Personally, I go backwards and forwards on WikiLeaks.
First and foremost, a sound political system requires strong checks and balances on those who wield power. And in Australia, our judiciary, our parliament and freedom of the press are all a part of that.
WikiLeaks is fundamentally a whistleblowing organisation and protection of the rights of whistleblowers is another critical element of those checks and balances. So the idea of those protections being in any way compromised, doesn’t sit well with me.
On the other hand, Wikileaks make no judgement about the internal and confidential documents they release. They are not about calling those in power out for any particular purpose or cause or political agenda, or indeed for some kind of greater good. WikiLeaks is about transparency for transparency’s sake.
And I truly believe that good international diplomacy does require a level of confidentiality to be effective and that WikiLeaks has quite likely jeopardised the safety of people’s lives by compromising that.
But there is one thing I don’t go backwards and forwards on. And that is Julian Assange.
Julian Assange is what my mates and I would call a jerk.
Now that may not sound tough enough for this international man of mystery, worshiped by some, regaled as a criminal by other, labelled as a terrorist in some countries, hailed as a hero in others.
But for my mates – that is about as bad as it gets. Just as being a ‘good bloke’ is the universal male label for awesome and is apparently a sound defence to all criticism – being a jerk is the female signal for: do not waste your time.
Yesterday, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange took to the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and delivered an Evita-style speech, bemoaning his fate and calling for an end to the US ‘witch hunt’ against him and WikiLeaks.
It was yet another all-about-me moment, as Assange stood above his adoring fans, looking down benevolently as he spared them a few moments of his precious time.
The man clearly considers himself to be some kind of demi-god. But what for? He doesn’t stand for a cause, those cables weren’t released for any grand purpose. He isn’t saving lives, he isn’t defending the oppressed – he’s just trying to look after his own arse.
For the past two months, Assange has been hiding out in London’s Ecuadorian embassy. He has been granted political asylum in Ecuador, following a decision by the British courts ordering him to be extradited to Sweden where he faces sexual assault allegations.
As yet, Assange has been unable to travel to Ecuador though, as the British Government have refused to grant him safe passage. Assange claims that the sexual assault charges are trumped up, designed simply to get Assange to Sweden (where he could then be extradited to the United States to face charges over Wikileaks.)
The… problem of course with Assange involves his alleged behaviour as a human being. I say alleged because there should be no prejudgment of the sexual assault allegations brought against him by the police in Sweden. He is innocent until proven guilty.
This simple point of law seems lost on Assange and his blind army of activist supporters who argue not that he is innocent until prove guilty but innocent full stop, and that the whole thing is some evil conspiracy by the military-industrial complex to destroy him.
Over the past month we have seen Assange pervert the concept of asylum in order to dodge scrutiny for his alleged personal conduct. Historically people have sought asylum on the basis of being persecuted for their political views, their activism, their religion.
In terms of the charges he is facing, Assange is not being persecuted on political grounds, but prosecuted because he is allegedly a sex offender. A prisoner of conscience he ainĄŻt; rather, just another bloke who allegedly cannot grasp the simple concept that when a woman says no, she means no.
AssangeĄŻs decision to camp out inside the Ecuadorian Embassy shows total contempt and disrespect for the process of law in Sweden. EcuadorĄŻs decision to grant him asylum makes that nation look like the batty tin-pot South American republic in Woody AllenĄŻs film Bananas.
As the Far Left of politics jump boldly on the pro-Assange bandwagon, I say this: when else would the far left, supposedly fierce defenders of women’s rights, be so willing to dismiss allegations of sexual assault?
Sure this is an international argument of epic proportions. It goes to the very heart of our beliefs about freedom of the press, transparency of information and the way we do business globally. But it’s also about two women who claim that they have been treated appallingly and a man who will do anything he can not to face up to those allegations.
What allegedly happened to those women has become a side issue, just an added bit of intrigue, important only because of the role these charges play in a larger dispute. But for those women, it’s not a side issue. If their claims are correct then Assange is a jerk of even greater proportions than we already know.
So defend Wikileaks all you like. Let’s have the debates and the arguments about whether or not this information has helped or hindered our world. But let’s not hold up Assange as some kind of martyr to a great cause.
He’s just a guy who loves the attention, has allegedly assaulted two young women and has recklessly compromised peaceful international relations along the way. I repeat: jerk.
What’s your view? Is Julian Assange a hero, a terrorist or just a jerk?