Leaking on the Sheets.

The appearance of Wikileaks is obviously much to be desired. It is not the first time that the Internet has been used to publicise secret documents, but it is the first time that a site has been set up to fulfil the function which investigative journalism was supposed to fulfil but rarely if ever has; to reveal facts which powerful people would rather keep hidden. The technique is very much the same as that used by pornographers; it is politically difficult (in fact, nearly impossible) to impose censorship on a site based in a country which does not have such censorship laws. Furthermore, the fact that a domain-name is registered in a particular country does not put it automatically under the authority of that country; it is difficult to know precisely where the site’s server is located if the people involved are sufficiently skilled to fake the server’s address. (Presumably this is why Wikileaks requires competent IT specialists to run it; anyone can set up a website, but not anyone can keep it running covertly or under attack.)
None of this has any actual relevance to the rape charges against Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange. Assange would deserve credit for having set up Wikileaks even if he produced child snuff porn in his spare time. However, those who disapprove of Wikileaks (meaning everyone who supports the strong against the weak) will naturally wish to pretend that these rape charges discredit the concept of Wikileaks. Therefore it is worth considering what the significance of the rape charges are.
A South African would be slightly bemused by the charges. Assange’s accusers complain, among other things, that although they had consensual sex with him, he then had sex with one of them later on in the night without her permission, and did not consistently wear a condom. If this kind of complaint appeared before a South African magistrate almost everybody in the courtroom would roll their eyes in disbelief. We have real problems of actual rape in this country, and have relatively little time to devote to matters of bedroom protocol. Incidentally, Sweden has a huge and largely unacknowledged problem with rape, and one might suspect that the laws under which Assange’s alleged behaviour is criminalised are on the books to help cover up the real sexism of Swedish society.
Yet the point is still valid. If Assange did those things, it was legally rape. It was also highly disrespectful of his partners (and indeed disrespectful of himself — he might have been absolutely certain that he himself was not HIV+, but how could he be so sure that his partner was not?). Having sex with a partner who has not consented to that particular incident of sex is something which the partner is entitled to interpret as rape. It’s much like marital rape. Nobody is entitled to mess with someone else’s genitals, however close they may be, if the someone else wants to be left alone.
On the other hand, all sex is about power and submission to power. Invariably, someone is on top, even if only metaphorically. As a result, virtually all sexual partners have willingly experienced behaviour which could be interpreted as rape, and the consensuality of submission to such is often not explicit. Such submission is erotic, whereas rape is not.
This all makes the implementation of a law like the Swedish law rather difficult, and it is hardly surprising that the complaints were initially rejected, only to be taken up later. Perhaps the Swedish authorities decided, on mature consideration, that the complaint deserved to be taken more seriously, Perhaps.
The problem is compounded by the responses to the problem. In the main, a large number of commentators (mainly heterosexual male) have tended to dismiss the charges as false and inspired by American political operators. These commentators have also tended to see Assange as a hero, and thus do not wish to see their hero tainted by such accusations. In reality, although Assange is a highly creditable figure for setting up Wikileaks, it is true that he has done little more than transmit information which the U.S. government did not want transmitted. Obviously this is deeply risky behaviour, but it is nothing like the courage (or foolhardiness) shown by Bradley Manning, the person who transmitted the information (on U.S. military conduct in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on State Department communications with their embassies) to Wikileaks. Assange’s activities do not grant him immunity from prosecution, nor should they, and those commentators (mainly female and/or homosexual) who have condemned Assange as a rapist are undoubtedly reacting against such claims.
However, most such commentators also follow a familiar pattern: the assumption that in a case of rape, the accused is guilty. The basis for this assumption is that complaining about rape is a difficult and unpleasant business, and going to trial is still less pleasant, since the alleged victim can expect to be attacked as dishonest and sexually promiscuous (one recalls the Zuma trial in which the defense’s core theme was that the alleged victim was lesbian and therefore, mysteriously, could not be trusted to tell the truth about being raped). Nobody would put themselves through this kind of mill without good reason. Therefore, it is assumed, the good reason must be because the alleged victim is telling the truth.
Recently, a fifteen-year-old girl accused two of her schoolmates of gang-raping her. South African feminists, more or less unanimously, took up the cudgels on the girl’s behalf. What they said, generally, was that it was terrible that this culture of gang-rape existed in South African schools, that it was terrible that nobody was protecting female children against it, and that the general conduct of the educationalists, the police, and everybody else within several kilometres of the gang-rape, was appalling, deplorable, and various other appellations of an unfavourable nature.
They were able to do this because they had not actually seen the video of the girl willingly having sex with her two schoolmates in front of several other schoolmates. Within a couple of days, however, the girl retracted her accusations, because since the video was public, once the matter went to court she would certainly have been charged with perjury. What had clearly happened was that the girl, like so many others of pubescent years, was caught up in the sexual delirium one goes through in that period and then suddenly realised that she’d been caught doing something which her parents would not approve of and which might damage her reputation in some quarters. Hence her natural response was to deny everything and blame someone else.
On mature thought she realised that her natural response would get her into more trouble than otherwise, and so she retracted her natural response and substituted for it the truth. For the sin of telling the truth she was immediately arrested under South African statutory rape laws which seem highly questionable for a country with a rape problem like South Africa’s, although when the statutory rape laws were introduced no feminists objected. (Basically, anyone who is found to have had sex under the age of consent is guilty of statutory rape; presumably police should be posted at maternity clinics to bust every pregnant woman under the age of sixteen years, nine months.)
Now, this is not to waste time on blaming teenagers for having sex, or indeed on our dumb laws, or even our dumb feminists. Rather, the point was that commentators assumed that the usual rule — that rape accusers are likely to be telling the truth — applied here. It did not occur to them that teenagers do not have the same kind of responsibility as adults, living in different circumstances, and that teenagers are therefore much more likely to lie to adults than not.
The Assange case is a rather similar one. It is entirely possible that Assange’s accusers are lying. What makes this possible is the political element in the case; the U.S. government would like to damage and/or discredit Assange by any means possible. It would be easy to offer the women in question rewards in exchange for damaging testimony — including, perhaps, the reward of getting a free ride through the courtroom, with a sympathetic judge, courtesy of intense U.S. pressure on the Swedish judicial system. There is, after all, no way to prove that they are lying; what went on in Assange’s bed must be based on their word against Assange. (Of course, this possibility does not mean that Assange’s accusers are indeed lying, although this is an assumption made by many of Assange’s defenders.)
One apparent contributing factor to Assange’s guilt is the fact that Assange fled Sweden. Why did he flee, if he was innocent? The answer is fairly obvious; if he was innocent, he fled because he suspected that he was being stitched up by the women in question and would not get a fair trial. Again, the possible intervention of the U.S. government is the factor establishing doubt. It doesn’t prove Assange’s innocence, but it means that observers cannot make assumptions of guilt of innocence based on Assange’s behaviour. (Under the circumstances, if Assange is innocent, but the accusers are also not acting on U.S. instructions but simply out of a sense of misplaced aggrievance, Assange would probably still have been right to flee — for how could he be sure, given the past conduct of the U.S. government and the embarrassing collaboration between Sweden and the U.S., that there was no such collusion? If they really are out to get you, paranoia is logical.)
So, in this case, the sensible thing to do is, surely, to assume that we do not know what happened in Assange’s bed and should not pretend that we do. In which case, we should probably assume innocence unless guilt is proven. The only problem lies in the question of whether Assange should be extradited to Sweden — which ties in with the question of whether this is a U.S. plot or just a consequence of Assange’s personal misconduct. It is difficult to speak on Assange’s behalf and say that he should go; surely, the best thing to do would be to monitor the process of events very carefully, and particularly the trial. (Notice that, even in South Africa, there is huge controversy over the Dewani case, where the extradition is about murder, and where no questions of international politics are at issue.)
What is most important should be that commentators should not yield to the temptation to trash Assange (as many have), even on the impeccable grounds of the universal rights of women to fair treatment and freedom from abuse. Doing that implies that a questionable charge of rape entitles one to undermine Assange’s political actions, which were extremely important and which should not be discredited. Rather, one should focus on Wikileaks itself, and pay attention to Assange, if at all, only if he is eventually found guilty by legitimate process. Pre-emptively trashing Assange (and ignoring the problems undermining the charges against him) is, effectively, a service to global imperialism.
Unfortunately, many people rate their own self-importance and their own prejudices as more significant than struggling for the freedom of the world. This is why the freedom of the world is at risk.


One Response to Leaking on the Sheets.

  1. Nokwindla says:

    What says The Creator’s present incarnation of the crooked theft of elections by Quattara and his French friends? A post/analysis by the omniscient Creator in this regard world most be appreciated.

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