We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Julian Assange controversy

by Ron Horn.

I have been mystified by the lack of reporting regarding the plight of Julian Assange in left-wing British websites. I have emailed many of these website badgering and shaming them in order to get some kind of response. To date I have received none, and my patience is running out. So, I decided to do a little research. What follows is what I've gathered in about three hours time.

Last night I spent a frustrating one hour listening to the discussion of the streamed online broadcast of "United in solidarity for Julian Assange" on their website. I found the experience frustrating because the discussion was mostly focused on the legal aspects of his situation which I don't believe merit much attention given the fact that our fascist ruling classes have so little respect for legal procedures. 

Somehow my attention wandered to George Galloway, the outspoken member of the British parliament. He tells it like it is to audiences who often do not want to hear the truth. I discovered via YouTube an excerpt of a talk he made in 2012 in defense of Assange. He was speaking at the Oxford Union to a gathering of rich, ruling class brats. One statement he made at 6:20m into the talk in which he stated "I've never met Julian Assange. I'm told he is a weird fellow." drew my undivided attention. Unfortunately, his remarks were interrupted by a shallow ruling class kid who took this statement to mean that he was making a slur against gay people. However, this statement of his was full of implications that maybe Assange's personal behavior was looked on with disapproval in Britain, and this was the reason why he lacked support. 

This morning I have done further online research to shed light on these implications. Of course, I ran into a number of biased reports against him, but two sources stood out as being reasonably objective: one from the British New Statesman entitled "Jemima Khan on Julian Assange: how the Wikileaks founder alienated his allies" posted in February 2013, and the second posted online in 2010 on The New Yorker entitled "No Secrets". Both give you insights on his personal behaviors that turn people off. I was particularly impressed with the comments of Jemima Khan, the editor of New Statesman, who reached this conclusion:
On the subject of Assange, pundits on both the left and the right have become more interested in tribalism than truth. The attacks on him by his many critics in the press have been virulent and highly personal. Both sides are guilty of creating political caricatures and extinguishing any possibility of ambivalence. “On the other handism” doesn’t make great copy, but in this particular debate everyone is too polarised. The kind of person who spends his life committed to this type of work, wedded to a laptop, undercover, always on the move, with no security, stability or income, is bound to be a bit different. I have seen flashes of Assange’s charm, brilliance and insightfulness – but I have also seen how instantaneous rock-star status has the power to make even the most clear-headed idealist feel that they are above the law and exempt from criticism.

We all want a hero. After WikiLeaks released the infamous Collateral Murder video in 2010, showing US troops gunning down a dozen civilians in Iraq, I jokingly asked if Assange was the new Jason Bourne, on the run and persecuted by the state. It would be a tragedy if a man who has done so much good were to end up tolerating only disciples and unwavering devotion, more like an Australian L Ron Hubbard.
After so many years of being incarcerated in the Ecuadorian embassy, many journalists and activists have risen above these petty grievances to consider the larger issues involved in his confinement. I think there is a lesson to be learned from this experience: activists in general need to be supported by a large organization. The experience of Assange and associates at Wikileaks have reflected an individualistic spirit that is such an integral part of our capitalist culture. We need to think like socialist revolutionaries who recognize that we need each other to keep our limitations and weaknesses in check in order to avoid being in a situation like Julian Assange is in.