Tuesday, 11 December 2012

In which I RANT about Wikileaks Twitter Feed and Assange supporters

Make no mistake. This is a rant. But I am really, really cross.

This week the Wikileaks Twitter account decided to take umbrage that the Guardian had put Malala Youasafzi up as one of the people you could vote for in their person of the year poll. They encouraged followers to go on and vote for Bradley Manning, who won. Of course, this is free poll so it’s fine to say you want someone to win. What isn’t fine is to be dismissive about the case of a fourteen year-old girl who risked her life for the rights of girls to go to school, simply because you don’t like the Guardian. But that’s exactly what Wikileaks did. 

Before going on this weird anti-Guardian rant about how they were trying to fix the vote so that it suits their ‘pro-war’ agenda.

This, in case we forgot, is the Guardian who printed the Wikileaks cables until Wikileaks named sources, has printed articles defending Assange regarding rape allegations multiple times, who even published a long and extensive interview with Assange this week, and who ran a poll where Manning was judged person of the year (which is cool BTW, Manning should have recognition, not least for the awful treatment he has received in the USA). 

But despite all of this coverage, the Guardian is like totes part of a media conspiracy INTENT on silencing Assange and his supporters. 

Anyway, it’s the tweets about Malala that made me angry. It’s the statement that she was ‘reportedly shot in the head’ – a ‘report’ that apparently meant she has been exploited by the pro-war lobby and gave the Guardian another opportunity to write on the ‘evils’ of the Taliban. It’s made me angry. It all hangs on that word to me, ‘reportedly’. 

Malala was not ‘reportedly’ shot. She was shot. She was shot because she believes that girls like her have the right to an education – an education and a future that the Taliban would deny her. Let’s get this absolutely straight. She was shot by a group of adult men who are so scared of girls getting an education that they respond with attempted murder. Malala is brave. She is an outstanding young woman who has been vilely attacked for standing up for girls’ and women’s rights to freedom of speech. 

Well DONE Wikileaks! Well done for classing what happened to her as nothing more than something to be exploited by the pro war lobby. Well done for diminishing her bravery and the violence done to her by using the words ‘reportedly shot’. Well done for deciding that her courage and her campaigning work and the shots that were fired are just fuel for more anti-Taliban propaganda. And well done for casting everyone who believes Malala is a ‘person of the year’ as being part of the pro war lobby. 

Malala put her safety on the line to stand up for what she believed in. At the age of 14 she was shot for standing up for what she believed in. She wasn’t ‘reportedly’ shot. That tweet was pathetic, a pathetic attempt to undermine her bravery and the terrible violence committed against her just to fuel a further pathetic vendetta against the Guardian. I mean, for fuck’s sake.  

Bradley Manning is in jail, suffering terrible privations for taking a stand too. 

Julian Assange is in the Ecuadorian Embassy hiding away from rape and sexual assault allegations. 

I don’t particularly want to delve into the ins and outs of the legalese of Assange’s rape case. I’ve done it before. But whenever I see or hear his supporters I start to wonder. I mean, Galloway? Bullies on Twitter calling Emma Kennedy a ‘fucking retard’? John Pilger hectoring us on how Julia Gillard isn’t feminist whilst denying women’s voices at the same time? A former ambassador ignoring that we don’t name rape complainants? A TV station controlled by a dictator? A President who enjoys cracking down on the freedom of the press? Galloway? I mean, wow. With friends like these…

Do you know which people don’t believe women when they talk about violence committed against them, or who name rape survivors, or who minimise violence against women such as a girl being shot? Not very nice people, that’s who. It seems that for all their so-called liberal lefty credentials, Assange supporters have a lot in common with Daily Mail columnists. You know, people who believe that rape can’t happen when two people are ‘in the sex game’. People who believe that women routinely lie about rape. 

In this weekend’s interview with Assange, the rape allegations are brushed aside, quite literally:

Leaving aside the two women in Sweden who were once his admirers and now allege rape and sexual assault,”

The subject is briefly returned to when Assange says that he would go to Sweden if they assured him he wouldn’t be extradited to the USA. As has been pointed out many times, Sweden cannot give that assurance – beyond the fact that Sweden will not extradite anyone to face the death penalty or on political charges. 

I personally hope that Assange is not extradited to the US. I don’t believe anyone should be extradited to a country that has the death penalty, full stop. I disagree with the UK having an extradition agreement with the US on this basis. What I do hope, what I think so many of us want, is for him to go to Sweden and face the rape allegations, so that justice can be done. Justice for the women, which also means justice for him. 

I don’t understand how people can continue to defend Assange. I really don’t. Look at yesterday. “Reportedly shot”. Those words attempt to diminish a terrible crime against a young girl who simply wants freedom and education. Then there was the encouraged online bullying of a critic. And don’t forget the solidarity sent his way by men who don’t call it rape when a woman is asleep, who bombastically redefine the law around consent. This behaviour, this defence – it’s not maverick, it’s not cool. It’s the same old misogyny, the same old rape apologism, the same old victim blaming, the same old silencing. It’s embarrassing.  


Joe Evans said...

I can't really buy into the cult of Assange myself. I have some sympathy with the concept of Wikileaks but the more I read about the man himself the more I tend to interpret Wikileaks as a theatrical, attention-seeking device for a rampant egotist with something of a martyr complex.

nickleberry said...

Sian, I agree with much of what you've written. (This is true in general - I think your blog is excellent.)

I don't know the details of what wikileaks people have said about Malala, but it sounds shit.

I want to make one `moderating' remark however: it seems clear that there are a whole bunch of people who scream their support for Assange whilst also using that as an excuse for behaving unforgivably in many different ways. I entirely condemn people who try and downplay the seriousness of rape, who peddle misogyny in whatever form, who bully people on the internet etc etc etc.

All of this, however, does not invalidate the opinions of right-thinking, reasonable people who are suspicious of the motives of the Swedish state. Note: I'm talking about the motives of the Swedish state here - this has nothing to do with the motives of the two Swedish women involved. (I have no reason to doubt that their motives are entirely pure.)

With regard to the Swedish state though: it seems very strange to me that the Swedish chief prosecutor (or whatever their title is) won't come to the UK to interview Assange about these allegations. My understanding is that Assange would cooperate with this fully and, so far as I am aware, this is all that the Swedish prosecution service wants to do at this time. i.e. they do not want to extradite him to face charges at this time, they merely want to interview him.

People are naturally suspicious that the global politics around Assange & Wikileaks are influencing the way this case is played out. It is clear that the Americans would like to bury Assange in the same way as they are currently burying Manning, and this is not something that should be allowed to happen. Of course I want justice for the two women involved in this case, but I also want justice for Assange and for Manning - and, sad to say, we clearly can't assume that following the legal avenues of the UK/ Swedish/ American states will give this result.

In sum, then, I hear your frustration and I entirely respect your point of view on this. Please, though, spare a thought for those of us who are genuinely seeking justice in this whole affair, and who have no interest in exploiting it for underhand reasons.

Unknown said...

What drama queens both you and Emma Kennedy are. You give us sane and level-headed women a bad reputation. All that raving on over one word - 'reportedly'. As far as I understand it means 'by report' - NOT 'supposedly' as you have chosen to interpret it AND blow it all out of proportion :(

As far as the rape case, before reading your post I knew nothing about it, so I did a bit of checking myself and it turns out that the women never accused him of rape, they merely wanted to know whether the police were able to force Mr Assange to have an STD test because apparently he had not used a condom whilst having sex with the younger woman.

And even though NO charges were ever laid, Mr Assange actually fronted up to the Swedish Police and was interviewed before he left the country.

If they thought he was in any way guilty, or a flight risk, they would have either detained or arrested him on the spot. Instead they allowed him to leave the country and he did not sneak out under the cover of darkness.

You really should be more responsible when posting on the internet and check all the fact like I did before ranting about things you were too lazy to properly investigate yourself.