CW: Discussion of Assange case
Do you believe that more or less most women have been or will at some point be raped or sexually assaulted?
Do you believe that most men tend to underestimate the ubiquitous reality of rape and immediately question any allegation of rape outside of the stranger-attack jump-in-the-alley context? That victims of rape must expect to undergo such a humiliating and debilitating process from police and lawyers in order to get justice for the crime committed against them that many simply do not bother? That rape and victims of rape are routinely joked about and trivialised both in mainstream media and popular perception to the extent that there appears to be such a thing as ‘rape culture’ - a culture where all but the worst and most violent rape offences are effectively condoned and, where possible, brushed under the carpet for the sake of protecting the offender at the expense of the victim?
If you believe these things, it will be clear to you that the allegations against Julian Assange - like all rape allegations - must be taken very seriously and that he must go to Sweden to answer them in court.
Do you believe that there is something deeply rotten at the heart of most, if not all Western democracies?
Do you believe that the secret services of Western democracies effectively operate outside the jurisdiction of the law and are quite prepared to do absolutely anything - including murders, smear campaigns and honeytraps - to further their own ends? That even democratic states such as the US and the UK will do whatever they believe they can get away with behind the scenes - regardless of international or domestic law - in order to further their own interests? Do you believe that the culture of secrecy in government is the key factor protecting this kind of behaviour, and that Wikileaks is the first organisation to truly strike a blow against this culture of secrecy, something that has genuinely scared the living daylights out of powerful individuals, governments and institutions across the world, and that has caused them to react accordingly.
If you believe these things, it will be clear to you that the rape allegations against Julian Assange are nothing but a particularly blatant honeytrap smear campaign designed to stop his active participation in Wikileaks, and hold him in place, either in the UK or Sweden, until grounds can be found to extradite him to the US, where the life expectancy of his activity in Wikileaks, if not his actual life expectancy in general, will be pretty short.
It will be clear to you, that is, unless you also believe in the first set of things, in which case, like me, you’ve probably spent the last little while with your head on fire, trying to balance the two sets of ideas.
The circle has been squared by several writers: Johann Hari, Cath Elliott, Amanda Marcotte, Laurie Penny and Kate Harding have all written excellent essays attempting to explain why - given the existence of rape culture - there are serious problems with all attempts to pre-emptively defend Assange against the rape allegations even in the face of the explicit, public, US-led threat to ‘get him’ at all costs.
Other writers - people that you might perhaps have thought would have known better - such as Craig Murray, Michael Moore, John Perry Barlow and Naomi Wolf, have written defences of Assange that all have one thing in common - they trivialise these specific rape allegations in order to defend Assange.
The problem has perhaps best been summed up by Katrin Axelsson of Women Against Rape, whose letter to the Guardian on the subject is here. The key phrase is this: there is a long tradition of the use of rape and sexual assault for political agendas that have nothing to do with women’s safety.
If you support Wikileaks but don’t accept the existence of rape culture, of course, sorting out the Assange case is easy - it’s all a honeytrap smear campaign straight out of the CIA Dirty Tricks textbook. If you do accept the existence of rape culture, however, you’ll realise that misguided ideas about what is and is not acceptable behaviour and what is and is not rape are so widespread - even among those ostensibly committed to social justice - that it is not in any way reasonable to rule out the possibility that Assange actually might have done it. After all, the best way to frame someone you want to frame is for something they actually did. The full power of the State will - not wrongly - get behind you in seeing the person you want eliminated put away.
That’s the chilling answer to Craig Murray’s litany of political whistleblowers who mysteriously have subsequently faced allegations of sex crimes - such things are so widespread that it’s perfectly possible that all those allegations are actually true: in a world where most sex offenders get away with it, only those who also act against the interests of the State are in trouble.
If you’re paranoid about what organisations like MI6 or the CIA might do to people who they see as enemies, don’t think for a single moment that they would bother wasting time setting up a brand new honeytrap for a guy they already knew to be a little bit off when it came to the boundaries of consensuality in sex. They’ll just use that knowledge instead - even if - purely hypothetically - both women involved were actually big supporters both of Wikileaks in general and Assange in particular.
Two final points. Firstly, the underlying mechanism and philosophical underpinning of Wikileaks has now effectively been open-sourced. There already exist other organisations based on the same principle: in order to force so-called democracies to operate with just governance, it is necessary to provide whistle-blowers a method for safely and anonymously leaking secret and damaging documents which can then be sent to the press and publicised. To that extent, while it is clear that Wikileaks specifically has yet to release every document in its possession, its major mission has been accomplished. Kill Assange tonight, and you will still have a constant stream of no-longer secret documents being released from now until the heat-death of the internet.
Secondly, those who are aware of the existence of rape culture have an enormously long way to go in order to persuade people - even on the progressive wing of politics - that such a thing even exists. There’s an awful lot of eye-rolling going on on feminist blogs at the moment; an awful lot of ‘I really can’t be bothered to explain any more.’ And that is understandable. But there’s an awful lot of explaining left to do.
Because most guys - even on the left - don’t yet get it.
Most guys don’t yet know that more or less most women have been or will at some point be raped or sexually assaulted.