Everyone’s Assange


Julian Assange has a few tricks left up his sleeve after his 16-month battle to avoid extradition to Sweden, and seeking asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London has been one of them.  He has managed to throw an assortment of spanners into the works of state since becoming a figure of notoriety.  He has, for instance, made a threat to run for a seat in the Australian Senate, an apt riposte to Australia’s indifference in mounting consular interventions on his behalf.  He has been given his own program on the Russian network RT.

He has proven to be such a tempestuous tease.  He puzzles feminists holding court because of his apparent disposition to women. (The allegations of sexual abuse are proven in advance when it comes to matters of ideology – for them, trials are irrelevant.) He enrages state authorities for an almost glib attitude to classified information – I get it, I reveal it.  He annoys journalists for cutting their ill-fed grass – this is ‘scientific’ journalism in action, information raw and pure.  And the psychobabble cohorts are out wanting him on the couch for analysis.  Are you well, Mr Assange?

Mr Assange, in fact, seems better than ever.  When the rules of the game are becoming clearer, he changes them.  He is fast becoming a postmodern hobby horse for those who would wish he never existed – everyone has their version of Assange, their own version of the nervous computer nerd who made it to several most wanted lists, who has openly been branded a saboteur and terrorist.  In a sense, all of the opinions might have a kernel of truth to them.  In the end, most don’t matter.  What matters is that Assange has become indispensable.

The response to Assange’s application for asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy has almost been giddy with variance.  There are those who regard it as brilliant.  Ray McGovern of Consortium News (Jun 20) finds the choice of Ecuador a good one given President Rafael Correa’s firm stance against Washington.  “Correa has been a harsh critic of U.S. behavior toward Ecuador and its Latin American neighbors as well as an outspoken fan of WikiLeaks.”

McGovern is also happy to speculate as to why Assange was allowed, lest he be some sort of “Houdini”, to escape his security fetters and wind up inside the Ecuadorean embassy to begin with, given its location behind Harrods department store.  The British would have surely been aware of the warm Ecuadorean stance towards Assange’s plight.  In November 2010, Correa’s Deputy Foreign Minister Kintoo Lucas openly stated that, “We are open to giving him residency in Ecuador, without any problem and without any conditions.”  Lucas’s wings were subsequently clipped – he had gone too far in stating an official position, but the point had been made.

The Ecuadoreans have been assessing whether, in Correa’s words, there is “any death threat against Julian Assange.  We have to analyze his reasons for requesting asylum if [it] has due process.”  Ecuadorean envoy Ana Alban has expressed no desire to offend “a country we hold in such deep regard as the United Kingdom.”  Nothing with the computer celebrity has ever been straight forward.

The reaction from conservative commentators such as Ray Walser, writing for the Heritage Foundation’s The Foundry (Jun 21), reveal’s a naughty, nefarious Assange who is paranoid and indifferent to state security.  Such points, however, recede into the background.  The traditional bully boy intentions of the US, using that ever worn threat of economic blackmail, are what matters.  “A favorable decision for asylum for Assange would be ill-timed considering the fact that Ecuador’s eligibility for Andean Trade Preferences is currently under review by the U.S. Trade Representative and ultimately by the U.S. Congress.”  There was, for Walser, only one victim in this – the U.S. State Department.

There is perhaps only one thing observers of the Assange imbroglio agree upon – the spiced element of drama, the piquant expectation of a surprise around the corner.  Joan Smith, writing in The Independent (Jun 21), described Assange as a “fabulist, someone who stretches and distorts the truth to make himself look exciting in the eyes of his diminishing band of followers.”

Don’t fall for the psychodrama of the “eccentric” Assange, claims Smith.  Peer past his liberal tendencies towards information and mendacious governments, and you get an Assange “relaxed about links with authoritarian regimes,” hysterical about his fate and “shopping for human rights near Harrods.”  Should Ecuador accede to the wishes of the Australian, they would merely be pandering to the farce.

Assange as the holder of rights rather than the disentitling tendencies of narcissism is what appeals to commentators such as Glenn Greenwald (The Guardian, Jun 20).  “There is no question that the Obama justice department has convened an active grand jury to investigate whether WikiLeaks has violated the draconian Espionage Act of 1917.”  Countries might well be harassed into surrendering subjects – and Sweden could hardly be said to be immune to that, given its assistance to the CIA in rendering two suspected terrorists to Egypt, both of whom were subsequently tortured.  The UN Human Rights Committee found Sweden’s conduct in that regard a violation of the global torture ban in 2006.

Assange is the withering flower of the confused Zeitgeist we find ourselves in, the opportunistic hacker who extols liberty while channeling cultish imagery, the information specialist who only cares for content over effect, the revealer who keeps secrets because he knows he can, and tells everyone he has them.  In that sense, he is merely the symptom of the very states that seek to control, if not eliminate him altogether.  The theatre of deception is the only reality that matters in the game of high politics, and Assange’s real sin is that he sought to challenge that monopoly with his insolence.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Cambridge.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com


October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)
Anthony Papa
Coming Home: an Open Letter to 6,000 Soon-to-be-Released Drug War Prisoners From an Ex-Con
Ramzy Baroud
Listen to Syrians: The Media Jackals and the People’s Narrative
Norman Pollack
Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street
Gilbert Mercier
Will Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite Militias Defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Stanton
Vietnam 2.0 and California Dreamin’ in Ukraine
William John Cox
The Pornography of Hatred
October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Cuba’s Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War