I’m glad wikileaks exists and I’m glad Assange is going on trial

Alright, I’ve been following the Wikileaks/Assange/Anonymous scandal as much as the next radical who spends too much time on the internet. And it’s taken me some time to work out my feelings on it all: it’s a complex situation, and a thrilling one, in its way.

I want to start out by saying that Bradley Manning is a fucking hero. He’s been kept in solitary confinement for eight months now, and his situation isn’t likely to get much better. But here’s the thing–Bradley Manning, if he did what he’s been accused of, did something incredibly dangerous and beautiful while enveloped into the most powerful machine of destruction in the world: the US military. And he did this, presumably, because he was appalled by, and felt betrayed by, that to which he had sworn his loyalties. He made incredibly difficult moral decision, and he made the right one. Why is he being generally ignored by the media?

Our cause celebre is, instead, Julian Assange. Julian Assange, the more details we get to know about the fellow (such as from his OK Cupid profile or his couchsurfing.com profile, the more he seems like he’s… well… a boingboing commenter said it best, about his couchsurfing profile:

As a couchsurfer myself, I have to say that the good Mr. [Assange] would have a lot of trouble getting people to let him surf with them, and just as much trouble getting requests from other surfers. The profile information is scarce and cocky, suggesting someone who is both lazy and difficult to get along with. Intensity and an inflated sense of self worth are not what you want to see in a potential surfer, and this profile reeks of both.

Assange did what he did with support and the presumption he could rally more of it. Manning simply did what he knew to be the right thing.

Which brings me to the second part of all of this: I’m glad Assange is going on trial. Everyone is saying, correctly, that accused rapists aren’t usually extradited. Hell, most aren’t even put on trial. Because the legal system doesn’t really take rape seriously, or offer survivors of sexual assault any comfort in most circumstances. There are obviously ulterior motives that have led to the international arrest of Assange.

I’m not even saying I want Assange to be put in prison: I don’t believe in punitive justice, the prison system, or the state. The reason I’m glad he’s being put on trial is that I’m glad it’s making the sort of rape he’s been accused of into an international issue.

In America, at least, rape is usually thought of as a stranger dragging someone into an alley somewhere. But that’s not most rape. Even date-rape, which is rape but for some dumb reason has the word “date” in front of it as if it’s not -real- rape, is still imagined as someone (always a woman) screaming “no, no, no” as her date drunkenly… anyhow.

This scandal is finally bringing the most common and insidious forms of rape to the forefront of discussion. We have to talk about it. Rape is when someone has sex with someone else without their consent.

This came into my twitter feed a few days ago:

If being a douche was a punishable offense, most people I know would be in federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison by now. #wikileaks #assange

Two defenses of rape in 140 characters or less. I’m impressed. Raping someone isn’t “being a douche.” And what Mr. Assange is being accused of, whether or not he’s guilty, is rape, not “being a douche.” (Then there’s just bonus points for absentmindedly excusing prison rape as simply a fact of life and if you don’t want to get raped don’t break the law. Something is clearly, fundamentally wrong with our society.)

The second reason I’m fine with Assange having been arrested is that no revolutionary organization should be so top-down structured that removing the head destroys the body. I can’t believe I would have to even worry about that in the internet era, when dealing with tech-savvy folks. Decentralization is clearly the only useful way to run an organization that will run into conflict with the state or capitalism. When I heard Assange was arrested, I was sad, but I figured it wouldn’t really affect Wikileaks at all. If Wikileaks is/was something worth supporting, it will function just as smoothly without its founder.

Now, regardless of whether or not he’s a rapist, Assange has done marvelous things for the world, don’t get me wrong. Wikileaks is groundbreaking and very important. But I remember Wikileaks from years back. It would have just continued to be another site where some people find strange things on the internet if it weren’t for Manning. What we’re doing is like celebrating the person who filmed what happened in Tiananmen Square while leaving the person who stood in front of the tank to rot in prison.

18 thoughts on “I’m glad wikileaks exists and I’m glad Assange is going on trial”

  1. You are awesome.

    That is all.

    That, and that last sentence is a work of utter genius.

    Funny thing about this whole Assange thing is that I’ve read about it, written about it, and then read about it some more and have seen opinions (including my own) shift and grow so much over the last few days that I’m part awed and part horrified at the speed the whole thing seems to be progressing at.

    Welcome to the internet, I suppose.

    Incidentally, I’ve just read another post that talks about how the focus on rape being taken seriously is possibly obscuring an even more important issue–how we go about ending rape all together. At the end of the day, putting more rapists on trial may be a good thing, but locking more rapists up certainly doesn’t solve the problem.

    Crap. I may possibly have been lying when I said ‘That is all’ up there.

  2. These issues (it is possible to support wikileaks without excusing rape, wow) have been all over the feminist blogs I read, but you brought up some great points, the bit about horizontal organizing (off with his head), and that this incident is forcing discussion on the unacknowledged but way more common types of sexual violence. And yeah, Manning’s heroism.

    What also isn’t getting discussed is that this should not be a surprise for anyone. It is appallingly common that charming charismatic leaders are very often abusive and violent in their personal relationships. Some people don’t attempt to redistribute power when they challenge it; they attempt to take it. It’s different.

    On a sidenote, I would like to tell the anarchynews commentators who get very upset whenever there is a public callout of sexual assaulters and declare that “crazy bitches” are ruining anarchy by making it seem like anarchist activism is more rife with rapists than anywhere else, that in fact anarchyland is one of the few places in US society where you can call out assault outside the criminal justice system, and would you please stop trying to take that ability away from us, you are acting like Michael Moore? Anyway, no gods, no masters, destroy your idols.

  3. Kyla: weirdly, it’s so not a surprise to me that I forgot to even mention it. “Charismatic male leader of revolutionary organization with a tendency to inflate his self worth is a sexual predator? Holy cow, no! what’s happening to the world!”

    But I suppose this still isn’t addressed enough. Here or anywhere.

  4. Thought provoking article.

    The issue of “rape” and non consensual sex has been evolving in my mind these past few years. I always took the opinion that rape was violent, forceful and that resistance was given. I have been told over the course of these past few years that rape (or non consensual sex) is often more passive and happens more often then most people are aware of and is spoken of relatively little. This still makes me wonder a bit, if you don’t want to have sex and the person is not going to physical assault you why not stop it and draw a perimeter (okay, maybe our “fantastic” culture is to blame)? I have been told stories of two people who are sexually aroused and then one decides that they don’t want to continue but the other presses and even after verbal resistance they continue to approach until the other person becomes passive and just kind of waits it out, or, has sex non consensually.

    Still seems a little weird to me… I guess i have this distorted view of women, because of my mother, that they are all very aggressive and “don’t put up with no shit” and will kick you in the balls. Then again, this type of behavior was “learned” by her due to certain circumstances, if you catch my drift. I don’t really understand completely yet the whole passive victim idea yet but i think it has to do with fear and repression and psychological domination. I do understand that one is doing something they don’t want to and being subject to domination via another’s will and that this causes emotional and physical stress. But this is not the primary comment i wanted to make.

    There has recently been work done on investigating hierarchy structures in “open” systems, like the internet. It seems that one of the hypothesis is that in open systems power structures form which are often more inclusive and secretive then top down systems and that the idea of a completely bottom up “crowd power” is kind of an illusion. Simply because there is free access to domains of the environment (internet) does not discount the impact which cultural suggestions can have on people, and in essence a type of control structure can be formalized with this in mind. Most people believe that when they surf the internet that they are free to go wherever they please but i have a hunch that there are strong cultural forces which limit where they would be willing to go openly. I remember feeling this the other day concerning wikileaks and plans to introduce some type of internet control because of these types of threats. I was so against the idea that i didn’t even want to look at the video of the people meeting to discuss this because i was afraid of their plans… But i eventually watched it and it seemed they will have to fight a bit harder to get their agenda across still.

    When something goes from an idea to an action on the internet there is generally some type of hierarchy system that spontaneously assembles. Massive distribution and decentralization works for machines better then humans i believe, i mean look at the “operation pay back” folks, that was a cluster…of chaos and disorderly anarchy at it’s best. The crowd is hard to appease and function efficiently in whole when the who crowd it self is giving orders.

    1. This still makes me wonder a bit, if you don’t want to have sex and the person is not going to physical assault you why not stop it and draw a perimeter (okay, maybe our “fantastic” culture is to blame)? I have been told stories of two people who are sexually aroused and then one decides that they don’t want to continue but the other presses and even after verbal resistance they continue to approach until the other person becomes passive and just kind of waits it out, or, has sex non consensually.

      So basically when you are undergoing a traumatic experience (and sexual assault of any kind can be traumatic– psychologists compare the PTSD of rape survivors to that of combat veterans), the adrenaline and whatever else starts flowing through your body, and your body reacts in three main ways: fight, flight, or freeze. Most of us are familiar with the words “fight or flight” to describe animals that are spooked. But we’ve seen “freeze,” too, if we’ve ever watched a deer caught in headlights or a mouse caught by a cat that has suddenly gone limp, even though it is still alive and relatively unharmed.

      Sexual assault is such an intense and intimate violence that many people freeze as it happens. They freeze as an unconscious move to protect oneself. It is not a conscious choice, and many survivors describe feeling like they go numb, or leave their body, or cease to feel present while the assault takes place. Their brain is literally giving them as escape route from feeling something so terrible. Just as you might come down from an adrenaline high and say, “I didn’t know I could fight so hard,” freezing, called “dissociation,” is the same unconscious protective move, your body stepping up to give you some power to withstand an assault.

      Everyone’s reactions are different, and they change as experiences is different. Some people might freeze because they feel physically overpowered by the person assaulting them; fighting back may seem useless and fleeing may be impossible. But because sexual violence is often perpetrated by an intimate partner, other forms of power come into that unconscious decision-making. Kinds of power that someone ones knows who assaults them could include financial control, employment, shared housing, children or pets, social isolation, love. Even if fighting may technically stop the assault, it may not seem the best course of action for that person, because of how it impacts a a greater complex system of abuse. It’s important to respect survivors’ reactions. There’s a lot more going on here than muscle.

      1. The reflex to freeze is powerful. It happened to me once, I was walking into the subway and a flow of people were coming towards me out of the tunnel. It was crowded. Suddenly one of the people passing past me assaulted me. It was very non-violent, I just suddenly felt that there was a hand stroking me between the legs, a long slow firm touch. I just froze and felt like I was going to vomit. It was so obviously intentional, and very assertive. I didn’t see who it was, I didn’t even look. After it was over I came to my senses and turned around to see, and a man in his forties in a suit carrying a fucking briefcase was walking away, and he turned around, looked me straight in the eye and the fucker smiled. I did nothing, just felt like shit for a day and then I realized that I needed to take self defence classes. My reflex should have been to grab that hand and scream at the top of my lungs “what the fuck are you doing you perv”. I did just let it happen, but it was absolutely an assault. A very mild thing compared to what a lot of people have to go through, but these things happen all the time and it’s good that people are having to start thinking about it.

  5. Okay, Manning is a hero, but the world has forgotten about him, he has not enough marketing power behind him, in the end they might even shoot him and “the world” would say “ooops, didnt know about it” … thats one point.
    Assange is not a hero, without Wikileaks it would be still there al the information and maybe truth in the leaked documents – there are still quiet a few journalists publishing gathered information that was not intended to b published, its their job ….
    “Charismatic Leaders” are just another kind of fuckers we do not need, honestly because they not change anything. The regular “douche” just says Yes Yes and is still a douche afterwards, so it doesnt help.
    Rape is wide spread and still in most cases treated as “Oh my god but she wanted it” and it is true that most cases of rape happen within partnerships or between married couples, silent, no one ever will notice and no judge will ever rate it as rape. But why is that so ? In my opinion its is our foul society, we lost entirely the contact to everything that makes us human beeings. We do no longer think or feel, we do what we are told to do – by religion, by marketing and by all the other people around us. We (and in this case I speak about most men I know, except for my carefully choosen friends) treat everything as our possesion, it is my wife and so I can do whatever I want, as I can drive or sell my car, computer, TV … as it pleases me. It is also my world and I dont care about it because I dont care about those comming after me (not get me wrong, the I is not me ^O^).
    As for the rape thing, the violent one or the silent one or any other one, that is the reason behind it, the rapist does not see the person he eventually destroys mentally, he just sees a piece of pussy he wants to use, not even realizing that it might be non consensual, in the end “they anyway deserve it”. I am similar minded as Magpie, there is not much use in governmental punishment system and I do not know how to fix it, but rape should be treated very seriously.
    Comming back to Manning, Wikileaks and Assange: Wikileaks does not really depend on Assange, sorry guy, but thats a fact, the information we are talking about is mirrored all over the world and therefore wont go away, so wikileaks would stay anyway. But that boy (and he is not much more than a boy) we showed what most people are lacking, he figured out, that any single person has to care and he made a decision, which really makes him a hero because I am sure he is smart enough to know about the consequences. What is really shocking is the fact, how fast the world forgot about it and that most people dont care.
    And the last section is about Internet, Payback and such. The Internet is in the end a mirror of our society, in the beginning good projects that arrive at a certain stage will be used mainly by corporations for their own good. An example, when Deutsche Bahn in Wikipedia got too many criticism the hired marketing professionals to fix it. Newspaper employ people with the task to make decent critical comments, so nobody recognises if the real critics get deleted or not even published. Ebay started out as a system for collectors but they quickly figured out that there is a lot of money to be made and now they rip of people and make sure, that they maximise profit and so on and so on. And it wont take long until the “privileged” internet will be there, some under the lead of google trying this already. Okay, fortunately there is still valid stuff and trustworthy people but beside that again it is you who has to judge, how reliable a piece of information is, it is the same as in life, stay connected to the world, the people and THINK, have your own opinion and speak out loud even if your not wikileaks (I am waiting for the day wikileaks gets commercial)
    Okay enough, too many typos, bad english maybe but anyway …

  6. If you don’t want to get raped AND YOU’RE A DUDE, don’t break the law. Chicks just get raped by “douchebags” as a normal part of life. Apparently.

    1. People of all genders experience sexual violence. Sexualized violence against men happens in intimate relationships, but also is found in many forms of bullying (childhood and adult) to uphold specific constructions of masculinity. The “prison rape” that is excused by jokes like Magpie quoted is a form of torture used by the state to enforce its domination. For men, as well as for women and trans people, sexualized violence is a major tool of oppression. Male survivors are often shamed into not reporting their experiences, in criminal justice land and in anarchyland.

      I here ya, patriarchy manifests itself on women’s bodies non-stop. But there’s no need to dismiss other people’s experiences while making that point.

      1. Oh, I agree. I only said that in that way to point out the tacit assumption that I read in the quote Magpie posted that prison-rape, for the men who were douchebags, was a Bad Thing, but being a douchebag, i.e. potentially raping women, was not an offense worthy of that punishment. Believe me, I had no desire to minimize anyone’s experience of sexual violence. I just found the comment that Magpie quoted to be rather offensive in its underlying assumptions. That’s all I was trying to emphasize. Apologies if it came across wrong.

  7. Sure there is sex violence against men, no question but takng the fact that in the wider definition 2 out of three women experience sexual violence the main problem is there – indeed it is one of the lowest, most disgusting fucked up thing that exists ! I mean sex should be nice for all participants and consens is the basics, as consensual behavious in general should be the rule not the exception.

  8. This is such an important post! I am also a rape survivor, and am glad to see someone talking about why these things are important to discuss and to take seriously (without condoning the prison system, or without the ‘eye for an eye’ discussion of prison rape). I’m glad to have the pleasure of reading a very eloquent post on why one can both appreciate Wikileaks and be glad to see Assange’s charges taken seriously.

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