Saturday, December 18, 2010

WikiLeaks: Bigger Than Julian Assange

The figure of Julian Assange is overshadowing the work of WikiLeaks. If Assange has any professional integrity his first loyalty should be to WikiLeaks and its work, not to himself. He needs to pass all responsibilities over to other capable colleagues, get himself out of the headlines and off the WikiLeaks masthead. He's become a hindrance, a distraction.

A cult of personality has been developing around Assange, one that's sickening in its narcissism. Respected supporters of human rights and some of the world's greatest investigative journalists such as John Pilger, are now accusing alleged rape victims of base motives and suggesting that Assange, their alleged rapist, "deserves all our support." What? Is this about WikiLeaks or Julian Assange? Assange is one person; WikiLeaks and the work it has done (and will hopefully continue to do), is much more important than he could ever be. In other words, the messenger hasn't been shot - but Assange has.

Assange may very well be innocent - I hope so - but he and his supporters have been put in the impossible position of defending him against accusations of rape. He needs to address the allegations and quit claiming to be a victim of a smear campaign. Yes, he's been smeared, but so too have these women, who according to Swedish police reports published by the Guardian, have allegations that deserve investigating. There were four accusations outlined at the hearing last week in London:
• That Assange "unlawfully coerced" Miss A by using his body weight to hold her down in a sexual manner.

• That he "sexually molested" Miss A by having sex with her without a condom when it was her "express wish" one should be used.

• That he "deliberately molested" Miss A "in a way designed to violate her sexual integrity".

• That he had sex with a second woman, Miss W, without a condom while she was asleep.
The Guardian article, "10 Days in Sweden: the Full Allegations Against Julian Assange", was published in the name of transparency. If Assange is pissed off with them as has been reported, there's a name for that - hypocrisy.

A spokesman for the Guardian said: "Julian is not a confidential source. The argument that the papers involved with the WikiLeaks cables should not report criticism of him is one all journalists would find ridiculous."

The same is true of WikiLeaks, but Assange needs to "recuse" himself until this crap blows over. Private Bradley Manning, the alleged source for the WikiLeaks material, has also not been convicted of any crime, yet he's reportedly been suffering extremely harsh and unusual treatment while languishing in solitary confinement. Surely, he's just as deserving of our support and of searing Op-Eds by the likes of John Pilger.

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