The recent days of the Julian Assange case have seen the biggest diplomatic incident since the Iraq War and the almost unprecedented courage of a small latin American country acting in defiance of US and UK diplomatic will on the world stage. However, these ordinarily jaw dropping events has been dwarfed by the framing of the discussion on whether the Ecuadorian Embassy was right or wrong to grant the Wikileaks head honcho asylum. Today’s article takes a look at what it says about us that we can’t use our ‘indoor voices’ for this conversation.
Mysogyny is NOT a left/right Issue
I’ve found myself in a bizarre position with this case. I am a feminist: a brown, lesbian feminist. I’m used to hearing all sorts of misogynist, homophobic, racist opinions on a fairly regular basis by people who do so without a full understanding of what they are saying. I have learned in that process that shouting someone down and making them feel like they are some sort of throw-back, knuckle dragging moron for their view…while sometimes cathartic, has never once helped me leave that person better informed of the offense they are causing or motivated them to change their opinion. In fact, I wrote an article about it not long ago. So, I have some experience in this. It is clear from the beahviour of some of my favourite commentators on the 'left' that this is not a lesson everyone has learned. Two of my greatest disappointments have come from separate sides of the debate. The first was Owen Jones' feintly maniacal article in the Guardian. There is too much wrong with the article for me to recite in full, but my main beef was the selectiveness of the reporting: there was a total missing of the unpredented treatment of Assange and the on again-off again nature of the case. There was also a sudden faith in the rigour of Sweden and UK as signers of the European Convention on Human Rights. For a columnist who spends most of his time writing about in how many ways this government over rides that convention, I was frankly stunned to see this. Finally, the tweets he issued around the article berating tweeps who did not agree as 'idiots' and 'mysogynists'. All left me throughly bemused.
At the other end of the spectrum was George Galloway's statement on the allegation being a breach of 'sex etiquette' rather than sexual assault.
I simply refuse to be hectored by anybody, particularly middle class white men, on how ‘right on’ by views on rape are. It’s simple: no consent, no sex. Anything other than fully consensual sex is rape. If Julian Assange did what the women have accused him of, he raped them. That is that.
The Whiff of Conspiracy
Now, as someone fluent in political history and the foreign relations and diplomatic exploits of both the US and UK governments, I cant help smelling the whiff of set up. I want Julian Assange to face the allegations made against him, but I only want him to face those allegations. I do not want to be a party to a well orchestrated witch hunt which sees the allegations magically vanish on arrival on Sweden, for him to be rendered to Guantanamo or elsewhere under the National Defence Authorisation Act, which enables the indefinite detention of US and foreign citizens without charge.
The Swedish government has form in extraditing to both the US and Russia, people who went in the likelihood of facing torture or death. The US and UK governments have a long and distinguished history of getting rid of their opponents, extra judicially if they have to. The US sponsored the coup of the democratically elected leader of Chile, Salvador Allende, and replaced him with dictator Augusto Pinochet, all because Allende was going to nationalise ITT (Chilean British Telecom) and that would cost the US a contract or two. One has to ask, if they would take such steps to protect a contract, what in God's name would they do to protect their deepest darkest national secrets?
One False Dichotomy and The Argument Escalates
However, instead of debating the finer points of the dilemma, a false dichotomy has been set up to frame this debate along inflammatory lines. One side composing male feminists, some legal eagles and well intentioned feminists whose argument is "Wikileaks was great, Julian Assange is a man accused of rape and he needs to go to Sweden to face those accusations, regardless" There is an a vein of the anti extradition, composing misogynists (of both sexes) saying ‘Rape? That’s not rape! It’s a honey trap!”
The largest group I’ve encountered – though you won’t hear much from them over the hysterical screaming of the others - is a group who say simply this: These allegations are serious and need to be answered. However, we do not trust the US government or our own not to a) have set up this whole thing, or b) to capitalise on it by extraditing him to US and taking out Wikileaks.
I won’t bother to restate the elements of the case that concern me most. They can be mostly found in the extraordinary article by noted feminist and rape victim advocate Naomi Wolf, and notable articles such as this, from Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian and excellent consideration given by the likes of former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Elsberg and others.
A Plea to The Better Angels of Our Nature
The purpose of this article really is a plea to the better angels of our nature. If you have suspicions of the US/UK governments intentions in this case, you do not need to de-legitimise the women making the allegations or the nature of the sexual assault itself. If you believe that Julian Assange should go to Sweden to face the allegations, you do not have the freehold on feminism, women’s rights and morality.
Now, whatever your view, I wish you well and please let's have this debate in a more peaceful and considered way. It does not honour anyone in the case to tear ourselves to shreds. Although, one has to say, if you wanted to pick a charge to lay on Assange that would reap havoc amongst a community more inclined to support him….one could do no better than this.