The good, the bad and the leaky

Russians, shortarse Frenchmen, artistic pictures of horses and people who duet with Blue: Just some of the things that the US government HATES

Russians, shortarse Frenchmen, artistic pictures of horses and people who duet with Blue: Just some of the things that the US government HATES

The publication last week of the first few batches of leaked US embassy cables has brought whistleblower website WikiLeaks – as well as the fate of its founder and editor in chief Julian Assange – dramatically to the front pages and top bills of news media around the world. As this article was being drafted, Assange, the website’s principal spokesperson and main public figure, is reported to be have been taken into custody in London, in connection with alleged sex offences in Stockholm in August this year. Unlike some others, SSY prefers to take rape allegations seriously, at least until substantial evidence suggests we should do otherwise.

To deal with this issue first, first of all let’s say something – Wikileaks is not Julian Assange, and Julian Assange is not Wikileaks. Attempting to repress and punish Wikileaks for being inconvenient and worrying to the establishment is not the same as a man being arrested because he is suspected of the very serious crime of rape. Let’s not confuse Assange with Wikileaks. Wikileaks (with Assange as its public face), as we will go on to discuss, has made a brilliant contribution to anti-imperialist activism and we absolutely applaud it for that. Do not let the fact that Wikileaks has got the right ideas about freedom of information blind us to the fact that rape is one of the most reprehensible crimes someone can commit, and that violence (sexual, physical, psychological, emotional) against women (which the overwhelming majority of the time goes unpunished) should be opposed in all its forms – and perpetrators brought to justice where it has been committed.. We offer no opinion on whether Julian Assange is guilty of the crimes that he has now been charged with. It wouldn’t be appropriate. But neither is it appropriate for socialists to promote the position that the women who have made allegations against him should be disbelieved, simply because Assange’s organisation Wikileaks do good things, or because of what the women have said on the internet in the past, or because they are women – which is what a lot of the ‘Defend Assange’ stuff out there on the interwebs is boiling down to. Just because we consider someone to be a “good man” who promotes some of the same ideals that we do does not mean that, if they HAVE abused women, they should get away with it, sticking it to the man yeah? Many men, men who consider themselves to be left wing, are using this arrest as an excuse to propagate often repeated rape myths, and this is unacceptable. Rape myths should always be challenged, no matter how suspicious you find the timing of Assange’s arrest. It’s sad to see people we respect, like Naomi Wolf join in the reactionary smear campaign against the women who reported Assange to the Swedish authorities. This is a misguided approach to anti-imperialism. You have to be anti-patriarchy too, or sorry, you’re not a socialist. For a brilliant article on the meaning of the word ‘consent’, visit Feministe. No means no, and tricking someone in to consenting to sex is rape. That goes in all cases, not just the ones where there’s no left wing icons who might be involved. Now, on to the substantial issue of the leaked cables..

WikiLeaks was founded in 2006, originally adopting a wiki-style of organisation (similar to Wikipedia, where users could freely upload, edit and discuss documents. However it has since taken on a far tighter editorial policy, as it became clear the wiki format wasn’t appropriate for the organisation’s aims.

The ongoing release of US embassy cables – taken from the US military internet system SIPRNet (insert Terminator joke here) and representing a database of some quarter of a million secret communications from US embassies around the world – is just the latest in a long line of high profile stories broken by the organisation.

These include the website’s role in releasing the membership lists of the British National Party (BNP) in November 2008 and October 2009, the release of US military footage of an airstrike in Baghdad that appeared to show the gunning down of civilians and journalists, their involvement in the controversial so-called “climategate” leak of emails from the University of East Anglia and the 2009 Trafigura scandal concerning the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, and this year’s release of many thousands of secret documents concerning the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What's an assange? A smelly orange?

As Assange told an audience of journalists and students in London earlier this year, the idea behind the website was to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the internet to “find a way to not be scared to publish…anything”. Unlike the journalism of mainstream media organisations, WikiLeaks perceives of its duties being primarily to its sources – to publish what they say they will publish, not to step back or take things down; to protect those sources as much as possible – as well as to what Assange refers to as “achieving just reform”.

It is perhaps unsurprising that such a project has inspired a vitriolic reaction in the seat of power. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned the most recent leaks as life-endangering, ‘illegal’ and a threat to US national security. Others have taken this much further, with former Vice-Presidential candidate (and likely future Presidential candidate) Sarah Palin describing Assange as “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” and calling for him to be “pursued with the urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders”, while other political leaders have openly called for his assassination. As has been repeatedly pointed out by WikiLeaks’ spokespeople and supporters, no evidence of anyone’s life being endangered has been forthcoming, and the timing of the releases and the care taken in their publication makes the endangerment of individuals unlikely. Also of note is that US authorities were approached prior to publication to ensure anything they felt might have been explicitly dangerous to individuals could be redacted – the US however refused to cooperate.

The embassy cables released to date have contained so many revelatory details that stories that would otherwise have ran for days have been almost buried in an avalanche of new disclosures. So far we have discovered that the US has been spying on UN officials, that leaders of various Arab states have been calling for a US attack on Iran (as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, despite opinion polls showing the populations of those countries perceive the US and Israel as by far the greatest threats in the region), that the Labour government “put measures in place” to protect the US during the Iraq inquiry, and much more. It’s a lot to sift through, and according to Assange only 200-odd cables out of a staggering 25,000 have been released so far. You can browse the cables by which country you want to hear US diplomacy staff slag off using this handy Guardian guide.

Wank, wank, daft guy, wank

In this then sense WikiLeaks is very much a political project, both with respect to press freedom and independence, and with challenging US power. In an online Q&A session with Guardian readers, it would even seem that Assange is informed by something of an anti-capitalist perspective. In response to a question about press freedom and the west, he answered:

“The west has fiscalised its basic power relationships through a web of contracts, loans, shareholdings, bank holdings and so on. In such an environment it is easy for speech to be “free” because a change in political will rarely leads to any change in these basic instruments. Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free. In states like China, there is pervasive censorship, because speech still has power and power is scared of it. We should always look at censorship as an economic signal that reveals the potential power of speech in that jurisdiction. The attacks against us by the US point to a great hope, speech powerful enough to break the fiscal blockade.”

However it would be misleading – as some have attempted – to try and claim WikiLeaks and Assange to any particular political current or outlook. As Assange told the audience in London earlier this year:

“[…]we can all have particular brands of politics, but I say it’s all bankrupt. And the reason it’s all bankrupt, and all current political theories are bankrupt…is because actually we don’t know what the hell is going on. And until we know the basic structures of our institutions, how they operate in practice… until you know that, how can you possibly make a diagnosis?”

In contrast to this, some on the left have argued that the leaks have told us nothing we didn’t already know. Leaving aside that reports so far have only covered a fraction of the database, this is clearly a bit of an overstatement. As with the Pentagon Papers undermining the US case for war in Vietnam, the leaking of the embassy cables has opened up aspects of US power to a level of scrutiny previously unimagined. While it mostly confirms what many of us already knew about the role of the US empire in world politics, it would be foolish to dismiss such knowledge as of no use, or to pretend that the details don’t matter. While the contents of the cables might not substantially change our understanding of global power relations and US imperialism, they will be a valuable resource for activists, journalists and historians.

Assange and Wikileaks’ lack of ideology beyond a commitment to sharing information and protecting and supporting whistleblowers is appropriate in the project of trying to create a genuinely free news media – even while it might sometimes be counterproductive for those with progressive aims (witness for example the tremendous – and unjustified – ammunition given to climate change-deniers by the release of the University of East Anglia emails last year). In cases like this, those who fund mainstream news outlets have been able to use their money and power to criticise scientific consensus, and nearly trash the reputation of some of the most valuable climate scientists in the world at present.

Tellingly, as the whistleblower’s website hints at what a genuinely free and critical news media might look like and achieve, mainstream press commentary – as well as some mind boggling leftie websites – has echoed the US government and right-wing politicians attacks as irresponsible and dangerous. The weakness of the mainstream media and its subservient relationship to political and economic power is what makes WikiLeaks so vitally important. What the US government and politicians have failed to grasp in focusing so much on Julian Assange is that WikiLeaks can and will continue without him; and if one site is shut down another can appear to take its place.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell our state secrets to Wikileaks

The man who the US government have identified as the source of the leaks, Bradley Manning, is now languishing in solitary confinement in a US army prison in Kuwait, facing 52 years in jail. A huge injustice, THIS is what you call a political arrest. Manning is a young Welsh guy, who joined the US army and found himself putting his intelligence and technological skills and to use working for US intelligence gathering agencies in Iraq. Evidently he realised the extent of the deception, unfairness and murder being committed by the American government, and the ease with which he could access so much secret information. He was already having a shit time in the army, especially badly treated by the repressive Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy which forces LGBT people to live a depressing lie or be kicked out of the army. For an example of how homophobic the rhetoric around this issue can be, check out this lovely piece by the vile Ann Coulter (choice quote: “Let’s check our “Gay Profile at a Glance” and … let’s see … desperate for acceptance … delusions of grandeur … yep, they’re both on the gay subset list!”). It’s a separate discussion, but if readers are interested in the debate around the campaign to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a short while ago there was an open letter sent to vocal campaigner Lady Gaga from a gay Iraqi fan which is worth a read.

Clearly, Manning was fucked off with working for an oppressive murder machine like the American government. A lot of people are, but Manning, it’s alleged, chose to do something about it, and he’ll go down in history for it.

Manning is suspected mainly based on this discussion with a former hacker, who reported him to the authorities. Whistleblowers put themselves at great risk to expose the awful truth about war and corrupt governments. They do an incredibly important job for democracy. All socialists and progressive people should support the growing campaign to defend Bradley Manning. Don’t fall prey to the reactionary idea that Wikileaks are “putting lives at risk” by revealing the truth about the American and other capitalist, imperialist governments. They’re saving lives. There have been 108, 094 documented civilian deaths in Iraq since the war began in 2003, and who knows how many haven’t been counted. Up to 34, 240 documented deaths in Afghanistan. We deserve the truth, and those innocent people deserved to live.

(Co-authored by Neil B)

14 Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    BONUS TREAT:

    Steve Brookstein, winner of the first X Factor, loser at life, just tweeted this:

    “@RealAlexJones is right. New world order is coming!!!! Internet is going to be controlled by bankers. #wikileaks”

    http://twitter.com/stevebrookstein

    LAUGHING TIL I PUKE

  2. sandy says:

    The SSP has become a home not only for daft Scottish nationalists but for
    radical feminists who have an agenda of increasing state power over the lives of
    the working class. The radical feminist current is anti working class and pro
    capitalist state and is hostile to the socialist movement and the fight for
    workers unity. The state sponsored witch hunt against Assange has produced this
    response from the SSY

    “No means no, and tricking someone in to consenting to sex is rape.”

    It is difficult to think of a dafter position on the serious crime of rape than
    this. How many people have been tricked in to having sex by being told less than
    the truth by their partner? The whole world probably

    No serious socialist party can be built if it promotes the radical feminist
    world view that men are to blame for female oppression. Radical feminism is a
    weapon in the hands of the capitalist state and is used to promote division in
    the working class and to increased state power over our lives.

    sandy

  3. Lydia says:

    How is Ann Coulter even human? Like seriously, she can’t be a real person. No one is that stupid.

  4. Niamh says:

    A fairly daycent send up of Ann Coulter can be found In the FUCKIN’ DEADLY series- The Boondocks, episode “The S-word”.

    If only the (Ann Coulter free) media would focus more on Bradley Manning than Assange.

  5. Sarah says:

    Sandy, the organisation which YOU are a part of sent me one of the most disgusting emails I’ve ever had the misfortune to be sent. It claims, entirely without evidence:
    “charges that are nothing more than a pretext for an act of political repression dictated by the US government.”
    “who issued a warrant last week on fabricated charges of sexual misconduct.”
    “private conduct in Sweden”

    It disgusts me that you could have so much contempt for women and justice that you think that rape allegations don’t even deserve to be investigated where the man involved is a left wing icon, or ‘good’ in your male “socialist” definition of what is good. Oh and by the way, rape isn’t sexual misconduct. It’s sexual violence.

    Guess what, if someone agrees to have sex with you ONLY on the promise that you wear a condom and then you sneakily do not wear one, THAT IS RAPE. Consent is something that only one person can give. It is not there to be interpreted and subverted by someone else. “I will not have sex with you unless you wear a condom” is a very clear statement. “No” is not required to be said, because the statement was already “no, i’ll not have sex with you if you don’t wear a condom”. If someone were to wilfully abuse the consent of someone in this manner, that is rape.

    “radical feminists who have an agenda of increasing state power over the lives of the working class” – yeah, how dare we want people who use sexual abuse and violence to be brought to justice. How DARE we argue that MORE rapists should be convicted than the measley 3% out of 10% reported rapes that actually are. Damn right I want to increase state power over the lives of people who rape other people. That is not “the working class”. I think you forget women can be working class too.

    I’m not even going to reply to the rest of your guff about what you as a privileged, oh-so-clever-and-enlightened man think feminism is or isn’t. You’re wrong, and you’re offensive.

    And you might want to read the little bit more detail that has now emerged on the actual allegations before your organisation sends out any more offensive emails.

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/12/08/more-light-finally-on-the-allegations-against-julian-assange/

    My advice would be SHUT THE HELL UP ABOUT THE RAPE CHARGES. If you want to defend Wikileaks, put up a post about all the great stuff THE ORGANISATION has done like we’ve done here.

  6. LydiaTea-fucken-Pot says:

    Hello, Sandy. Here’s why you’re wrong and an arse.:

    “The SSP has become a home not only for daft Scottish nationalists but for
    radical feminists who have an agenda of increasing state power over the lives of
    the working class. ”

    Daft Scottish Nationalists? So, because we don’t want to be rules by a country which has almost nothing to do with us and does nothing for us, that makes us daft? No. Every country has it’s right to want to be independent and free from a ruling hierarchy draining it of it’s identity and resources.
    Define Radical-Feminist? Because to me, there is only one kind of feminist – the right kind.

    “The radical feminist current is anti working class and pro-capitalist state…”
    Dunno what ‘radical-feminists’ you’ve been talking to, but the ones on this websites are socialists. You may have noticed that our name is ‘Scottish socialist youth’. Note the middle word. It’s the operative. Also, pick a side. Two seconds ago you slagged us for wanting ‘state power’ now you accuse us of being pro-capitalist. If I’m not mistaken, someone’s talking shite here, and it’s not us.

    “…and is hostile to the socialist movement and the fight for workers unity.
    The state sponsored witch hunt against Assange has produced this response from the SSY,”

    Again, dunno where you are sourcing your info from, but SSY is fully on the side of the workers. The state-sponsored witch hunt, as you so candidly put it, is because the man is *allegedly* a rapist. Rapists need to be removed from where they can harm more women. I’m fully on the side of a witch hunt for someone who is predatory.

    ““No means no, and tricking someone in to consenting to sex is rape.”

    It is difficult to think of a dafter position on the serious crime of rape than
    this. How many people have been tricked in to having sex by being told less than
    the truth by their partner? The whole world probably…”

    It’s difficult for me to think of someone more oblivious than you. You are saying it’s totally cool for people to be tricked into having sex? Well, you are ill. It does not justify the act of trickery that it happens all the time. It simply proves that we live in a very bleak and horrible world full of deceit and malice. That does not mean that it’s okay, it only reinforces the notion that we should change it. Healthy sexual relations do not involve deception of any kind. Sex is an act whereby two people agree to have intercourse or any other sexual act. There should be no hidden facts (Not wearing a condom/having an STD/lying about identities… etc). Not declaring that you aren’t using protection is a horrible, awful thing to do to someone. Not using protection during sex means that you are opening yourself up to the risk of unwanted pregnancy or an STD. No-one wants to find out that they’ve put them selves at risk AFTER sex!

    “No serious socialist party can be built if it promotes the radical feminist
    world view that men are to blame for female oppression.”

    Erm, then whose fault is it then? The fairies at the bottom of the garden? I think you’ll find that men have contributed significantly to sexism. Just silly little things such as unfair pay, domestic violence, abuse and sexual assault – oh and the uneven distribution of power in that women have NONE. You have a very vague grasp on reality if you think that men are not the reason for sexism. :|

    “Radical feminism is a
    weapon in the hands of the capitalist state and is used to promote division in
    the working class and to increased state power over our lives.”

    DUDE. You’re not even explaining how it is! Feminism, radical or WHATEVER is an expression of the want for women to be equal to men. Equality is hardly the aim of capitalism, your point is a NULL. Since when has feminism had anything to do with handing more power over to capitalism? You actually don’t have a clue about anything. See next time, before vomiting your baseless views all over our blog, why don’t you do a little bit of research, or at least TRY to back up your absolutely MENTAL ideas. I can’t even believe you wasted time to post this!

  7. Meghan says:

    I was going to post something in reponse to sandy, but after reading Lydia and Sarah’s points all I have to say is: -agrees with them-.

    Dunno where you got the idea that feminism and socialism are anti-each other, seems completely and utterly insane. Nobody is trying to ‘divide’ the working class through feminist agendas. You did notice that men can be feminists too? And most socialist ones I know ARE.

  8. Lovebug says:

    Don’t mention the fairies Lydia…it’ll be us getting the blame next!
    I have genuinely never witnessed such a confused and ill thought out rant from someone who is supposedly a socialist.
    Sarah’s article is totally on point. We should defend Wikileaks and quite frankly say as little as possible about things we know nothing about like whether Assange has committed a crime (or in Sandy’s case – gender issues). It would seem from my amazing and faultless sources that there may not be much of a case to answer and therefore Assange should be prepared to answer it. Whether its political motivated (and I don’t doubt that it is) or not isn’t the point.

    The world free from oppression that we fight for will not be achieved without the radical redistribution of wealth AND power. Whether Sandy likes that or not is neither here nor there. If you think its OK to con someone into sex it looks like you have some serious issues in relation to abuse of power. Calling feminism ‘anti-working class’ shows your ignorance – and your age. It’s our class that suffers and its our communities where these ideas run rampant. It’s our class we need to make these arguments to most because it’s our class who have the most to gain from dealing with these things.

    The ancient, useless quasi-intellectual reductionist rubbish that’s been spouted by the left for way too many years isn’t gonna cut the mustard in SSY I’m afraid. What do you propose to deal with rape? Let me guess….nationalised industries? Property tax? I’ll pre-empt your response about how ‘we are distracted from our central task of rebuilding the class by all those silly whores and witches etc etc’ We’ve heard it all before.

    The bullshit notion put forward by straight, old, white men that we should shut up and get in line while you get on the manly work of being working class is old. Us believing that you nationalising the gas makes all the sexism, racism and homophobia disappear is getting old…which leads me to you.

    I would echo Lydia’s request to read our name. I suspect you are an old man (or you’ve been talking to way too many) coming on our site telling young women why they shouldn’t stand up for themselves. The world we want will not be built while there is sexism…end of. We can nationalism key industries and make weighty contribution about state power as much as we like. Until we build a truly equal society its not a socialism worth our name.

  9. TheWorstWitch says:

    P.S. Hopefully he won’t mind me saying, but lovebug is – shock, horror – a MAN!

  10. Sarah says:

    It would be so easy to be like Sandy, or the morons over at Socialist Unity. So easy to deny the reality of the way power is used to abuse and subdue so many in so many different ways. People like that are happy to think they can boil it down to one issue. To hell with everyone else, why are they bringing women and gays into it, they’re distractions from the one true issue that only a strong powerful white male leader will ever truely lead us to greatness, they must be in league with the forces of oppression!!1!

    With these people, it’s class. With the Zeitgeist/Google Hollie Grieg/conspiracy theory people it’s that there’s a group of elite satanist paedos controlling every move we make. It’s so simple to grasp on to one thing and stick your fingers in your ears when someone suggests that things might be more complex than that.

    To make a real defence of your ideology, to fight for genuine equality, to recognise real oppression, to question where and why you have more than others, that’s the hard option. But I’ll always take that option because I know it’s right.

  11. James N says:

    Sandy, you have seriously lost the plot. Condemning laws against rape as an unnecessary extension of state power? Oh, how libertarian of you. Thanks, but that’s one freedom I’d rather not have. What kind of fucking ridiculous hippy misogynist shite is that?

    This type of thing isn’t completely unprecedented for me. I once bumped into the “revolutionary marxist” Spartacist League, who engaged me in a discussion about the SSP, Tommy Sheridan and bourgeois morality; then within about 2 minutes the guy was stood there explaining why they campaign for the repeal of laws which ban paedophilia. I was just stood there like W….T…..F……

    Weirdos and dinosaurs, keep them away from me!

  12. Jack says:

    This is an absolutely excellent piece. You’ve really articulated the concerns that I also felt about the international ‘Defend Assange’ campaign.

    It’s actually mindboggling to see how undeveloped the feminist consciousness of the Dark Age left is on this, and very saddening to see how many people I respect have gone along with it. The article poses things exactly rightly: people’s instinct to defend the actions of Wikileaks as progressive and essential are right, Wikileaks has done amazing work. But to tie that in with the individual of Assange and his own personal behaviour is a terrible mistake. By doing that, the ‘Defend Wikileaks’ petitions and demos are inextricably linking the two things, meaning the reputation of wikileaks must stand or fall on the basis of one individual’s character. If it turns out that he is in fact a perpetrator of sexual violence, then campaigners will have tied the entire wikileaks project to that.

    Some people who argue “why is this happening now, so many other cases never get investigated” etc. But that doesn’t mean that allegations against him shouldn’t be investigated – the terrible record of the authorities in relation to rape is not a reason to perpetuate that same record. Yes, it is political that they have chosen to go for him now, but that doesn’t change whether he is actually guilty or not which is the key question. Besides which, perhaps people might like to ponder whether someone who may be a survivor of abuse, who then sees the perpetrator taking an extremely public role on global stage and being held up as a hero by many, might be more likely to feel it necessary to come forward.

    And then I’m not going to even going to get on to the people who accept the allegations but try and argue that it’s ok, what’s the big deal. To see people who claim to be socialists make that argument is just stomach churning. Sandy is someone who I’ve seen been incredibly aggressive and behave unacceptably online for years – he’s one of those people who just loses any sense of comradely behaviour or decorum when he gets on a keyboard. But up until now I’ve always kind of respected him for having principled positions that I could understand where he was coming from even though I didn’t agree with them. This thread has caused me to lose any respect I might once have had for him. Absolute naked misogyny daring to masquerade as “Marxism”. Absolutely sickening.

    Sandy accuses us of wanting an extension of state power over working class lives. What answer does Sandy’s “Marxism” have to the virtual impunity accorded to sexual violence, and the vast harm caused to women in our society as a result? It doesn’t have one, because these issues never enter the head of the privileged, male, so-called “Marxist.”

  13. [...] accusations are made against him. My views on that whole situation are pretty well represented by this post on SSY. Fortunately, this article is about the broader implications of movements like wikileaks, and [...]

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