so innocence should be presumed) were not considered crimes in other countries. On December 7th, 2010, the British police threw Assange into Wandsworth Prison and locked him in solitary confinement for ten days, only releasing him after supporters posted a massive £140,000 bond. He was shackled with an electronic GPS ankle bracelet and forced to report daily to the local police station. Senior US political figures called for Assange to be arrested, tortured or assassinated. US banking giants, with the help of PayPal, cut off WikiLeaks' access to funds.

Publicly, the British government insisted that Assange was being treated like any other suspect. But we now know that the UK Crown Prosecutor privately assured Sweden that this would not be treated like a normal case. In fact they even asked the Swedes not to come and question Assange in London, which would have been normal procedure. And then they destroyed the paperwork, before the case was even closed! And we only know this thanks to documents obtained by an Italian journalist, Stefania Maurizi, who is still pushing for more information. The British press have been too busy assassinating Assange's character to even investigate the case.

The US media, the CIA, the Australian government, and many others have similarly tried to smear or silence WikiLeaks and Assange over the past eight years. But self-censorship has also become a major problem: people exposed to so much relentless anti-WikiLeaks propaganda are prone to fall silent, or modify their views, lest they too be branded an "enemy of the state". On Twitter, for example, many journalists insist they support WikiLeaks journalism, but repeatedly express contempt for Julian Assange. It's difficult to get these people to even discuss the facts of his case, because they don't really want to know. They ignore you or block you instead.

What we see is that Assange and WikiLeaks have broken no laws, but instead have broken an unspoken taboo. We are not supposed to look at power too closely, lest the whole artifice of society crumbles. Supporters of the Establishment everywhere assure us that chaos is the only alternative. We are encouraged to tolerate a degree of corruption because after all, that is how the world works. Business is business. None of us are perfect. Now run along, children.

Can YOU handle the truth? Most people, it seems, cannot. Most don't want to break the taboo. They are scared of what they might find. They are scared of the unknown. They are scared of possessing knowledge, because then they might be obliged to do something about it. Better to know nothing than become complicit through inaction.

With an untrustworthy media and the explosion of social media, we find ourselves surrounded by myths. The corporate media peddles myths about who is good and who is bad. For example, compare reporting on Saudi Arabia with Venezuela, or Israel and Russia. This year, many Europeans were shocked to see their leaders endorsing Spain's violent attacks on Catalonian protestors. But the same leaders had worked together in 2013, forcing the Bolivian President's plane to land when the USA thought Edward Snowden was traveling on board. We rarely see networks of power at this level exposed so clearly.

The persecution of WikiLeaks and Assange reveals how corrupt power works in this world. With enough money and the right connections, you can become untouchable. But if you dare push too hard to discover the truth, you will be relentlessly attacked and destroyed. This is not acceptable in a world where the Neoliberal orthodoxy is collapsing, inequality is on the rise, and we urgently need to solve global problems like climate change, resource wars, and the consequent massive flows of asylum seekers.

So don't believe the hype. Don't censor yourself. Get involved. Speak up. Support those with the courage to put their lives on the line for the truth. Together we can change the world.

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