In the Conflicts Around Wikileaks, Is Julian Assange Really the Problem?

With some of the infighting among the ranks of Wikileaks supporters–and I am a supporter–I need to allay some fears and put certain apprehensions to rest right away: my answer to the question above is “no,” and my secondary answer is that we should learn from mistakes. So, for now, hold your fire.

The real “problem” of the conflict involving Wikileaks is the problem posed by active, independent citizens standing up to the national security state, and winning. For all of the complaints, insults, and angry assertions issued from various branches of the U.S. government, stop and take note: the U.S. has yet to issue any kind of arrest warrant for Julian Assange or anyone else involved with Wikileaks. The U.S. government literally does not have a case, because it does not even have a law for prosecuting Wikileaks. That is how stymied that state finds itself. Needless to say, those who want Wikileaks to be stopped, have to stoop to much lower depths, using smears, personal insults, name calling, mad accusations, rumour, gossip, etc. The bizarre and highly questionable allegations of rape and sexual coercion play right into their hands. That is not the crux of the conflict involving Wikileaks: the crux remains that a national security state engaged in war cannot control what we know and what we think.

A secondary, though not unimportant problem, is how activists organize to confront that state, and its supportive media. Matching centralized power with centralized activism has always been a recipe for disaster, unless state power is in serious decline, suffers from a lack of legitimacy, loyalty and resources, and is up against rare figures like Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Ché” Guevara. Personalizing what ought to be a wide, diffuse, and anonymous network helps to activate the possibility of decapitation. While centralization and personalization are important enough problems, failing to heed critical advice is another. This is what Julian Assange told Al Jazeera, as reported by AFP:

Australian intelligence services had warned WikiLeaks of “dirty tricks” before Swedish authorities issued a short-lived arrest warrant for founder Julian Assange over a rape claim, he says.

“We were warned on the 11th (of August) by Australian intelligence that we should expect this sort of thing,” Assange said on Monday in a telephone interview with broadcaster Al-Jazeera from a secret location in Sweden.

“We were warned about dirty tricks and specifically that they would be of a type like this,” the 39-year-old Australian said.

Right, so you were warned of this on the 11th, and three days later you admit to getting into bed with someone you hardly knew, and then three days after that you did it again, with someone you knew even less and who clearly was eager to insinuate herself into your inner circle at any cost. So if you had this warning, why did you ignore it? Is one allowed to ask these questions without being accused of being a part of a smear campaign?

The point is not to get personal, but to take away some important lessons from this. Diffuse, decentralize, depersonalize. Be suspicious of “new friends.” When the world’s biggest military superpower, and a sinister organization like the CIA is likely on your tail, don’t put yourself in compromising situations. Honey traps? Fine. Suck on sour.

Likewise, if Wikileaks desperately needed a contact point for the media, all sorts of alternatives are available that do not risk this kind of damnable distraction, and this juvenile game of perverse smear and exhausting counter-smear, that we have engaged in for the last few weeks. Hire a public relations firm. Hire struggling actors, using false names, who can improvise. Have more than one representative speak. Having just one speaking can make that one look big (or vainglorious as some attackers assert), but it can also make an organization look smaller and weaker as a result. Supporters can become tarnished too, as I have been, labeled a member of the “cult” surrounding Assange. The key point is that you are not the state, so don’t mirror it: don’t be too bureaucratic, too devoted to leadership, too fixated on the media.

Why is this even being discussed here? Yesterday an article was published by The Daily Beast, that has really rattled Wikileaks supporters, or some of them anyway. The article by Philip Shenon, no mere hack, “Civil War at Wikileaks,” brings internal dissent out into public view. The person in focus here is Birgitta Jónsdóttir, member of parliament in Iceland, and reportedly one of the people who assisted in editing the Collateral Murder video. Some have chosen to dismiss this outright, as a fabrication, an interview that never happened. She is being asked by other Wikileaks supporters  if it is a valid and accurate reflection of her views. I think the article makes some good points, and some really dreadful, stupid points.

I agree with Jónsdóttir if she indeed said: “These personal matters should have nothing to do with WikiLeaks. I have strongly urged him to focus on the legalities that he’s dealing with and let some other people carry the torch.” I also agree with the anonymous Wikileaks organizer quoted in the article, about the problems of centralized control, which he/she says resulted in internal upheaval and the site being shutdown as a way to send a message to Assange.

But clearly Jónsdóttir made an idiotic, totally reprehensible remark when she said (if she said) about Julian Assange: “And he’s a classic Aussie in the sense that he’s a bit of a male chauvinist.” It is an ignorant, stereotypical statement that maligns all Australian males, and she uses it to indict Assange as if the rape charges were beyond question. As a classic male Aussie, he must be a rapist. If anyone had countered with: “Scandinavian women are a bit sluttish” or “Swedish women are uptight, neurotic, manic depressives,” one can imagine the shrill responses. Misandry is a poor defense against misogyny.

For that alone Jónsdóttir should retract her awful remarks and issue an immediate apology. They further confuse the issues, and further help to advance the smears. We have seen this before on The Daily Beast, as when they published this petty piece of ad hominem hyperbole by one Tunku Varadarajan–of the Hoover Institution, no surprise, and document thieves in their own right–who in the most bigoted and stereotyping fashion wrote of Assange’s “languorous, very un-Australian limbs.” Jónsdóttir’s remarks place her in those ranks, they reinforce the very problem she claimed to be complaining about, and they further distract from what is at hand: how best to openly confront the national security state, and keep on winning. I don’t have all the answers, but I know what some of the wrong ones are.

16 thoughts on “In the Conflicts Around Wikileaks, Is Julian Assange Really the Problem?

  1. Birgitta Jonsdottir was on Democracy Now in June around the time of the Collateral Murder video release. She emphasized then that Wikileaks wasn’t a one-person organization and that many people were invovled in the editing and release of the video. As a member of the Icelandic parliament, she helped get the freedom of the press protections passed. Protecting the privacy of their members seems like a good idea, considering the well-funded and well-armed forces they’re going up against.

    Democracy Now with Birgitta Jonsdottir – June 17, 2010

    The “macho Aussie” remark doesn’t sound like something she’d say but, of course, I’ve only that one video to go on. The idea that there is a stereotypical Aussie – or Canadian, American, or any nationality – is a bit passé, I think.

    As for Julian Assange, he should go back into hiding. He’s not the first to get caught by a honey trap and certainly won’t be the last. All that fame went to his head – or somewhere. Hiring an actor or several as front men and women sounds like a perfect idea. Pay them well and change them regularly. Let the real work go on behind the scenes.

  2. Rape scandal over the founder of Wikileaks is enough to prove how the whistleblowers are treated in the society. Most people do not know what NSA or other intelligence doing in the cutting age – using remote neural monitoring (RNM) and other impantable devices to put everyone under surveillance. The whistleblowers are to be treated like mentally ill. That’s what some psychologists are saying about Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists.
    Do anthropologists respect religion or individuals or even the human rights? I don’t think so. They exploit the information of the natives to be used for their government’s intelligence. Here is a good example of an anthropologist who made up a story of a student suicidal and led her to get handcuffed and sent to a mental hospital. In the hospital, the psychiatrist wrote a document that I was suicidal and danger to others.
    I’m Christian and what Dr. English-Lueck did was making up a false story of me as committing a gravely sin written in the Bible. I want to warn everyone what happens what the anthropologists can do with their power abuse from their authority and the connection with the intelligence – CIA.

  3. CM, thanks as always, and that is a link I needed. I need to review this now. Separate from this: do you write at the True North blog? I have lost sight of what might have been originally attached as a hyperlink to your name.

    Miyoko, I will need some time to digest that.

  4. NEW PHOENIX COINTELPRO

    I THINK THE PENTAGON OR SOMEONE IS PAYING PEOPLE TO PUT OUT BOGUS STORIES ABOUT COINTELPRO BEING IN THE PAST, COINTELPRO IS VERY MUCH ALIVE TODAY, IN FACT IT IS TEN TIMES WORSE AND TEN TIMES MORE DESTRUCTIVE. NOW THEY HAVE THE MILITARY VERY MUCH INVOLVED USING MILITARY SATELLITES TO TRACK AND MONITOR A PERSONS EVERY MOVE YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO PRIVACY WHATSOEVER, THEY EVEN WATCH ME IN MY BEDROOM, THEY ARE SICK PIGS AND NEED TO BE EXPOSED NOW. ALL MY COMMUNICATIONS ARE MONITORED WITH ABSOLUTELY NO TRIAL, JURY OR JUDGE, THEY DO WHATEVER THEY WANT. I’M GANG STALKED AND TEERRORIZED DAILY, TRACKED AND HARASSED BY THE POLICE WITH SATELLITES. THEY GET TO MY EMPLOYERS, DOCTORS, ANYONE WHO CAN HELP ME. AND THEN THEY USE DIRECTED ENERGY WEAPONS TO POISON ME AND BRING MORE TEERROR INTO MY LIFE. THIS IS AMERICA QUIT THE PAST SHIIT! JUST WATCH MY VIDEOS! http://www.youtube.com/user/kcraigdc

    WE NEED NULLIFICATION NOW TO REGAIN OUR COUNTRY FROM THESE TYRANNICAL FREAKS WHO HAVE TAKEN OVER AMERICA AND WANT TO USHER IN THEIR ILLUMINATI NWO INSANITY. I NEED HELP IF ANYBODY GIVES A DAMN IN THIS WORLD.

    http://disc.yourwebapps.com/discussion.cgi?disc=149495;article=131896;title=APFN

    KEVIN CANADA

    631 778-5024

  5. I don’t understand why there are charges against Assange. I don’t like the dirt against Assange and WL in the news, but I think Birgittas statement is a good thing. Julian never planned to be a one man band for the organisation and the “one person spokesman” does not serve the security of Wikileaks as well as it could. having different faces, specifically ones who are not privy to information that would compromise their safety would be much more sustainable way for Wikileaks to operate when dealing with the media.

  6. Yes, although I haven’t written for several weeks. So much to read…so little time. I have a stack of books on the go at any given time as well as lots and lots of news sites and blogs to read.

    I think my brain is full…

  7. The quote from the AlJazeera video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzaDtt5VGuw
    does not seem accurate, there is a small part that is important to the meaning that was inaudible.

    Second I want to point out that your posts seems to excrete jealously which is a crack the CIA will try to exploit.

    Third, to gain public support there has to be a face, and because we live in an appearance based world it has to be someone who is good looking. I may come off as harsh saying that but we have to deal with the world as is right now.

    Fourth, if someone did take the site down to get his attention that is bad for Wikileaks, it gives the appearance of an operation run by children.

    Again the CIA will target that as well. They may even push his popularity higher if they think it will cause infighting.

    You should be aware that Lamo is snaking around and trying to anonymously push bad info to the press. I suspect he also tries to push those stories higher on sites like Digg and Reddit.
    There was a point that someone was monitoring Reddit for positive Wikileaks stories and voting them down in under a minute.

    One last thing, use Google translate and take a look at this blog entry from one of his supposed victims, http://annaardin.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/sjustegsmodell-for-laglig-hamnd/

  8. Friendly fire, not the first time I have seen this, and likely not the last. Wikileaks supporters seem to spend a lot of time pointing fingers at each other. For example, you imagine that I am jealous, where others seem me as a cult-like fan. My defense of Assange in this case is a matter of record, you just have not been paying attention. I was a donor before the smear campaign, and I donated again since it began.

    Wikileaks does not need a media doll. You think they do, but clearly that strategy has backfired…or do you wish to miss this obvious point as well?

    Finally, it would be good to know how it is that something that you say is inaudible, is nonetheless a significant point that Assange was making. If you can’t hear it, then you don’t know what was said, right?

  9. Um… so I take it from these comments that everyone is buying that the conflict between WikiAssange and the CIA (etc) is … what? Real?

    Not cynical enough.

  10. One needs to track the bank accounts of the two women–also that of Brigitta and some power hungry folks at Wikileaks–so sad

  11. I Said it was important to the meaning of what he said, you know context…

    Without a “media doll” wikileaks becomes an unknown, then donations dry up, people with important info don’t leak it, and you miss the opportunity to express why transparency is so important.

    If you haven’t noticed the younger generation has no idea why transparency is important, which means that history will repeat itself over and over.

  12. “Wikileaks does not need a media doll. You think they do, but clearly that strategy has backfired…or do you wish to miss this obvious point as well?”

    This in itself, is that small tightrope wikileaks is forced to walk on. If is unable to get funds (which they seem to have a chronic problem with), they will shut down, and the supposedly “current” idea is using Assange as a spokesman of sorts. Unfortunately due to his unapolagetic beliefs (no matter what the consequences of leaking anything is), his defensiveness against the press and his attempts to use threats of leakage as leverage towards groups who do not intend to help him, he’s done nothing but hurt his own, and by association, wikileaks reputation.

    In order to keep up their servers, they need to consistantly leaking something “big” and apropriately advertise it to stay aflote. Now if Assenge was a bit more tactful in what and how he says things, this would be an entirely different situation.

Comments are closed.