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The Assange Outrage

[1]2,439 words

A little more than two years ago I published a piece on this site titled “I Keep Forgetting that I’m Not an American [2].” The occasion was Wikileaks’ release of “Vault 7” and the reaction from establishment Republicans. Vault 7 consisted of thousands of documents revealing the CIA’s ability to compromise smartphones and smart TVs, as well as Web browsers and even cars. As I mentioned in my essay from 2017, I greeted this news with elation: “The bastards have been exposed!” So-called “conservatives” greeted it with cries of “treason!” It was, as I discussed at length, an occasion for me to remind myself that I’m a revolutionary, not a “conservative” – and that, deep down, I don’t want to protect or fix the United States. I want to topple it and replace it with something better.

Now, with the Julian Assange’s arrest on April 11, it’s déjà vu all over again, and this time the hypocrisy from establishment goons is even more naked, obvious, and positively obscene. It’s a golden opportunity to measure the reach of the Deep State’s tentacles, and to see very clearly that those we thought were maybe, sorta on our side really aren’t. Further, as his Right-wing critics have been observing for some time, those tentacles now seem to have choked the wind out of the hapless Mr. Trump. Assange’s arrest is a real test of Trump’s mettle – a test he is already failing.

The basic facts are that on April 11, the Ecuadoran government invited the Metropolitan Police into its London embassy to arrest Assange. Assange had been given asylum by Ecuador and had been living in the embassy since 2012. His troubles started in November 2010, when Sweden issued an international arrest warrant for him, seeking to question him on allegations of sexual assault. It was widely believed at the time that these charges were likely “trumped up” –concocted by the Swedes and the Americans to “get Assange” on something, anything, and possibly extradite him from Sweden to the US to face charges in connection with his publication of classified American documents. Assange surrendered to London police in December 2010 and was released on bail. When he lost his fight against extradition, Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador and allowed to live in the embassy. Ecuador’s then-President Rafael Correa clearly thought that Assange was being railroaded, and he was doubtless correct.

The ostensible reason for Assange’s arrest is that he violated the terms of his bail by secreting himself in the Ecuadoran embassy and refusing extradition. But what many people do not know is that Swedish prosecutors later abandoned their sexual assault investigation into Assange, and actually applied to revoke their own arrest warrant in May 2017. In short, Assange has now been arrested for refusing extradition in accordance with a warrant that has been voluntarily withdrawn by Sweden, which has found no basis on which to charge him with anything. Yes, yes, yes: he did break the law in refusing to present himself for extradition. But does anyone believe that that is really what this is about?

On the same day that Assange was arrested, an indictment against him was unsealed, issued by the Eastern District of Virginia. Assange will now likely be extradited to the US to face trial. The charge? “Conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.” This is not all that big a crime, and carries a maximum five-year sentence. Assange’s attorneys, however, fear that once he is extradited, more serious charges will be unveiled. For the record, there appears to be no evidence that Assange hacked into US government computers or stole any documents himself. That crime was committed by “Chelsea” Manning, whose thirty-five-year prison sentence was commuted by President Obama. Assange merely published the documents, which is not a crime. Incidentally, for this reason, Obama’s Justice Department had declined to charge Assange.

In the current indictment, Judge Michael Snow said that Assange is “a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest.” Assange may very well be a narcissist, but it’s not entirely clear when being a narcissist became a reason to prosecute someone. By the way, a small detail that seems to have been lost in all this is that Assange is actually an Australian citizen (and also, from 2017 until his arrest the other day, an Ecuadoran citizen as well). One might expect Australian authorities to be concerned that one of their most famous citizens is being extradited to the US for trial on highly questionable charges, but Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stated – bizarrely – that the case has “nothing to do with Australia,” and is “a matter for the US.” The Swedes, Brits, and Aussies are only too happy to cooperate with the US in bringing down Assange – not out of love for Uncle Sam, but because people like Assange threaten what Hillary Clinton once revealingly called “the World Order.” It doesn’t take Noam Chomsky to figure that one out. Incidentally, why exactly did Ecuador rescind Assange’s asylum? Do you suppose it might have something to do with the $4.2 billion loan Ecuador received from the US just the other week?

Assange has been either loved or hated. Notoriously, however, those who love him tend to wind up hating him, and vice versa. There’s no mystery in this. Those who love him tend to be those who think Wikileaks is serving their interests. But when he ceases to serve their interests, the very same people do an abrupt about-face and issue denunciations. When Wikileaks released hundreds of thousands of damning documents concerning the Iraq War, Assange was the darling of the Left. “Conservatives” responded by saying that Assange was a criminal who threatened American security and needed to be arrested and extradited, or even assassinated (perhaps by drone strike).

All that changed in 2016. On July 22 of that year, Wikileaks released around twenty thousand e-mails and eight thousand files from the Democratic National Committee. Among other things, these documents clearly demonstrated that the Democratic primaries were rigged against Bernie Sanders, and in favor of Hillary Clinton. On October 7, 2016, Wikileaks released e-mails and documents sent or received by Clinton campaign manager John Podesta. These included excerpts from private speeches given by Clinton. In one of these, she stated, “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.” Other revelations included e-mails proving that CNN had leaked debate questions in advance to the Clinton campaign.

Overnight, the former darling of the Left became part of the “vast Right-wing conspiracy” and an agent of Vladimir Putin. One spokesman for the Clinton campaign said that “[b]y dribbling these out every day WikiLeaks is proving they are nothing but a propaganda arm of the Kremlin with a political agenda, doing Vladimir Putin’s dirty work to help elect Donald Trump [3].” It was an obvious ploy: The Democrats sought to change the subject from the content of the e-mails to how they were discovered and released – while never disputing that the e-mails were genuine. This fact was astutely noted by Putin himself, who denied any role in the matter and said, “The hysteria is merely caused by the fact that somebody needs to divert the attention of the American people from the essence of what was exposed by the hackers.”

Meanwhile, Republicans – who had formerly called for Assange’s head on a spike – seemed suddenly smitten with the man. In 2010, Sean Hannity had declared that Assange was “at war” with the US. In 2016, Hannity had nothing but praise for him. The following year, Hannity interviewed Assange, and said that he believed “every word he says,” because “nothing he has published has ever been false.” In 2010, Sarah Palin described Assange as an “anti-American operative with blood on his hands.” After the release of the Podesta emails, she began praising him.

Newt Gingrich exhibited a similar about-face. In 2010, he called for Assange to be treated as an “enemy combatant,” then changed his tune after the release in 2016 of the DNC documents. Oh, what a difference a little more than two years makes! After Assange’s arrest, Gingrich appeared on FOX News and appeared to have reverted to his earlier position. Stated Gingrich, “If you believe in national security, if you believe in the security of the United States, he’s a villain.” Hannity, to his credit, has stuck by Assange. (No word yet from Palin, but who cares?)

The most odious flip-flop, however, has now come from Donald Trump. Asked just the other day for a reaction to the indictment against Assange, Trump responded, “I know nothing about Wikileaks. It’s not my thing.” Media outlets immediately went on the attack, accusing Trump of hypocrisy – and at least this time, they got things right. Video was played of Trump on the campaign trail in 2016 saying, “It’s been amazing what’s coming out of Wikileaks.” At one campaign stop, Trump declared, “I love Wikileaks! [4]” This prompted cries of “Lock her up!” whereupon Mr. Trump produced some papers and began reading some of the details about the Clinton e-mails that had been published by Wikileaks.

Yes, it’s true that Trump is distressingly inarticulate, and that by “I know nothing about Wikileaks” he could have meant “I know nothing about the charges.” Maybe. But if that’s the case, one still has to ask if this was really the best the man could do. It may very well be that Trump won the election because of Wikileaks, and he has clearly expressed his gratitude to them in the past. Now that the US Justice Department is about to extradite and try Assange essentially for the crime of being a journalist, could we not expect Trump to step up and do the right thing? Or at least say the right thing, even if he does nothing? Apparently not.

Speaking of Assange’s being a journalist, since his arrest, members of the establishment media have repeatedly insisted that Assange is not, in fact, a journalist at all. A representative tweet comes from Alexia Campbell of Vox: “Assange is no journalist. We know who he works for.” Yes, that’s the narrative: Assange is a “Russian agent.” And this view is by no means confined to the Left. “Julian Assange is Not a Journalist [5]” was the headline of a National Review story, published on April 12. “He’s a tool of Russia,” the piece went on to say. Even FOX’s “The Five” got in on the act, also claiming that Assange is not a journalist. (The Five’s resident blonde bimbo, whose name escapes me, even suggested that Assange may not have any rights in the matter at all, since he’s not an American citizen.) This has the appearance of a coordinated effort to discredit Assange’s strongest defense: that in publishing leaked documents, he was simply acting as a journalist.

Until recently, journalists praised other journalists who had the “courage” to publish leaked or stolen documents. One of the most famous cases of this was the The New York Times’ publication of the stolen “Pentagon papers” in 1971. Almost universally, journalists defended the right of The Times to do what it did. But that was before the publication of stolen documents helped get Donald Trump elected. Nothing reveals the political agenda of the establishment media more clearly than their rush to condemn Assange for acts they’ve always defended. Getting revenge for 2016 is far more important to the press than defending freedom of the press. As Tucker Carlson put it the other night [6], “The guardians of speech are now the enemies of speech. The people charged with policing power, are now colluding with power.” And need we comment on the irony of these discredited hacks gassing about who is and who isn’t a “real” journalist?

As Tucker also pointed out, everyone in Washington has some reason to hate Julian Assange. Now it’s payback time. The Left is especially delighted in Assange’s arrest, since it’s an opportunity to punish someone for Hillary’s loss. The schadenfreude is sickeningly obvious. On The Tonight Show [7] the other evening, Jimmy Fallon spent part of his monologue ridiculing Assange’s appearance in footage of him literally being dragged out of the Ecuadoran embassy. (Bearded and haggard, Assange had aged visibly in the years he spent in seclusion.) In a segment later in the show, he described Assange as looking like “a mall Santa on the other side of a nervous breakdown.” In a remarkable example of synchronicity, an hour later on his own show, Seth Myers described Assange as looking like “Santa Claus with a manifesto.”

It seems even Assange’s cat is considered fair game. The Washington Post has published a bizarre piece about the cat, which seems as if it is at least partly tongue-in-cheek. (The Independent republished the story, and you can read it for free here [8]). It is true that Assange kept a cat while living in the Ecuadoran embassy, and that the cat enjoyed its own Internet following. The story reports conflicting accounts of what happened to the cat (it was given to a shelter, Assange gave it to his family, etc.), though it appears definitely to no longer be in the embassy. The piece, while amusing, quickly becomes an opportunity to get in a few catty digs at Assange. A self-styled “expert on cats” is quoted as saying, “It seems quite possible that the cat may not have been particularly attached to Mr. Assange anyway. I would guess that it’s missing the embassy more than it’s missing him.” It is further intimated that keeping the cat was “PR” on Assange’s part.

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In “Checkmate,” an episode of the classic anti-establishment series The Prisoner, Number 6 devises a simple test to tell the difference between who is a fellow prisoner and who is a “guardian.” The Assange case gives us such a simple test. The reactions of journalists tell us which of them is a “real journalist,” and which is an establishment shill. The reactions of politicians tell us which of them actually supports a free society, and which of them supports the surveillance state. Their reactions also tell us which of them is a true critic of the globalist behemoth, and which of them only wants to prop it up. Make no mistake, Assange is slated for sacrifice at the altar of the “World Order” as a warning to all those who would defy it. The Assange case is also a test for Donald Trump: Did he really mean what he said about the “Deep State,” or was that just a lot of hot air? Is Trump still at war with the establishment, or has he been thoroughly co-opted by it? How this case unfolds over the coming months, and how our leaders and shapers of opinion continue to react, will be very interesting.