Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Everyone’s Assange

by BINOY KAMPMARK

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

 

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

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Andrew Sullivan
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Richard W. Behan
Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]