Enough with the Julian Assange hero worship

We are probably risking getting our website sabotaged by saying it, but the unthinking cult of personality that has swelled around WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is appalling on several counts. For those who can see past the groupthink glorification, it reveals another example of the dissident space traditionally held by the left being assumed by the populist right—a frightening and growing phenomenon. We will make this case primarily in the words of Assange himself, and his supporters. So, as the ubiquitous catch-phrase in his defense goes, “Don’t shoot the messenger“…

Demonizing “revolutionary feminism”
The most blatantly irritating thing is abject demonization of the women who have made the charges of sexual abuse against Assange. In any other context, the summary dismissal of a woman’s rape accusations would be seen as utterly politically incorrect. But Assange gets away with anti-feminist rhetoric that would do Rush Limbaugh proud. In an interview now receiving widespread coverage in the British press (e.g. The Telegraph, Dec. 26), Assange says: “Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism… I fell into a hornets’ nest of revolutionary feminism.” Assange added that one of the women who said she was assaulted took a “trophy photo” of him lying naked in her bed. (TMI, Julian.)

Especially sickening is Naomi Wolf, who sneers in Huffington Post at the international “Dating Police” that have snared Assange. Flaunting her supposed creds as a “longtime feminist activist” in the opening sentence, she writes that “Assange is accused of having consensual sex with two women, in one case using a condom that broke.” A Dec. 17 account in The Guardian (based on Swedish police documents that were—ahem—leaked) paints a rather different picture. (E.g.: “She told police that she had tried a number of times to reach for a condom but Assange had stopped her by holding her arms and pinning her legs.”) John Pilger, who presumably wasn’t there when the putative leg-pinning took place, nonetheless told ABC Sydney on Dec. 8 the case against Assange is a “political stunt.” Wolf’s glib dismissal of the allegations is especially ironic in light of her own sexual harassment claims against Harold Bloom, which many had similarly dismissed as spurious (e.g. Meghan O’Rourke in Slate, Feb. 25, 2004).

The Cuban connection —or not?
The apparent ties of one Assange accuser to Cuban dissident organizations is being used as evidence that she was part of a “honey-trap” arranged by US intelligence agents. The Miami Herald informed us Dec. 8: “She visited Cuba about four times between 2002 and 2006 as a representative of Swedish social democrats, said Manuel Cuesta Morua, head of Cuba’s Arco Progresista, a social-democratic dissident group.” But Arco Progresista—like most of the groups highlighted in the accuser’s Uppsala University thesis on Cuban democratic opposition—is a left dissident group, not linked to the right-wing “gusano” establishment in Miami (or, presumably, to the CIA). If anyone has really got dirt on Arco Progresista, we’d like to hear it.

Whither Israel Shamir?
A refreshing voice of dissent from the kneejerk vilification of Assange’s accusers is Katha Pollitt in the current edition of The Nation, who despairs that “when it comes to rape, the left still doesn’t get it.” She also finds that a key source of the “honeytrap” theory is the bizarre Israel Shamir (who we are informed by the British anti-fascist watchdog Searchlight has an alter ego as Swedish anti-Semitic writer “Jöran Jermas”). Follow this carefully…

Pollitt notes claims by blogger Mark Crespin Miller that “Assange accuser ‘Miss A’ had ‘interacted’ in Cuba with an anti-Castro women’s group supported by terrorist and former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles.” (Posada Carriles is indeed utterly sinister, but what does “interacted” mean, Miller?) Pollitt comments:

You would think the left would be more sensitive to charges of guilt by association—since when did marching in a demonstration mean you sign on to everything its supporters support? By those lights, everyone who went to an ANSWER-sponsored march against the Iraq War thinks North Korea is a Marxist paradise.

And everyone who believes and promotes the “information” that “Miss A” is a CIA “honeytrap” is an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier. Because the original source for that story is one Israel Shamir, writing in Counterpunch and vigorously defended by Counterpunch editor and Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn, who also belittles the accusations as “unsafe sex and failure to phone his date the following day.” I spent a few hours on www.israelshamir.net and learned that: “the Jews” foisted capitalism, advertising and consumerism on harmonious and modest Christian Europe; were behind Stalin’s famine in Ukraine; control the banks, the media and many governments; and that “Palestine is not the ultimate goal of the Jews; the world is.” There are numerous guest articles by Holocaust deniers, aka “historical revisionists.” We have now produced on the left an echo chamber like that on the far right, where the scurrilous charges of marginal fanatics are disseminated through electronic media and end up, cleansed of their original associations, as respectable opinion.

The predictably vile Counterpunch has of course wasted no time in providing a forum for the ultra-vile Shamir’s conspiracy theories in the Assange case. New York magazine meanwhile touts claims (admittedly from right-wing sources) that Shamir may actually work for WikiLeaks. (More about this below…)

Assange the Teabagger?
Equally disconcerting are Assange’s recent comments to Time magazine expounding his political philosophy—which turns out to be fashionably muddle-headed and reactionary. This is winning Assange some friends among our (supposed) enemies. In a post entitled “Julian Assange: Villain or Victim?,” the Virginia-based Teabagger blog Capitol Rush approvingly quotes from the Time interview (emphasis added):

“[The US] Constitution comes out of a revolutionary movement and has a Bill of Rights appraised by James Madison and others that includes a nuanced understanding for the balancing of power of [the] states in relation to the government” He continues, “The United States has some immutable traditions, which, to be fair, are based on the French Revolution and the European Enlightenment. The United States’ Founding Fathers took those further and the federalism of the United States also, of relatively powerful states trying to constrain federal government from becoming too centralized. [They] also added some important democratic controls and understandings. So there is a lot of good that has historically come from the United States.”

Assange continues by saying, “But after World War II, the federal government of the United States started sucking the resources to the center, and the power of states started to diminish. Interestingly, the First Amendment started overriding states’ laws around that time, which I see as a function of increasing central power in the United States. The US saw the French Revolution and it also saw the behavior of the UK and the other kings and dictatorships, so it intentionally produced a very weak President. The President was, however, given a lot of power for external relations, so as time has gone by the presidency has managed to exercise its power through its foreign affairs function.”

Woah, Nelly! Does Assange really think it is a bad thing that “the First Amendment started overriding states’ laws”? The only thing he can possibly mean by this is that states cannot make laws abridging free speech—which has been the case not since “after World War II,” but since the post-Civil War 14th Amendment, extending Bill of Rights restrictions to the state governments: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

All the gains of the civil rights movement are predicated on this fundamental principle, which is why Jim Crow defenders put forth the bogus doctrine of “state sovereignty”—now being revived by the most noxious elements of the anti-Obama backlash. How strange for a supposed First Amendment advocate like Assange to be echoing this poisonous rhetoric. Julian, if you are reading this—can you please explain what the hell you mean?

Dissidents hung out to dry?
The voluminous diplomatic communications seemingly dumped on the Web more or less indiscriminately by WikiLeaks of course contain much incriminating dirt on authoritarian regimes around the world—and connivance with them by Western powers. Among the many revelations is British training of a Bangladeshi paramilitary force that rights groups call a “death squad” and that even the US State Department derided (in private) as culpable of gross violations. (The Guardian, Dec. 21)

But those responsible for passing on incriminating information to diplomats may face repercussions on the ground. Reuters reports Dec. 25:

Zimbabwe’s attorney general plans to set up a commission to investigate possible treason charges against locals over briefings with US diplomats reported in confidential State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.

The move appears to be targeting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, following state media reports that hawks in President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party wanted an official probe into Tsvangirai’s briefings with the US ambassador in Harare.

In comments cited in one US State Department cable obtained by WikiLeaks, Tsvangirai appeared to suggest that his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was not genuine in calling for the lifting of Western sanctions against ZANU-PF.

There is admittedly a certain irony in the fact that Robert Mugabe’s regime may prosecute dissidents for talking to the US while the White House may prosecute Assange for revealing those conversations. But are Assange and his supporters going to loan any solidarity to the dissidents if they do face prosecution? Or they are all dupes of US imperialism, and we don’t care about their rights?

In Belarus, WikiLeaks and Israel Shamir have been directly implicated in repression—reportedly passing on to the regime leaked evidence that opposition figures were in communication with Western governments. From The Guardian Dec. 23:

Assange defended one of WikiLeaks’ collaborators, Israel Shamir, following claims Shamir passed sensitive cables to Belarus’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko has arrested 600 opposition supporters and journalists since Sunday’s presidential election. The whereabouts and fate of several of the president’s high-profile opponents are unknown.

Of Shamir, Assange said: “WikiLeaks works with hundreds of journalists from different regions of the world. All are required to sign non-disclosure agreements and are generally only given limited review access to material relating to their region. We have no reason to believe these rumours in relation to Belarus are true.”

Neocons love Assange
The crowning irony of the Assange affair may be that much of the leaked diplomatic material actually vindicates the very hardline interventionists that the WikiLeaks cult hopes to undermine. Gloats the neocon Jewish Policy Center:

The WikiLeaks documents demonstrate that the White House’s Middle East policy is based on a cloud of mythologies wholly rejected and contradicted by the analysis of American diplomats and allies in the region… Arab states throughout the Middle East have called upon the United States to stop Iran’s nuclear program by any means (and without preconditions). Saudi Arabia King Abdullah calls Iran “evil” and urges the US to “cut the head off the snake,” while the Saudi ambassador to Washington recalls the king’s “frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran.” The king of Bahrain says Iran’s nuclear program “must be stopped,” and according to another cable, “the danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.” The Emariti Crown Prince Bin Zayed explains the danger of appeasing Iran: “Ahmadinejad is Hitler.”

WikiLeaks’ uncovering of US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan is morally unassailable, and we owe every support to Bradley Manning, the courageous military whistle-blower who now faces charges for his leak. Nothing we say here changes that. But a bandwagon is still subject to the pathologies of mass psychology—even if it is a left-wing bandwagon. And if you look at the actual politics, the Julian Assange bandwagon isn’t even all that left-wing.

See our last post on the WikiLeaks controversies.

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  1. re: “political stunt”
    I don’t think it’s constructive to say that the primary issue here is Assange’s personality. There is an effort to counteract specifically what WikiLeaks has done, and any report that denies this is suspect in its intentions.

    The rape charges were dismissed previously and have been reopened at a time when there has been an effort by UK and the Obama administration to vilify, legally proscecute him, and block his funding. You have a right to your opinions as to whether he’s guilty of a crime that warrents incarceration, but to dismiss the notion that the re-proscecution is a “political stunt” as Pilger says, is to ignore completely and selectively the political context of the proscecution. The statement by Eric Holder that there must be something they can proscecute him for looms over all attempts to vilify him now.

    People can question whether he’s a “true liberal” and question the way he uses and circulates classified data, but people who circulate such data don’t have to pass an ideological test, and his function is to declassify documents as they are and not to write Op Ed columns. Without question, Assange has promoted himself, but obviously what is most important is making data available to citizens of democracies that shed light on how the public trust is being used. That data can be useful at different times to different people, but it is not important to censor the data on the basis of ideology.

    If I were to guess I would say your smear piece is out of loyalty to the Obama administration, even if this website takes the position that Obama gets “mixed reviews” in order to maintain its readership.

    1. You have things rather backwards
      I do not dismiss the notion that the case against Assange is a “political stunt.” It is Pilger who dismisses the notion that it isn’t. Or that, even if it is, maybe the women are still making their accusations in good faith.

      Eric Holder is not bringing the sex charges against Assange, and he made his comment in reference to the leaks. Read the quote (NBC, Dec. 7) and don’t be disingenuous.

      Assange assuredly doesn’t have to pass an ideological test, but neither do I have to be silent about his weird politics. Especially when he is spewing about them in Time magazine.

      I wouldn’t characterize what I wrote as a “smear piece,” and our loyalty is to the truth—certainly not the White House. Read our Mission Statement. If our concern was to maintain our readership, why would we be raining on the Assange parade? Think before you write.

      1. ?
        The British courts say that the re-opening of the rape charges have nothing to do with WikiLeaks. Do you agree with that, Bill? Yes or no? Personally, I don’t see how that statement can be taken seriously by an objective person, but do enlighten Pilger and me as to why this can only be a coincidence.

        I didn’t, of course, suggest that Holder was making any sex allegations, though it’s not clear what he’s going to prosecute him for, since he has only indicated the will to prosecute him.

        1. Please pay attention
          Again: I am not the one making dogmatic claims, Pilger and the Assange cultists are. Maybe it isn’t a coincidence. That said, Eric Holder does not control the British or Swedish justice systems.

          You clearly implied that Holder was responsible for the sex allegations.

          1. didn’t think I’d get an answer
            No, I didn’t expect an answer but did expect the semantic back and forth. So you aren’t going to speculate or offer your opinion as to whether the British courts reopened the charges because of WikiLeaks, in contrast to what they said publicly, but you are going to disparage anyone who questions whether they were reopened because of Wikileaks (and if you’re not, in fact, “disparaging” Pilger and others please accept my apologies in advance and save me the semantic rebuttal).

            And I’ve already paid for my Eric Holder Octopus flow chart to be laminated so I’m disappointed to find out that he doesn’t have control over the European courts. But you’re seriously implying that the inclination to prosecute him in both the UK and the US, allies in the Afghanistan War and elsewhere, while both of whom are being exposed by the leaks and have publicly denounced Assange and Wikileaks, is unrelated, oh no, I’m sorry, you’re not implying that, again, my apologies..

            I was just trying to figure out why you offered your “opinion” of Assange and, by extension, the actions of WikiLeaks, and I have enough of an answer as I’m interested in.

            1. didn’t think you’d argue honestly
              I am not disparaging anyone who speculates that the charges were re-opened for political reasons, which is obviously a possibility. I am disparaging (without apology) those such as Pilger who discount the possibility that the women are telling the truth. He doesn’t seem to have offered his comment as a “speculation,” but a flat accusation.

              1. pilger’s words
                OK I appreciate you noting the possibility that “the charges were re-opened for political reasons” but there is also nothing in Pilger that questions the credibility of the women involved. This is what he wrote: “The Australian barrister James Catlin, who acted for Assange in October, says that both women in the case told prosecutors that they consented to have sex with Assange. Following the “crime”, one of the women threw a party in honour of Assange. When Borgström was asked why he was representing the women, as both denied rape, he said: “Yes, but they are not lawyers.” Catlin describes the Swedish justice system as “a laughing stock”. For three months, Assange and his lawyers have pleaded with the Swedish authorities to let them see the prosecution case. This was denied until 18 November, when the first official document arrived – in the Swedish language, contrary to European law.” http://www.johnpilger.com/articles/protect-assange-don-t-abuse-him

                If Pilger questioned the credibility of the women involved elsewhere I would be interested to see it.

                1. Pilger’s other words
                  Interested to see it? Not interested enough to click on the link, apparently. Here’s what he told ABC Sydney Dec. 8:

                  Mr Pilger…describ[es] the case against Mr Assange as a ‘political stunt’, noting, “the chief prosecutor in Sweden abandoned this case, threw it away, saw no worth in it.”

                  If you can interpret this in any way that does not imply questioning the credibility of the women involved, you have a more imaginative mind than I do.

                  As for your own Pilger quote, you used quotation marks incorrectly, so I could hardly follow it.

                  1. ?
                    There’s obviously no criticism of the womens’ honesty anywhere in any of these Pilger quotes. You can read what Pilger said, but.. oops.. Bad punctuation!!

                    1. “?” yourself
                      Pilger is implicitly dismissing the veracity of the rape claims in his “political stunt” comment. If you don’t see it, it is because you don’t want to.

                      If you’d care to offer an interpretation in which the charges are both true and a “political stunt,” I’d be most interested in hearing it.

          2. Anna Ardin
            Is an interesting case though more research would be needed on the crazed feminist stuff in Shamir’s post. Assange sounds like a jerk but his point that the allegations were investigated, dismissed and reopened is valid. Was there new evidence? One of the victims is on record as just wanting to force him to take an HIV test. Your statement: “Eric Holder does not control the British or Swedish justice systems”, while undeniably true, certainly doesn’t close the door on “influence”. However, Swedish law is Swedish law and if Assange broke it, though there were only two witnesses so it’s literally “he said, she said”, he should do his time. If he can be extradited to the US for posting this information then why is Bob Woodward walking around free?

            There is another, as usual entirely unsourced, conspiracy theory going around the left that Assange has been played and that this is part of a grand plan to regulate the internet to protect the governments of the world from wikileaks, or for that matter the Iranian flash and information mobs. From China to Iran and the US the preventing secrets from being dumped in bulk can probably unite the world’s security apparatus.

            Manning, from what I can tell, was wholesale dumping secrets not in pursuit of a particular My Lai event but in what seems to be a campaign against secrecy. Admirable. And entirely against the law. There is chance he could pay with his life which he was most likely aware of.

        2. Re-opening of the rape charges
          In response to Anonymous,

          The re-opening of the rape charges clearly had absolutely nothing to do with Wikileaks. They were only temporarily dropped as a result of Stockholm’s chief prosecutor Eva Finne throwing out the initial arrest warrant (made by a more junior prosecutor) within 24 hours of it having been launched, and suggesting a downgrading of the charges from rape to molestation.

          Within days of this happening, the women had exercised their constitutional right to appeal this move by Finne to a higher court. Marianne Ny, a much more senior prosecutor again than Finne, who is in fact one of the three joint Directors of Public Prosecution for the whole of Sweden in addition to having specific responsibility for the appeals unit in charge of cases of Rape and Serious Sex Crime, received the appeal, examined the evidence, and upheld the appeal, reopening the case. She announced this on September 1st. This was long before either the Iraq War leaks or the diplomatic cable leaks happened.

          She had to apply for an arrest warrant after Assange declined to return for interview voluntarily in October, and was granted a court order on November 18th for an international arrest warrant. Assange appealed it twice, taking it to Sweden’s highest court, and lost both appeals. He is now continuing to appeal it through the British courts.

          Assange and his lawyer Mark Stephens have been leading a public disinformation campaign through their interviews to the international press. As a part of that, they have each been trying to portray Ny as a random prosecutor in some provincial city to whom Assange should not be answerable. They have also each lied to the press in calling Finne the Chief Prosecutor for Sweden when she is just the Chief Prosecutor for Stockholm, again to try to make it look as if the case was relaunched from cold by an irrelevant prosecutor when in fact it was successfully reopened by the proper appeal route to a higher-ranked prosecutor.

  2. You have it right
    Bill –
    Excellent post – I agree about Assange and his quite-clear political aims (as well as about Manning and the justifications for his actions). We must reject this cult of personality. This is not yet a popular thing to say among progressives, but I think that will change rapidly. Assange can’t survive on the left in the full light of day. Your post echoes some of my earlier thoughts a few weeks ago:


    Your linkage to hard-right thinking – states rights! wow – is quite valuable and illuminating.

  3. Demonizing “revolutionary feminism”
    This sections is full of opinion and very short on facts.

    Do you really think it is a typical rape case? Red alert arrest warrant issued through INTERPOL? Solitary confinement? No charges filed yet? Show me another case that was treated like this.

    Specifically on what you wrote:

    You assert “abject demonization of the women who have made the charges of sexual abuse against Assange.” and the “the summary dismissal of a woman’s rape accusations” on the part of the of someone(s), but your passive voice leaves it up to the imagination who is doing this. At best, this is incredibly sloppy journalism.

    Assange’s quote, “Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism… I fell into a hornets’ nest of revolutionary feminism.” is the same as Rush Limbaugh’s denouncement of all feminist as “feminazis”? Apparently, in your world, there is little difference between criticizing a specific set of laws and insulting feminists worldwide. Are you aware of the difference between American and Swedish rape laws? All the evidence released so far show that both women consented to the sex with Assange and changed their minds after discovering that he was sleeping with someone else. Let me quote one of Assange’s lawyers on the subject:

    “Of course, their celebrity lawyer Claes Borgström was questioned as to how the women themselves could be essentially contradicting the legal characterisation of Swedish prosecutors; a crime of non-consent by consent. Borgström’s answer is emblematic of how divorced from reality this matter is. “They (the women) are not jurists”. You need a law degree to know whether you have been r-ped or not in Sweden. In the context of such double think, the question of how the Swedish authorities propose to deal with victims who neither saw themselves as such nor acted as such is easily answered: You’re not a Swedish lawyer so you wouldn’t understand anyway. The consent of both women to sex with Assange has been confirmed by prosecutors.”

    And you think it is unreasonable for Assange to criticize this system?

    You hold out a single post of Naomi Wolf, a quote which is clearly sarcastic, and treat it as if it was a serious political comment. Then you act like she never read, or understood, the accusations published in the Guardian. The quote below shows otherwise:

    First of all, let me just correct you. And Jaclyn, these—The Guardian account, which is based on leaked original documents, doesn’t say that he had sex with either of these women without the consent. The reason I’m hearing from rape victims across the world who are emailing me, saying, “I’m a rape victim. Thank you for standing up to put these charges in context,” is that this is the only case I’ve ever seen in 23 years of supporting rape victims which is based on multiple instances of consent.

    If you read these allegations, he took off Miss A’s clothes too quickly for her comfort. She tried to tell him to slow down, but then, quote, “she allowed him to undress her.” This is what the report says. The second woman says she woke to find him having sex with her. When she asked whether he was wearing a condom, he said no. Quote, “According to her statement, she said: ‘You better not have HIV.'” He answered, “Of course not.” Quote, “She couldn’t be bothered to tell him one more time because she had been going on about the condom all night. She had never had unprotected sex before.”

    So, if you’re going to treat women as moral adults and if you’re going to take the issue of rape seriously, the person who’s engaging in what he thinks is consensual sex has to be told, “I don’t want this.” And again and again and again, these women did not say, “This is not consensual.” Assange was shocked when these were brought up as complaints, because he had no idea that this was not a consensual situation. Miss A kept Assange in her home for the next four days and threw a party for him.

    So, because I take rape seriously, because I’m aware that in 23 years, you know, in Sweden, which has been criticized by Amnesty International for disregarding rape, for letting rapists go free, because you have a better chance in Sweden, if you’re a rape victim, of, you know, dying in an accident or getting breast cancer than having a serious rape allegation prosecuted or getting any kind of legal hearing, according to Amnesty International’s report “Case Closed”—it’s because of that that I know that these charges are utterly, utterly atypically handled. In 23 years, I’ve never seen any man in any situation this ambiguous, involving this much consent, have any kind of legal process whatsoever. And all over the world, women who have been gang-raped, brutally raped, raped in alleyways, pimped, prostituted, trafficked, you know, their rapists go free.

    So, yes, this stinks to me. And yes, it’s about politics, and it’s about the same kind of politics that dragged you, when you were trying to cover a march, you know, violently into legal jeopardy, because really this is about a journalist who has angered the most powerful and increasingly brutal nation on earth, and it’s about all of us who are journalists being dragged into a dangerous situation because of criticism of the government.”

    And if John Pilger cannot comment on the case because he was not present in the bedroom, then why can you?

    I could go on though the next sections, but what is the point. You are clearly more interested in trashing Assange than a thoughtful political dialog.

    1. Demonizing dissent
      There are so many things wrong with this barrage of dishonesty, I hardly know where to begin.

      Short on facts? You mean short on facts that you find convenient.

      Swedish and British authorities insist they are giving Assange no special treatment, but the point is a perfect red herring. Whether this is a “typical” case or not makes absolutely no difference to the question of whether the accusers are telling the truth.

      I was explicitly clear on who is guilty of “summary dismissal of a woman’s rape accusations.” Wolf, Pilger and the rest of the Assange cult.

      I am not an expert on Swedish law, but I don’t imagine Assange’s lawyer is the most objective source on the matter. If you think pinning a woman’s limbs down when she tries to reach for a condom constitutes “consensual” sex, I suggest you have one standard for Julian Assange and another for the rest of the male gender.

      Wolf’s quote was sarcastic but also quite clearly a serious political comment. I don’t think she “never read or understood” the charges. I think that she, like you, has one standard for Julian Assange and another for the rest of the male gender.

      I have repeatedly emphasized the difference between my comments and Pilger’s. He is making a categorical accusation that the charges are bogus. I am saying we don’t know and have to withhold judgment. Is this so difficult to grasp?

      What I find most frightening is that all of the responses have only been concerned with absolving Assange of the rape charges. Not a syllable of concern with the impact of his leaks on dissidents in Zimbabwe and Belarus. They are WikiLeaks collateral damage, and utterly invisible to the Assange cult. “Light on facts.” You mean light on facts that you care to know about.

      Which one of us is not open to thoughtful political dialogue is a subjective question. To be as polite as possible.

      1. predictable denial from Weinberg
        Unlike your typical articles, this one is very much short on facts. For example, your assertion that “I was explicitly clear on who is guilty of ‘summary dismissal of a woman’s rape accusations.’ Wolf, Pilger and the rest of the Assange cult.” is both wrong and illustrative. If you look at your original article, it in no way says that these folks said any of this, nor did it give explicit quotes or links to such quotes. Like I said in my comment, you assertion was in the passive voice. The passive voice, by its very nature obfuscates who is making the assertions. You are a good writer, therefore I assume you chose the passive voice because it was easier to make a vague accusation than to do the work of backing up your assertion with specific facts.

        The fact this is a political case, and this political nature is very much an important aspect of the discussion. You assert that Assange’s lawyer’s opinions should be dismissed because they might not be objective, Then you embrace the prosecutor’s statements as if they are objective fact. Given the nature of the case, and the fact that it is clearly more than a typical rape case, one would tend to discount the prosecutions statements, not hold them up as objective. Or can you explain why when the prosecution is using every tool they can to attack Assange, one would assume that the information they leaked is objective rather than highly prejudicial?

        Your claim that you are, “I am saying we don’t know and have to withhold judgment.” is not evident in your article. You criticize only people on one side of the debate. Where is your criticism of leftist like Jaclyn Friedman, who said on Democracy Now’ “I speak for myself and many, many rape victims when I say we are so tired of having our bodies thrown under the bus for the concerns of a powerful white guy.” I always thought that it was important to consider people innocent until prove guilty. But apparently Friedman is saying that he is white and male, therefore he is guilty. But you don’t criticize her, only people who support Assange. If you are really neutral, then you should insist that all members of the debate hold their judgment, not just one side.

        As for your claim that Naomi Wolf “has one standard for Julian Assange and another for the rest of the male gender.”. Don’t just make the assertion, back it up with specific quotes. Do explain what the two criteria are. And don’t ignore her eloquent satemnt on what she wants to see done in this case:

        Well, I mean, what I’m interested in is equal justice and the rule of law. And so, I do believe that everyone who’s accused of a serious crime needs to know that they are acting without someone’s consent. So I’d like, going forward, for—you know, I think it’s incumbent upon people to express to each other if they are consenting or not. And so, to me, I agree that there should be a hearing, obviously. But I think it should weigh very seriously, as it does for me, reading these, as a supporter of rape victims, as a crusader on the issue of rape—it is important that I don’t see anywhere these women expressing a lack of consent. In fact, I see them indicating consensual willingness to engage in sex, consensual willingness to engage in sex without a condom. I see that from the record. So, to me, an impartial hearing would be ideal, if improbable.

        And I have to say, I think we are being naïve. And I am kind of reluctant to be drawn into this side of the debate, because the larger picture is, why is the guy resisting coming back to Sweden? He’s resisting coming back to Sweden the way any journalist would, because in Sweden they will extradite him to the United States, where he is facing, you know, prolonged isolation, like Bradley Manning, which drives people insane, according to human rights activists. He’s facing being called an “enemy combatant” by some of our most senior political leaders, which would mean that they could ship him to Guantánamo, you know, where they’re still torturing people, where they’re still holding people in kangaroo court conditions, where there’s still—you know, people are dying mysterious deaths in Guantánamo, even in Obama’s Guantánamo, where he’s facing abuse or mistreatment of hideous kinds and the possibility of never having due process, because we now have, you know, a banana republic situation off the coast of Cuba, where people can get lost in a black hole, where their innocence or guilt doesn’t matter. And so, to be talking about, you know, these discussions about these complaints—you’re right that they’re not charges—without putting it in the larger picture of he’s not every guy who doesn’t want to go back to where women have accused him of sexual impropriety. He’s a guy who, if he goes back, is going to lose his freedom and his life, because he’s being made a scapegoat and a martyr, you know, on behalf of journalists everywhere by the most powerful government on earth, that doesn’t want whistleblowers shining any kind of light on their wrongdoing, even as they continue to surveil us, wiretap us, break the Fourth Amendment every single day. So, I think we have to keep that larger picture in mind.

        I would like justice to be done. I would like a hearing. But I would also like my country to behave according to the rule of law and my country to stop acting like a global bully, you know, intimidating other nations and other judicial systems, which is clearly what happened here, into bullying and intimidating journalists, because, believe me, Amy, if he is taken into custody, if he is prosecuted under the Espionage Act, which closed down dissent in this country for a decade, and he’s made an example of in this way—wrongly, because he’s the New York Times, not the Daniel Ellsberg in the case; he is just the publisher—then you and I are not going to be safe doing our jobs as journalists any longer.

        1. Predictable groupthink from joseph w
          “Short on facts” again. In other words, short on facts that you care to acknowledge. You just ignore the facts that are inconvenient to the Assange cult.

          My post contained hyperlinked quotes from both Wolf and Pilger in which they implicitly (in the case of Wolf, explicitly) dismiss the rape accusations.

          I didn’t say statements from Assange’s lawyers should be “dismissed.” If we are to “dismiss” any source which is not objective, there would be no point to journalism at all. However, if you wish to make a case that Sweden is a totalitarian state run by feminist extremists, you might want to offer a more objective source. Or at least a different one.

          I didn’t see the Friedman quote, but neither do I find anything wrong with it. She doesn’t appear to be saying Assange is guilty, only that his putative victims deserve a fair hearing.

          I did back up my self-evident assertion that Wolf has one standard for Assange and another for the rest of his gender. Would she exculpate anyone else of rape who pinned a woman’s limbs down when she tried to reach for a condom? She waged a personal crusade against Harold Bloom for far lesser charges. (See The Guardian, Feb. 26, 2004)

          And your beloved Wolf plays pretty loose with the facts when she writes that “in Sweden they will extradite him to the United States, where he is facing, you know, prolonged isolation, like Bradley Manning…” Oh? Has Assange been charged with anything in the US yet? And is Sweden at all likely to extradite even if he is? Numerous sources (The Guardian, Dec. 16; MSNBC, Dec. 10; LAT, Dec. 7) suggest no. And if he is extradited to the US, is he likely to wind up in the harsh conditions faced by Manning, who is in the military “justice” system? And why is Sweden any more likely to extradite than the UK, a closer US ally? He would actually be a little safer in neutral Sweden! Nor is he “facing being called an ‘enemy combatant’ by some of our most senior political leaders, which would mean that they could ship him to Guantánamo.” Only out-of-office professional gasbags like Newt Gingrich have made this charge (Raw Story, Dec. 5), and even he didn’t have the chutzpah to say anything about Gitmo. And you bait me for fact-free opinion-spewing?

          Still nothing to say about Belarus, eh? “Short on facts.” You mean short on facts that you care to look at.

          1. Weinberg ignores the obvious
            What you keep missing is that I have not disputed any facts. I have disputed opinions, specifically yours and the prosecutors.

            For example, you keep taking the prosecutor’s description of what happened between Assange and the two women as an accurate, unbiased, description of what happened. When you exclusively use the prosecutor’s language, and reject any language by the defense as “prejudiced”, you are, in fact, taking a side and dismissing the other.

            You also are ignoring the fact that Naomi Wolf is saying that the rape charges should be investigated. He objection is that they are obviously being used by powerful elites to get back at Assange for his Wikkileaks project.

            Friedman’s position is that Assange is white &male, and therefore guilty.If you read the whole interview, she says that consent is “people are only having sex with people who are enthusiastic about what they’re doing at all times and enthusiastic about the circumstances.” To her all other sex is coercive and therefore rape. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/12/21/part_iifeminists_debate_sexual_allegations_against

            And speaking of a fact free zone, why would you expect Assange to get better treatment by the us government than Manning? Do you anything more than your opinion? Clearly Naomi Wolf is predicting what the US will do with him, but I think we all can agree that 1. The Obama administration want to extradite Assange to the United States. 2. That the Obama administration want sot punish him as harshly as possible. Neither of these tow facts are contradicted by Wolf’s comments.

            1. Joseph W ignores Belarus (what a surprise)
              How long can we keep going round like this? I am not taking the prosecutor’s description of what happened as accurate and unbiased. I am saying that Assange’s accusers should not be dismissed and demonized as they are being by the WikiLeaks cult.

              In none of the Wolf screeds you have posted does she call for the charges to be investigated (except perhaps in the lukewarm and ambiguous sop “I would like a hearing”). But she says over and over things like she doesn’t “see anywhere these women expressing a lack of consent.” Right, because she doesn’t want to see it. Just like you don’t want to see what’s going on in Belarus.

              I couldn’t care less what Friedman’s position is; no matter how bad it is, it doesn’t let you Assange cultists off the hook for dismissing and demonizing his accusers. But the paraphrase that “Assange is white &male, and therefore guilty” strikes me as a gross distortion.

              Assange, if he is indicted by the US, will be in the civilian justice system, not military. That’s no picnic, but he certainly isn’t going to be held in solitary confinement at Quantico.

              Your supposed concern with human rights is utterly hypocritical. Still nothing to say about Belarus, eh?

              1. Weinberg uses the logic of the Truther movement
                As I said in my first post, I’m only dealing with this one topic. Don’t pull the truther logic of changing the subject.

                The reason we keep going round and round is because you are utterly unable to recognize that the rape charges are really more of a political assault on Assange than a real criminal justice issue. You seem to believe the second prosecutor’s allegations ignoring that the first prosecutor dismissed the whole thing. The women themselves did not go tto the police with charges of rape, they went asking if the could force an STD test.

                The fact is that there would be no prosecution of Assange if it were not for his involvement in Wikileaks. Further, the prosecution of Assange is not going to result in more vigorous prosecutions of sexual assault cases. If anything, this prosecution trivializes them, as it is clear to most of the world that the real case here is revenge for wikileaks.

                You need to look at who you choose to criticize, AND WHO YOU DO NOT. Why no screed against the likes of Jaclyn Friedman and her theory that any sex that is not continuously enthusiastic is rape? Why don’t you call her on the carpet? Your excuse of “i did see that” only shows that you did not really research your article. Your goal was to trash Assange, ignoring anything that did not fit that goal.

                1. Joseph W betrays Belarus again
                  Nobody is changing the subject. Your unconcern with WikiLeaks’ apparent role in the Belarus repression betrays your supposed commitment to human rights as so much hypocrisy. Until the Assange cultists grapple with this, I will consider none of their hand-wringing about their hero’s supposed persecution as even vaguely legitimate. Again: One standard for Assange, another for the rest of the world.

                  This is idiotic. If you don’t start arguing honestly, I will stop approving your posts. Again: I do not “believe” anybody’s version of the events. You do. I simply say it is outrageous to summarily dismiss the claims of Assange’s accusers.

                  It is certainly not a “fact” that there would be no prosecution of Assange if it were not for his involvement in WikiLeaks. That is an opinion. Those who dress up opinions with “verbal false limbs” (TM Orwell) like “the fact is” are not to be taken seriously.

                  I found nothing objectionable in Jaclyn Friedman’s words, and even if I did I would have no responsibility to comment. No criticisms of her can possibly delegitimize my criticisms of the Assange cult. And you accuse me of “changing the subject”? Cast the beam from thine own eye!

                  1. Weinberg threatens to take his ball and go home
                    If you are not taking the prosecutor’s work as fact, then how do you demonstrate that, “If you think pinning a woman’s limbs down when she tries to reach for a condom constitutes ‘consensual” sex'” is exactly what happened?

                    Do you really think that the prosecution has nothing to do with Wikileaks?

                    Can you honestly say that all your sexual encounters meet Jaclyn Friedman’s standards for consenting sex?

                    1. Joseph W changes the subject (again)
                      You keep repeating like an automaton the baseless accusation that I uncritically accept one version of events, when in fact I never claimed to know what happened between Assange and his accusers. You are failing to meet the minimum standards of our posting policy—that posts “should have some political and/or factual content.” Imposing editorial standards is not censorship. Argue seriously or take a hike.

                      So now it becomes a question of what I “think”—in other words, a question of opinion not “fact.” Very good.

                      Whether all my sexual encounters meet Jaclyn Friedman’s standards for consenting sex is utterly irrelevant. You brought up Jaclyn Friedman, not me. All I ever said on the matter is that the accusers should not be summarily dismissed as liars.

                      One thing I did glean from Friedman’s interview is that the accusers are receiving death threats and have gone into hiding. No outrage over this?

                      Still nothing to say about Belarus, eh? Some 600 dissidents arrested last week, many of them tortured, and now it appears that WikiLeaks provided the dictatorship with intelligence on who to round up. But all your concern is for the accused rapist who put those dissidents at risk (or worse).

                      Your posts are a textbook case in everything that is wrong with the Assange cult—and the “left” generally.

                    2. obfuscation on Weinbergs part
                      If you read my first post, I explicitly said that I was going to limit myself to the first point in your post. As I implied, it is pointless to try to talk about all the points in your post at once, as it would allow you to avoid talking about points you cannot defend. That section does not include Belarus; it is about the sex charges. Thus I have been consistently focusing my posts on the sex charges.

                      I am not arguing that you accept any specific version of the facts. I am arguing that you HAVE accepted one version of the facts — a version that is demonstratively biased.

                      Your words: “If you think pinning a woman’s limbs down when she tries to reach for a condom constitutes ‘consensual” sex'”. You are accepting the prosecutor’s spin uncritically. If you are going to claim to be neutral, then please give a citation for that statement that does not come from the prosecutor or someone parroting the prosecutor.

                      As for Jaclyn Friedman, I have brought her comments into the discussion as an example of someone on the left who is critical of Assange in regards to the topic at hand. I find her definition of rape to be broader than Dworkin and MacKinnon. Again, if you are being neutral, shouldn’t you criticize all members of the left who are throwing out problematic comments. Therefore, your screed should include some comments about her comments. (since you’ve implied that you have no problem with what she is saying, I questioned whether you feel your sex life has been up to her standards.)

                      And finally you stated that, “It is certainly not a ‘fact’ that there would be no prosecution of Assange if it were not for his involvement in WikiLeaks. That is an opinion.” This, given the context, implies that you think that the there would have been a prosecution of Assange if there were no issue of Wikileaks. I simply asked if you really believed what you were implying.

                    3. Hypocrisy on Joseph W’s part
                      That’s exactly the problem. All your concern is for exculpating Assange and (implicitly) denigrating his accusers. You continue to treat him simply as a victim of political persecution, heedless of the evidence that he is deeply complicit with far worse political persecution in Belarus. This isn’t “changing the subject”—my point all along has been that the Assange cultists are a bunch of hypocrites.

                      I challenge you to point to a single line of verbatim text in which I accept one version of the facts. Go ahead, I’ll be waiting.

                      I have no responsibility whatsoever to give a quote that doesn’t come from the prosecutor, because my goal is neither to convict nor exculpate Assange. My goal is to demonstrate how the “leftists” that are rallying around him are betraying their supposed “feminist” values by rushing to judgment in the “honeytrap” thesis. I always thought women who make charges of sexual abuse should be given the benefit of the doubt.

                      That said, the police reports quoted in The Guardian are filled with quotes from the accusers—not the “prosecutor.”

                      I am “neutral” on whether the sex abuse charges against Assange are true, which is the only responsible position. I am certainly not neutral on Assange and his followers generally. I think he is a pompous, self-aggrandizing, reactionary ass, and his followers are unthinking, sanctimonious dogmatists. Have I failed to make this clear? Even if I disagreed with Jaclyn Friedman, dissing her in this post would be beside the point.

                      And as far as I can see, I don’t disagree with her. Her definition of rape is nowhere near as broad as that of Andrea “all penetration is rape” Dworkin. Yes, guys should be sensitive to the “enthusiasm” of their partners, and call it off if this is perceived to be lacking. This is obviously a somewhat subjective category, but “ripping” off clothes (even after they had been put back on again) and “pinning down” limbs to prevent application of a condom is pretty clearly over the line.

                      But it is utterly vulgar to continue to focus monomaniacally on the details of sex acts that we cannot possibly know the real details of when 600 dissidents are languishing in the jails of Belarus, with the complicity of WikiLeaks.

                      Get your priorities straightened out.

                    4. Pot calling the kettle black
                      You seem incapable of understanding that someone can be a scumbag and at the same time, be the victim of a political witch-hunt. You can spend all the time you want showing any failings about Assange you wish, and that does nothing to show whether or not he is being persecuted for his political actions.

                      As for police reports:

                      1. They are not in the victims words, the police write them based on the victims words. I can assure you, from experience, that there is a big difference between the two..

                      2. Why are the victim’s words objective and Assanges are not objective?

                      3. the Quote in the Guardian contradicts your statement:

                      Weinberg: “If you think pinning a woman’s limbs down when she tries to reach for a condom constitutes ‘consensual” sex'”
                      Guardian: “The statement records Miss A describing how Assange then released her arms and agreed to use a condom,”

                      It seems, even by the Guardian’s account, that he agreed to use the condom when requested.

                      Lastly, if you agree with Jaclyn Friedman,then are you saying that:

                      A: all the sexual encounters you’ve had in your live follow her edicts.


                      B. You consider yourself a rapist.

                      Which is it?

                    5. I already used that line
                      Or as the late JC put it, “Cast the beam from thine own eye.”

                      You still refuse to get it. I’m not going to go on forever like this. I NEVER DENIED THAT THERE IS A POLITICAL WITCH-HUNT AGAINST ASSANGE. I am protesting (again) that the “leftists” who are rallying around him are betraying their supposed “feminist” values by rushing to judgment in the “honeytrap” thesis.

                      I NEVER SAID THE VICTIMS’ WORDS WERE OBJECTIVE. I am protesting (again) that their claims are being dismissed by all these supposed principled “leftists.”

                      My quote from The Guardian account was verbatim. (That’s why it is in quotes.) The fact that Assange relented after the struggle and agreed to a condom doesn’t make it kosher—especially since the account goes on to state that he intentionally tore the condom! (Talk about selective use of the facts!)

                      Stop cluttering up my blog with dishonest word games.

                      Until someone accuses me of rape, the details of my sex life ain’t nobody’s business but my own.

                      I’d be interested to know what part of the below you fail to understand:

                      But it is utterly vulgar to continue to focus monomaniacally on the details of sex acts that we cannot possibly know the real details of when 600 dissidents are languishing in the jails of Belarus, with the complicity of WikiLeaks.

                      Again, get your priorities straightened out.

                    6. “neutral” Weinberg internalizes the Prosecution’s Arguments
                      You need to take a step back and stop swallowing the prosecution’s arguments and regurgitating them as your own.

                      The actions described in the Guardian (strategically leaked by the Prosecution) could be stated in much less inflammatory language:

                      Assamge was on top of Miss A when she realized that she wanted to use a condom if they went any further. After a couple of attempts, she realized that from their current position she could not reach the condoms. When she communicated this desire to Assasnge, he reached over and got the condoms himself.

                      There is nothing in the Guardian that says “struggle”, you are assuming that based on the language that the prosecution chose.

                      If you want to be a stenographer for those in power, you are certainly free to do so. But don’t pretend to be neutral while doing so.

                    7. Joseph W betrays rape victims (and Belarus)
                      Yes, indeed we could interpret the actions described by police reports (perhaps leaked but not produced by the prosecutors) in your exculpatory language. But where I come from, women who say they have been sexually abused get the benefit of the doubt. “Pinning down” limbs necessarily implies “struggle.” Your rush to judgment on this question is repulsive.

                      Where is your outrage that the accusers have reportedly received death threats (NYT, Dec. 18) and harassing tweets baiting them as CIA agents (Raw Story, Dec. 9)? This isn’t “persecution”?

                      You are utterly incapable of honesty on this question.

                      And still no outrage over the claims from Belarussian dictator Lukashenko that WikiLeaks provided the intelligence on who to round up. As I stated in the posts you refuse to read, WikiLeaks did for Lukashenko what the CIA did for Pinochet in ’73.

                      If you want to be an unpaid propagandist for accused collaborators with a brutal dictatorship, you are certainly free to do so. But don’t pretend to be concerned with human rights while doing so.

                    8. Pointless
                      This conversation is pointless if you cannot see that you have swallowed the prosecution’s viewpoint so completely that you think it is your won.

                    9. Pointless indeed
                      I have not “swallowed” anyone’s viewpoint. You have. I am not rushing to convict Assange as you are rushing to acquit him. I am merely saying that his accusers should not be dismissed as liars. But you refuse to get it.

                      I assume you mean “own,” not “won.”

                      What about Belarus? So concerned with the supposed persecution of one man—but not a syllable from you about the 600 arrested dissidents he put at risk through his reckless actions (to use the most charitable explanation).

                      You have become a textbook case in leftist groupthink. Very sad.

  4. Where can I find them?
    “The voluminous diplomatic communications seemingly dumped on the Web more or less indiscriminately by WikiLeaks…”

    I have no brief for Assange, but I am not aware that this actually happened. Of course I could be wrong. Can you direct me to a link where I can find the 250,000 cables that were dumped indiscriminately onto the Web? The last I heard a few thousand had been released, most of them the subject of news stories by professional news organizations, a pattern that sounds like the opposite of indiscriminate. But maybe I missed something, so can you help me out with a reference? Thanks.

      1. Huh?
        According to Wikipedia there are 251,287 documents in the cache of cables. According to Greg Mitchell in the Nation’s daily blog about the cables, fewer than 2,000 have been released. Most of them correspond to stories published by news organizations that are vetting the cables they are reporting about. Given these facts, what did you mean by “the voluminous diplomatic communications seemingly dumped on the Web more or less indiscriminately by WikiLeaks…?”



        1. “Huh?” yourself
          One of your links goes to a page full of tweets that I cannot follow (is this what passes for journalism these days?). The other is the notoriously unreliable Wikipedia, which is vague on what the 251,287 figure actually refers to. It states: “WikiLeaks plans to release all the cables in phases over several months at a pace of about 80 cables per day.” Neither this nor the self-appointed sobriquet of “mega-leaks” implies much discrimination.

          Anyway, it is a minor point. It is assuredly much worse if WikiLeaks intentionally endangered dissidents in Belarus, rather than merely being reckless.

                1. Does anyone actually *not* have a link?
                  All of the cables released so far (1,947 of 251,287 total) can be read here:


                  If one is concerned about continuing access to the official WikiLeaks site, hosted behind a Swiss top-level domain (.ch), one might want to keep a list of the 1,426 (and counting) updated mirror sites also hosting the material. A list of the mirrors may be found here:

                  WikiLeaks Mirrors

                  The assertion that WikiLeaks has indiscriminately dumped hundreds of thousands of cables without restraint, redaction and careful consideration for the consequences is not merely misunderstanding. It is an outright, bald-faced lie.

                  1. “outright, bald-faced lie”
                    Right, WikiLeaks has certainly demonstrated very careful consideration for the consequences in Belarus and Zimbabwe.

                    I think you’d have a rather different view if you were sitting in Lukashenko’s torture chambers.

  5. WikiLeaks and the Belarus repression
    A Dec. 27 post on the blog Harry’s Place entitled “More Repressive Regimes Use Wikileaks Cables to Expose ‘Traitors'” links to sources (in Russian) from the (state-controlled) media in Belarus, in which Lukashenko threatens to publish diplomatic cables linking dissidents to the US government—cables apparently obtained from Israel Shamir and WikiLeaks.

    Some 600 dissidents arrested in Belarus over the past week, and not a peep out of so-called “progressives” in the West. Yet you all rally uncritically around the accused rapist who put those dissidents at risk. Unbelievable.

    1. WikiLeaks and the Belarus repression II
      I continue to be deeply chagrined by the complete silence on this issue. It is utterly outrageous that WikiLeaks is getting a pass for this.

      If the allegations are true (and they appear to originate from Lukashenko himself), WikiLeaks provided Lukashenko with intelligence on who to round up, just like the CIA did for Pinochet in ’73. And Assange’s supporters dare portray themselves as defenders of human rights?

      Lukashenko may not be carrying out his purge of dissidents quite as brutally and extra-judicially as Pinochet did—but, as Amnesty International makes all too clear, that’s not saying much.

      I’m still waiting for the WikiLeaks cult to take some responsibility for this. So far, I haven’t seen a single syllable. This cowardice and hypocrisy are beneath contempt.

      1. Looong Stretch
        Weinberg’s attempt to lumber WikiLeaks (and those of us he’s designated as benighted members of the “cult”) with responsibility for Lukashenko’s latest (routine and predictable) oppressive behavior in Belarus goes a couple of giant steps too far.

        To wit:

        “If the allegations are true (and they appear to originate from Lukashenko himself), WikiLeaks provided Lukashenko with intelligence…”

        Ummmm… no. If the allegations (more nearly, unsourced rumors) are true, one of the many associates WikiLeaks works with to disseminate material misused that material by sharing it with one of the world’s well-known scumbag-dictators. That’s very different from “WikiLeaks provid[ing] Lukashenko with intelligence”–so different that one is forced to wonder whether Weinberg is being deliberately disingenuous.

        As for treating the rumor as more likely be true because it “appears” to originate with Lukashenko, that’s just preposterous. Who could argue that Lukashenko doesn’t deserve a place on any list of the “ten most devious liars” of the states of the FSU?

        Furthermore, the implication that Shamir’s misdeeds (if they actually occurred) caused Lukashenko to abuse and mistreat members of the opposition in ways he would have been unlikely to utilize had he not been provided with this alleged “intelligence” is laughable. Since when have Lukashenko & Company needed more than their own paranoia and natural inclination toward brutality to engage in violent repression?

        In the long run, the additional insight into the reality of life and politics in Belarus is most likely to hasten the downfall of Lukashenko, as light is the enemy of the forces of darkness.

        Might it be wise for WikiLeaks to engage in more careful screening of associates it entrusts to handle leaked material? Sure, but occasional undesirable outcomes will never be entirely preventable and the possibility, even the actual occurrence, of such outcomes is hardly justifiable cause for all-out assault on the project.

        Weinberg would be well-advised to turn his focus to the heart of the issues raised by WikiLeaks, and to stop wasting time and energy attempting to undermine the effort by concentrating on tangential, and comparatively trivial, matters.

        1. One man’s “Looong Stretch”…
          …is another’s grave allegations.

          “Unsourced rumors”? Did you click on the links at Harry’s Place? It goes right to sources in the Belarussian press in which Lukashenko apparently claims to have received intelligence on dissidents from WikiLeaks. (I’m really tired of having to spell everything out multiple times for you guys.) I don’t read Russian, so I can’t say for sure that’s what the reports really say (do you?), but I have no particular reason to disbelieve them, and I will damn sure kick up a fuss about this until it gets some mainstream coverage.

          Harry’s Place explicitly charges that Israel Shamir passed the leaks on to Lukashenko—charges that were also aired in The Guardian Dec. 23, if you would bother to click on the links I provide instead of rushing to an explanation that exculpates Assange and WikiLeaks.

          And in fact, your explanation doesn’t exculpate Assange and WikiLeaks! Even if Shamir actively providing Lukashenko with the intelligence is not sufficiently “sourced” for you, the Belarus case is at least as bad as the Zimbabwe case. Actually worse—Mugabe is only threatening charges against the dissidents named in the intercepted cables; Lukashenko is rounding them up by the hundreds and having them tortured. (And if this is mere “collateral damage” rather than active collaboration with the dictatorship, why haven’t we seen these Belarussian cables in the English-language media, as we have the ones from Zimbabwe?)

          Is the WikiLeaks cult going to lift a finger to offer solidarity to the dissidents that have been placed at risk by its reckless actions?

          Which issues are at the “heart” and which are peripheral is inherently subjective. When WikiLeaks was exposing US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan, I was avidly rooting for them, like everyone else. But now it appears Assange—like his supporters—has got caught up in the cloak-and-dagger game and lost sight of the fundamental moral issues.

          I suggest you think about it.

          1. WikiLeaks and the Belarus repression III
            A Dec. 24 follow-up post from Harry’s Place links to a Dec. 19 statement from the Belarus dissident website Charter 97 translated by World Countries News, reporting “that Israel Shamir met with the head of Belarus’ Presidential administration, Uladzimri Makei. Here, Shamir claimed to be Assange’s representative. Makei and the Belarussian authorities also recognised Shamir as representing Wikileaks.”

            The post notes that Index on Censorship reported Dec. 20 that the entire staff of Charter 97 were arrested the previous night by the KGB. (Lukashenko has charmingly kept the old Soviet name for his secret political police.)

            Again translating from the Belarussian press (TVR.by, Dec. 20), Harry’s Place finds that “Shamir praised the Belarussian elections, complained that the Belarussian opposition was aligned with the USA, and downplayed the crackdown on opposition protesters, claiming that the CIA tries to make repressive governments look bad.”

            Translating from Belarussia’s Interfax agency Dec. 19, Harry’s Place adds that “Shamir claims that Assange approached him first,” thus beginning his involvement in WikiLeaks.

            Harry’s Place also notes that Radio Free Europe has picked up on Lukashenko’s WikiLeaks claims, reporting Dec. 21:

            At a press conference today, during which the hardline ruler voiced no remorse for ordering police to beat protesters during post-election demonstrations, Lukashenka announced the upcoming publication of classified documents that he says will demonstrate the nature of interactions between the Belarusian opposition and the West.

            Russian news agencies quoted him as saying, “We’re simply going to publish certain documents. We’ll see how those who are published on the Belarusian WikiLeaks site — the supporters [of the opposition] and those who are working behind the scenes — react to this.”

            “We will publish all the documents that should be classified in the archives as ‘secret.’ These are historically important events,” he said.

            Harry’s Place concludes: “This is really, really serious.”

            Alas, Assange’s supporters, with all their supposed concern for freedom of information and human rights, don’t seem to think so.

            We don’t necessarily share the politics of Harry’s Place, which seems to be centrist-to-neocon. But we give them big kudos for pursuing a story that neither that mainstream nor “alternative” media—both obsessed with the Assange cult and sex scandal—are giving any print to.

            1. WikiLeaks and Israel Shamir
              Andrew Brown writes on The Guardian’s Comment Is Free page Dec. 17 that “WikiLeaks is represented in Russia and Scandinavia by a father and son team with a disturbing record of antisemitism.” Excerpts:

              WikiLeaks’s spokesperson and conduit in Russia has been exposed in the Swedish media as an anti-semite and Holocaust denier; his son, who represents the organisation in Sweden and is handing out stories to selected papers there, has been involved in an earlier scandal where a story he wrote about the supposed Israeli control of Swedish media was withdrawn after several of the people in it complained of being misquoted…

              The two men involved are Israel Shamir, a Jew who has converted to Orthodox Christianity and passionate antisemitism, and his son Johannes Wahlström. Shamir was listed as a co-author of a story in Counterpunch, which suggested that the woman who brought a complaint of rape against Julian Assange was a CIA plant. But he has a longer and stranger past than this would suggest…

              Shamir has had at least six different names, among them Izrail Schmerler (as he was born in Novosibirsk, Siberia), Jöran Jermas, Adam Ermash, but is internationally known as Shamir. He has been a Swedish citizen since 1992.

              In an interview with a Swedish Holocaust-denying creationist and Islamist named Mohamed Omar, headlined “The Holocaust is an idol”, Shamir says:

              “Antisemitism is an invented concept without any real meaning. I don’t believe antisemitism exists at all. In the Jewish religion it is an article of faith that Jews and gentiles must hate one another. That’s where so-called “antisemitism” comes from. It is a Jewish article of faith. I have met many so-called “anti-semites” and I haven’t found a single one of them who hates Jews. I agree with Joseph Sobran, who said that an anti-semite is not someone who hates Jews, but someone whom the Jews hate. Most people don’t care at all about Jews, let alone hate them. But, as I say, the idea that gentiles nurture a hatred of Jews is a Jewish article of faith, and has nothing to do with reality.”

              His latest book, in Russian, is called is called How to Break the Conspiracy of the Elders of Zion.

              His son, Wahlström, is even more remarkable because he is more outwardly respectable. He has been employed in various journalistic capacities by the Swedish state broadcaster, SVT, by the newspaper Aftonbladet, and by the leftwing magazine Ordfront. The magazine was forced to retract and to apologise for a story he wrote in 2005 about supposed Israeli control of the Swedish media, which contained quotes attributed to three other journalists, which they denied ever making.

              Charming, eh? Ordfront, of course, is the same esteemed journal that ran Bosnia genocide-denial screeds by Diana Johnstone, that Noam Chomsky shamefully jumped to the defense of.

              Nothing to say about this, Assange cultists?

  6. thanks for the sanity once again
    Hey Bill,

    once again, I have to thank you for sticking to in depth critiques, and for showing that just because the powerful take advantage of a situation, doesn’t mean that the whole situation is just made up (the basic premise of naomi klein’s ‘disaster capitalism’ thesis also comes to mind). You’ve shown this (at least to me) over and over again, on various genocides, various conspiracy theories, and now the assange cult.

    Just because Assange is being legally fucked with in a way that most people wouldn’t be dosn’t prove that he didn’t actually do something, it just means that elites who need to will use any tool they can to keep themselves nice and cozy.

  7. Why is Counterpunch “vile”?
    Out of curiosity, Mr. Weinberg, why is CounterPunch “vile”? Sincere question, I really am curious about your opinion here.

    1. Why CounterPunch is vile
      Excuse me, running “journalism” by the Holocaust-denier (and apparent collaborationist with the Lukashenko dictatorship) Israel Shamir is not vile? Making a cause celebre of fellow Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel is not vile? Providing a soapbox for Bosnia genocide denial is not vile? Cheering on Ahmadinejad’s electoral fraud is not vile? Cheering on the mass-murdering jihadis in Iraq is not vile? Engaging in vulgar Jew-baiting of public officials is not vile? Xenophobic talk about how Washington is “occupied” by Israel is not vile? Running fraudulent interviews without bothering to check them out first is not vile? How about denying climate change? Is that vile enough for you?

      1. OK, I’ll grant you Cockburn
        OK, I’ll grant you Cockburn all day long, he is an ass. I think you are intentionally misunderstanding Chomsky, though he is also not being particularly coherent. I can’t countenance all your attacks on reporters from the Arabic press who happen to be really anti-Israeli. Israel is, in some ways an admirable democratic state, and in other ways a “vile” and oppressive influence on the region.

  8. Vulgar details
    I consider it utterly vulgar to focus exclusively on the details of the sex allegations against Assange when WikiLeaks’ role in the Belarus repression is a far weightier matter, but given that some people refuse to look at anything else, I offer some excerpts from a Dec. 16 BBC News timeline on the Assange case (emphasis added):

    17 August

    Mr Assange reportedly has sex with “Miss W”, a woman he met at the seminar on 14 August.

    Some time between 17 and 20 August, the two women are in contact and apparently share concerns they have about aspects of their sexual encounters with the journalist.


    20 August

    The Swedish Prosecutor’s Office issues an arrest warrant for Julian Assange. Karin Rosander, the head of communications, says there are two separate allegations – one of rape and one of molestation.

    Both women reportedly say that what started as consensual sex became non-consensual.

    21 August

    The arrest warrant is withdrawn. “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape,” says one of Stockholm’s chief prosecutors, Eva Finne.

    Ms Rosander says the investigation into the molestation charge will continue but it is not a serious enough crime for an arrest warrant.

    The lawyer for the two women, Claes Borgstrom, lodges an appeal to a special department in the public prosecutions office.


    1 September

    Director of Prosecutions Marianne Ny says she is reopening the rape investigation against Mr Assange. Ms Ny is also head of the department that oversees prosecution of sex crimes in particular.

  9. WikiLeaks and the Pentagon Papers
    Floyd Abrams, the lawyer who represented the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case, has an opinion piece well worth reading in the Wall Street Journal today. It opens:

    Why WikiLeaks Is Unlike the Pentagon Papers
    Everyone knows that Daniel Ellsberg leaked top-secret government documents about the Vietnam War. How many remember the ones he kept secret, or why?

    In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg decided to make available to the New York Times (and then to other newspapers) 43 volumes of the Pentagon Papers, the top- secret study prepared for the Department of Defense examining how and why the United States had become embroiled in the Vietnam conflict. But he made another critical decision as well. That was to keep confidential the remaining four volumes of the study describing the diplomatic efforts of the United States to resolve the war.

    Not at all coincidentally, those were the volumes that the government most feared would be disclosed. In a secret brief filed with the Supreme Court, the U.S. government described the diplomatic volumes as including information about negotiations secretly conducted on its behalf by foreign nations including Canada, Poland, Italy and Norway. Included as well, according to the government, were “derogatory comments about the perfidiousness of specific persons involved, and statements which might be offensive to nations or governments.”

    The diplomatic volumes were not published, even in part, for another dozen years. Mr. Ellsberg later explained his decision to keep them secret, according to Sanford Ungar’s 1972 book “The Papers & The Papers,” by saying, “I didn’t want to get in the way of the diplomacy.”

    Julian Assange sure does. Can anyone doubt that he would have made those four volumes public on WikiLeaks regardless of their sensitivity? Or that he would have paid not even the slightest heed to the possibility that they might seriously compromise efforts to bring a speedier end to the war?

    Mr. Ellsberg himself has recently denounced the “myth” of the “good” Pentagon Papers as opposed to the “bad” WikiLeaks. But the real myth is that the two disclosures are the same.

    The Pentagon Papers revelations dealt with a discrete topic, the ever-increasing level of duplicity of our leaders over a score of years in increasing the nation’s involvement in Vietnam while denying it. It revealed official wrongdoing or, at the least, a pervasive lack of candor by the government to its people.

    WikiLeaks is different. It revels in the revelation of “secrets” simply because they are secret. It assaults the very notion of diplomacy that is not presented live on C-Span. It has sometimes served the public by its revelations but it also offers, at considerable potential price, a vast amount of material that discloses no abuses of power at all.

    1. Interesting Choice
      When selecting commentators on the comparison between WikiLeaks and the Pentagon Papers, Weinberg offers us the once-official mouthpiece of the stenographer-of-record for the establishment, drawing fanciful and speculative distinctions without difference between two scenarios (in both of which, by the way, the Times inched just a bit towards actual journalism by providing limited cooperation to the dissidents). Yes, we get Floyd Abrams instead of, oh… say… Dan Ellsberg.

      Why might that be? Could it be because Ellsberg fully and enthusiastically approves of the actions of Manning and WikiLeaks, calling them “exactly the right thing to do” and calling Brad Manning a “brother” who had committed “a very admirable act” (if he is actually responsible for the leaks)?

      Referring to four (of forty-seven) volumes of the Pentagon Papers initially withheld by Ellsberg, Abrams asks:

      “Can anyone doubt that he [Assange] would have made those four volumes public on WikiLeaks regardless of their sensitivity? Or that he would have paid not even the slightest heed to the possibility that they might seriously compromise efforts to bring a speedier end to the war?”

      Well, golly, Floyd and Bill, given that WikiLeaks and its media partners have so far withheld much more than Ellsberg did, of course one can doubt that fanciful and frivolous assertion. On the evidence, how could one not doubt it?

      Is the venerable Mr. Abrams laboring under the oh-so-widespread misapprehension (apparently shared, until quite recently, by Weinberg) that WikiLeaks has indiscriminately “dumped” “hundreds of thousands” of documents, willy-nilly? Gentlemen, please get your facts straight before projecting your fantasies.

      Abrams continues:

      “It assaults the very notion of diplomacy that is not presented live on C-Span. It has sometimes served the public by its revelations but it also offers, at considerable potential price, a vast amount of material that discloses no abuses of power at all.”

      The august counselor was, once, a leading champion of First Amendment protections, no doubt deservedly. He displays a piss-poor understanding of both the basis for democratic governance and the functions of a free press, however, when he implies, as he does above, that material that discloses (in his, obviously inexpert opinion) “no abuses of power” ought not be revealed. This is utter nonsense. Virtually every single cable released to date by WikiLeaks and its media affiliates would have been considered newsworthy regardless of the route it followed to a reporter’s desk or monitor. Given that there are hundreds of thousands of others from which to choose, how could it be otherwise?

      Frankly, this little brouhaha seems to be just one of many that are popping up around the ‘net, with the evident goal of grabbing a bit of public attention by attacking Assange (while, in fact, clinging to the coattails of his notoriety). More intellectual substance, please.

      1. Your choice is interesting too
        All you members of the Assange fan club have already read Daniel Ellsberg’s defense of WikiLeaks. Afraid of another POV? I don’t necessarily agree with everything Abrams says here, but the Zimbabwe and especially Belarus cases provide a stark example in the moral implications of recklessly releasing information that can impact people’s lives.

        And the Belarus case seems to be much worse than mere recklessness. It appears to constitute active collaboration between WikiLeaks and the Lukashenko dictatorship, in a wave repression. Until I see some serious grappling with the Israel Shamir/Belarus affair from the Assange fan club, I will consider none of your prattle about “democratic governance and a free press” to be remotely legitimate.

        As stated above, “WikiLeaks plans to release all the [251,287] cables in phases over several months at a pace of about 80 cables per day.” You call this discrimination? If you were being tortured in a Belarussian prison, I doubt you’d think so.

        I have never equivocated on the need to support Bradely Manning. Blowing the cover on US atrocities in Iraq is one thing. Providing dictators with intelligence on dissidents is quite another.

        1. Now, really…
          “And the Belarus case seems to be much worse than mere recklessness. It appears to constitute active collaboration between WikiLeaks and the Lukashenko dictatorship…”

          Honestly, Bill, that goes beyond mere hyperbole and into the realm of hysteria–deeply irresponsible hysteria, it should be unnecessary to add.

          There’s no point in continuing this if every response serves merely as a springboard for your next display of fact-free show-boating.

  10. The WikiLeaks discussion continues…
    …on a new page. This page now has so many comments that it is not loading properly. Please post any further responses there. How come you guys never have anything to say about human rights abuses in Western Sahara? Just wondering…