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.