Assange and Democracy’s Future

Democracy rests on citizens getting real facts and applying rational analysis. The ability of governments, including the U.S. government, to suppress facts and thus manage perceptions represents the opposite, a power over the people that WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange threatened, says Norman Solomon.

By Norman Solomon

Three years after Ecuador’s government granted political asylum to Julian Assange in its small ground-floor London embassy, the founder of WikiLeaks is still there — beyond the reach of the government whose vice president, Joe Biden, has labeled him “a digital terrorist.”

The Obama administration wants Assange in a U.S. prison, so that the only mouse he might ever see would be scurrying across the floor of a solitary-confinement cell.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Above and beyond Assange’s personal freedom, what’s at stake includes the impunity of the United States and its allies to relegate transparency to a mythical concept, with democracy more rhetoric than reality. From the Vietnam War era to today — from aerial bombing and torture to ecological disasters and financial scams moving billions of dollars into private pockets — the high-up secrecy hiding key realities from the public has done vast damage. No wonder economic and political elites despise WikiLeaks for its disclosures.

During the last five years, since the release of the infamous “Collateral Murder” video, the world has changed in major ways for democratic possibilities, with WikiLeaks as a catalyst. It’s sadly appropriate that Assange is so deplored and reviled by so many in the upper reaches of governments, huge corporations and mass media. For such powerful entities, truly informative leaks to the public are plagues that should be eradicated as much as possible.

Notably, in the U.S. mass media, Assange is often grouped together with whistleblowers. He is in fact a journalistic editor and publisher. In acute contrast to so many at the top of the corporate media and governmental food chains, Assange insists that democracy requires the “consent of the governed” to be informed consent. While powerful elites work 24/7 to continually gain the uninformed consent of the governed, WikiLeaks has opposite concerns.

Genuine journalistic liberty exists only to the extent that overt or internalized censorship is absent. Especially in a society such as the United States with enduring press freedoms (the First Amendment is bruised and battered but still on its feet), the ultimate propaganda war zone is between people’s ears. So much has been surrendered, often unwittingly and unknowingly.

Waving the white flag at dominant propaganda onslaughts can only help democracy to expire. Julian Assange has effectively insisted that another media world is possible and the corporate warfare state is unacceptable. Not coincidentally, the U.S. government wants to capture Assange and put him away, incommunicado, in a prison cell.

Last week, in Sweden, most but not all of the sexual-assault allegations against Assange expired. Still, Assange notes, “I haven’t even been charged.” And Sweden’s government — while claiming that it is strictly concerned about adhering to its laws — has refused to limit the legal scope to its own judicial process.

As the BBC reports, “Assange sought asylum three years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden, fearing he would then be sent to the U.S. and put on trial for releasing secret American documents.” Closely aligned with Washington, the Swedish government refuses to promise that it would not turn Assange over to the U.S. government for extradition.

“Julian Assange has spent more time incarcerated in the small rooms of the embassy, with no access to fresh air or exercise and contrary to international law, than he could ever spend in a Swedish prison on these allegations,” says one of his lawyers, Helena Kennedy.

While government leaders have ample reasons to want to impale his image on a media spike and put him in prison for decades, many corporate titans — including venerated innovator billionaires of Silicon Valley — are not much more kindly disposed. The extent of their relentless commitments to anti-democratic greed has been brilliantly deconstructed in Assange’s 2014 book When Google Met WikiLeaks.

“Google’s geopolitical aspirations are firmly enmeshed within the foreign-policy agenda of the world’s largest superpower,” Assange wrote. “As Google’s search and internet service monopoly grows, and as it enlarges its industrial surveillance cone to cover the majority of the world’s population, rapidly dominating the mobile phone market and racing to extend internet access in the global south, Google is steadily becoming the internet for many people. Its influence on the choices and behavior of the totality of individual human beings translates to real power to influence the course of history.”

As for courage — which too often is the stuff of mystifying legends about heroes on pedestals — Assange’s observations might help us to grasp how it can gradually be summoned from within ourselves. Worth pondering: “Courage is not the absence of fear. Only fools have no fear. Rather, courage is the intellectual mastery of fear by understanding the true risks and opportunities of the situation and keeping those things in balance.”

Assange added: “It is not simply having prejudice about what the risks are, but actually testing them. There are all sorts of myths that go around about what can be done and what cannot be done. It’s important to test. You don’t test by jumping off a bridge. You test by jumping off a footstool, and then jumping off something a bit higher, and a bit higher.”

While visiting him last fall and a couple of months ago, I found Assange no less insightful during informal conversations. This is a dangerous person, in words and deeds — dangerous to the overlapping agendas of large corporations and governments in service to each other — dangerous to those who constantly make a killing from war, vast inequities and plunder of the planet.

Norman Solomon is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

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16 comments for “Assange and Democracy’s Future

  1. Duke
    August 23, 2015 at 05:20

    Assange is the HERO of the human kind.

    He truly sacrificed his own life for the TRUTH against the
    very those who pretended to have practiced democracy!

    Now the whole picture is crystal clear.

  2. Sydney Vilen
    August 22, 2015 at 00:19

    Assange is a hero whom few Americans can still recognize.

  3. incontinent reader
    August 21, 2015 at 19:07

    I’m certain has been become tremendous burden for the Ecuadorian government, but that they have borne it willingly. Maybe it would be a good time for that Government and/or Wikileaks, etc. to start a crowd funding campaign to help defray the costs of Assange’s ‘incarceration’. I’m sure people all over the world would contribute.

  4. Ethan Allen
    August 19, 2015 at 17:37

    I completely associate myself with the substance of Norman Solomon’s article and the comment by Deschutes. The legal issue in Sweden has never been a credible accusation of rape by either of Assange’s consenting adult partners. The only remaining or unresolved matter is rather or not Assange refused one of his consenting partner’s request to use a condom; a claim that she has now recanted and refuses to swear to under oath in court. Assange has never been charged, either by way of indictment or bill of information, with rape or a violation of Sweden’s existing law prohibiting any party refusing protected sexual intercourse. As it presently stands, the only foundation for the claim against Assange is the unsubstantiated opinion of the Swedish Prosecutor; who, thus far, has refused Assange the opportunity to provide a voluntary statement regarding the allegations against him.
    This entire affair reeks not only of proprietorial misconduct, it has all of the characteristics of a medieval inquisition.
    “Work is love made visible.” KG
    As Usual,
    EA

  5. Ibrahim Soudy
    August 19, 2015 at 15:09

    Assange, Manning, and Snowden are going through what they are going through because they exposed the TRUTH. At the same time, George Donkey Bush, Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perl, Obama, Clinton, etc etc etc are enjoying life at OUR EXPENSE. Shame on humanity for letting that happen……….

  6. Joe
    August 19, 2015 at 08:08

    It is well to speak of commercial spying by Google and others as a process destroying democracy, allowing the dark state agencies to privatize tyranny. The abuse of Assange reflects a final stage of tyranny in the US.

    US democracy has been corrupted by control of mass media and elections by money, and by the executive branch seizing control of policy since Reagan, inventing endless foreign threats so as to engage in endless and largely secret wars under control of the executive. It is further corrupted by expansion of secret agencies, so that the people do not even know what the policies are, or who benefits. These corruptions comprise an anti-Constitutional revolution by the right wing. The US no longer operates under its Constitution, and its policies do not serve the people. This could be reversed only by gaining amendments restricting funding of mass media and elections to registered and limited individual contributions. But that cannot be done, because gaining such protections requires the mass media and elections to be free already.

    A new generation of courageous individuals like Assange and Manning must infiltrate and destroy the monster from within, so as to restore democracy and protect it from these corruptions.

  7. August 19, 2015 at 01:43

    Democracy is dead. Killed by Murdoch’s news media, assisted by the little of Australian news media not owned/controlled by Rupert. Rupert M began his media empire in Adelaide South Australia [SA] where he maintains his newspaper publishing state monopoly of more than 50 years. South Australians gave Rupert the start of his empire & have suffered many billions of dollars of pain in return. Fake records of newspapers published are sold as newspaper ‘archives’ intended to conceal crimes & corruption and Murdoch news media’s role in bankrupting South Australia. Evidence of news media crimes exist but law enforcement authorities [that benefit] are too frightened to act. https://rjrbtsrupertsfirstnewspaper.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/australian-newspapers-news-articles-published-erased-from-the-now-fake-records-of-newspapers-published-sold-as-archives-also-exported-to-the-uk-listed-incomplete/

  8. Mindy C
    August 19, 2015 at 01:14

    Great, a rapist perceived as a superior freedom fighter defending democracy. Meanwhile profiteering. Thanks, not buying what he’s selling. A life long liberal me, bag if sleeve is Julian. Women are watching.

    • Anonymous
      August 19, 2015 at 01:16

      Watch his sleeve. Sleeze bag.

    • Deschutes
      August 19, 2015 at 06:39

      What a clueless and ignorant comment. Did you ever bother to read anything about Assange’s prosecution by Sweden? Obviously not from your comment: the two women have been extensively quoted saying Assange did not force them to have sex, quote unquote. They have both gone on the record publicly stating the Swedish police made up the charges after being interviewed by them. The women have specifically asked the Swedish prosecutor’s office to drop the rape charges because Assange never raped them. You say “women are watching” but you’re too lazy to bother even reading about the case “you are watching” :-D Doh!

    • Ethan Allen
      August 19, 2015 at 16:37

      Re: Mindy C
      An over-wrought purveyor of malicious gossip, absolutely; a “liberal”, not a chance! Does that make you a whore?
      As Usual,
      EA

  9. John
    August 18, 2015 at 21:05

    I want to talk about hearing the voice of “God”…….First lets talk about the jewish king david. He heard the voice of “God” and became the person after God’s own heart…Okay how did he please “God”……It is written in the bible that he engaged in battle daily and killed tens of thousands….men, women, children, and all the livestock….Next we have George W. Bush. He heard the voice of “God” and killed tens of thousands of regular people just like me and you. But instead of reporting this as fatalities the people killed became “collateral damage”….that means they aren’t really people….So next up is the jewish serial killer David Berkowitz, remember “the son of sam”. He also heard the voice of “God”….Who is this “God” who love killing the masses…..oh I mean collateral damage. Julian Assange is the tip of the iceberg

    • Brad Owen
      August 19, 2015 at 04:56

      “Who is this God?”. A theory for consideration: a trickster figure, like Loki (Scandinavian name), or Coyote (Native American name), Jungian Archetypal stuff summoned from the Collective Unconscious (modern name from Western Civilization). I suspect the old Pagan/Polytheists had a firmer grasp of “Reality”, which we moderns have relinquished in these “scientific” times of atheism/materialism, we, thereby, becoming the “playthings” of powerful, higher “entities” of some sort. Perhaps our “monotheisms” (Christianity/Churchianity and Muslim/Mosque-ism) are merely Imperial constructs of The Western Empire (Egypto-Greco-Roman Empires) and The Eastern Empire (Sumer-Assyria-Babylon-Persia), respectively. They were designed to keep the “subjects” (subjugated peoples) in line and ready to fight off encroachments from “that other Empire”, while the high-up, ruling Elites of each respective Empire maintain their Pagan/Polythestic connections via “Secret Societies” and bizarre rituals that confirm their submission to these “Higher Powers” of the “Total Reality”…and THAT is the dirty little secret nobody wants to acknowledge; we are NOT the masters/authors of our own thoughts and actions. Very unsettling concept. Any man or woman, who is a “Seer”, and “coming from God” will always come in the ordinary way (no virgin births or miraculous appearances in “the cabbage patch”), will never be acknowledged or accepted-as-such, will be unwelcome, and most likely be killed-off as an irritant, with any useful advice they had, twisted and put into service “for the Empire”.

  10. John
    August 18, 2015 at 19:36

    We all hear about the “powerful elites” and their dirty dealings daily…..The banking industry loots entire countries and it’s okay with the country government. There are many other examples of the “powerful elites”. The sad thing is we do nothing to stop them…except have civil intellectual conversations……We are like the frog in the pot for dinner swimming around in the warm water…..3 more minutes and it will be too late

    • Antidyatel
      August 18, 2015 at 20:59

      Last serious commitment to a struggle didn’t end up well. So it is hopeless. Technology didn’t improve brains

    • August 22, 2015 at 00:03

      John: There are brave people, too few mind you, doing what they can, lawfully, nonviolently and at great risk to themselves. Chomsky recently travelled to Turkey and offered to be a co-defendant of a brave Turkish publisher who the state wanted to crucify for speaking up for persecuted Kurds ( bit.ly/1Loo06R). Had he not done so, the publisher would have been toast. But it was by no means a foregone conclusion. Turkey is barbaric. While everyone is busy focussing on ISIL and Syria, it’s slipped in some slaughter of Kurds who they’ve always wanted to disappear. Of course, the West doesn’t give a crap, as long as uncle Sam’s needs and wants are addressed and the slaughter of Kurds, like Palestinians, doesn’t somehow hinder his plans, it’s okay.

      Stephen Harper, and his ‘opponents’, in the recent first English language debate, responded to a hyperventilating Trudeau’s comments about sending Canadian soldiers all over the place without thought (which wasn’t a terrible comment, content-wise) with a reminder that a prime minister has to make the tough decisions, blah, blah. Like Libya, Stephen? Illegal, monstrous Libya? Whose weapons have helped destabilize Mali and are also in the hands of ISIL?, which Elizabeth May helpfully pointed out.) Anyway, Harper went on to say that Canada’s over in the region now helping allies, including Kurds, with training so that those on the ground can fight ISIL. One wonders. NATO member Turkey is bombing the Kurds! No one, as I noted, corrected this fascist PM.

      There are a number of reasons the people are outgunned. One has to do with the kind of weapons the enemy wields. The Right is lawless. We could fight back by being similary lawless, but then no one would win. Then there’s the effectiveness of propaganda (because the Right’s case is so slam dunk it has to deceive us). Then there’s brutal work culture, which drains and distracts us. And so on…

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