Today’s piece is looking at a recent article by the honorable journalist Christopher Hedges. I’ve read Hedges work many times before, disagreeing with him enough to feel the need to write a rebuttal at least once beforehand. Today, I am doing the same.
Whilst I respect Christopher’s work and contributions to righting humanities oh so wrongful course, I can’t help but think he has hitched onto a trojan horse this time around.
Julian Assange’s sanctuary in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London has been transformed into a little shop of horrors. He has been largely cut off from communicating with the outside world for the last seven months. His Ecuadorian citizenship, granted to him as an asylum seeker, is in the process of being revoked. His health is failing. He is being denied medical care. His efforts for legal redress have been crippled by the gag rules, including Ecuadorian orders that he cannot make public his conditions inside the embassy in fighting revocation of his Ecuadorian citizenship.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to intercede on behalf of Assange, an Australian citizen, even though the new government in Ecuador, led by Lenín Moreno—who calls Assange an “inherited problem” and an impediment to better relations with Washington—is making the WikiLeaks founder’s life in the embassy unbearable. Almost daily, the embassy is imposing harsher conditions for Assange, including making him pay his medical bills, imposing arcane rules about how he must care for his cat and demanding that he perform a variety of demeaning housekeeping chores.
Oh lordy. Where do I even begin?
1.) As cliche and idiotic as this statement is, I can’t help but say it in this context . . . LEAVE!
There are plenty of nations that would likely be happy to grant you honorary citizenship. The Donald’s list of favorite dictatorial leaders is a good start. At the top of that list, Russia. Go join Edward Snowden and bask in the freedoms afforded to you by the Russian Federation that you won’t have anywhere else.
It’s not like you haven’t already been talking to them in the first place. I was naive enough (back in October 2016) to think that you took your role as a potential influencer of the internal politics of a sovereign nation seriously enough not to be partisan. I was wrong, and it certainly won’t happen again.
Now, if only the rest of your liberal defenders (it would seem, including Christopher Hedges) would also get the message.
2.) I can’t help but think that I am missing something in terms of the gag order of which forbids Assange from talking about conditions within the embassy. Not to mention the whole health failing thing.
It’s also noted that Equador doesn’t seem to want to pay the man’s medical bills. This, I admit, does put me into a bit of a personal catch 22. On one hand, I am a proponent of universal healthcare for ALL (ie. everyone alive), because that is just the right thing to do. But at the same time, this small nation DID inherit this problem due to no fault of their own. Citizens of the nation should have a say in the matter.
The obvious band-aid (at least for the time being) would seem to be to have Australia foot the bill for its own citizen.
3.) Of all that I have just read, THIS is the part that made me almost fall out of my chair in a fit of laughter:
imposing arcane rules about how he must care for his cat and demanding that he perform a variety of demeaning housekeeping chores.
What in the FUCK are you TALKING about?!
Interestingly enough, this is not the first time this aspect of this story has come onto my radar this month. The investigators (CBC) briefly mentioned an article outlining both some of the nonsense that embassy staff has been having to deal with on account to Assange AND their growing anger with the horrible hygiene demonstrated by Assange (including a disgusting litter box). A story I would come across the next day in Wired Magazine. The whole thing reminded me of an ex-roommate endured by a friend a year or so ago. A seemingly mature adult man with a job. But also a man that didn’t purchase anything for himself to eat, nor clean any of his messes afterward. Dishes literally rusted away in the sink for months, even after he was booted from the wifi with a not so subtle message (Network Name: *SoAndSo* Do Dishes).
And so the ordeal went on until he had no choice but to evict since my friend himself was moving. Not that it helped matters. He just left the mess (of which included full 2 and 4L bottles of urine. Keep in mind, this bedroom had its own adjoining bathroom). All this garbage of which was left on the front lawn of his parents (the guys then new address).
Fitting, really. I didn’t learn NOT to be a disgusting pig out of my own volition. There was guidance (at least from one parent).
All of which makes this latest Assange revelation all the more amusing. Also of which makes the Hedges (and no doubt, others) reaction a bit perplexing. Is it not fair that one would expect a tenant or houseguest to behave in a clean and/or sanitary manner? And if household chores are demeaning, does this mean that it’s the job of the embassy staff? Not to mention that it makes me a bit inquisitive of personal beliefs. Would it be demeaning to you, Christopher Hedges, to do household chores? Considering many of the areas in which your activism covers, this blatant display of seemingly unrealized privilege stands in stark contrast.
I am likely very wrong about this. Even so, the idiocy of the criticism still stands out.
Also on the topic of house rules, the censorship of him from the internet comes to mind. The last reason I found from the embassy was that he was using embassy equipment to access pornography and other related stuff. If I were in charge of IT at an EMBASSY (let alone THAT embassy), I would probably have a heart attack if I found this out too. Particularly if the device was not isolated to its own broadband connection.
Then there are the potential political implications of some of the things that Assange was seemingly up to in the realms of the world wide web. Though the treasure trove of Russian origin DNC and Hillary emails can’t really be attributed to Assange (innocent until proven guilty), he has tried ONCE to open a backchannel since then. Unfortunately for him, it was with an amused imposter of the real figure (who had been booted from Twitter temporarily).
The fake Sean Hannity Twitter account had only been up for a few hours, but apparently that’s all it took to fool Julian Assange into sliding into the account’s DMs, offering information on Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate committee investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election.
The drama began when the real Fox New host’s Twitter was briefly taken down Friday night. Soon after, Dell Gilliam, a technical writer from Texas, created an account with the handle @SeanHannity__, quickly earning 24,000 followers — and the attention of the founder of WikiLeaks, the secret document-dump service that the CIA director has called a “hostile intelligence service.”
There, Assange defenders, is your fucking red pill. Swallow that shit and quit making me want to wolf my cookies with your endless praise of this mans utmost respect for freedom.
As for political implications, consider the place of the Ecuadorian government in this. For the Assange unaffiliated data dump of before, they hold no culpability on what can’t be proven. But in a case where the man was caught RED HANDED in an attempt to AGAIN influence the internal politics of a sovereign nation, the stakes become much more . . . tricky.
Just him using the broadband connection of the Embassy itself could be seen as an acceptance of the activity itself. And even if that is not the case, just allowing him to reside in the embassy could count as a similar expression of consent. As if associating with the rest of the Western powers wasn’t already challenging enough.
I don’t like Assange. No kidding!
Indeed, I come at this with a degree of bias. I have never really been on the Snowden/Assange/Manning as Hero’s bandwagon, to begin with. I attribute most of their infamy to the collective burying of peoples heads in the sand.
The NSA has become super good at what it always has been (collecting and sorting signals intelligence)? The US government has been involved in all manner of shocking and horrifying actions, both past and present?
Hint: SOUTH AMERICA!
America was fucking with the Latin and South American continents just as much (if not more) than they have been the middle east. If Iran and Saudi Arabia are the proxy powers of the middle east, then the USA is the Iran/Saudi Arabia of the Americas.
And America regards the refugees created by these foreign policy decisions in exactly the same way. And this was BEFORE Trump sent the military to the border. Long before.
As you can see, my irritation is not just reserved for the enemies of liberal principals. While I used to be harder on people for being so blind to the obvious (why are a bunch of social media addicts complaining about their loss of privacy?!), I eventually had to realize that not everyone is me. Most people don’t have the time (or the want) for contemplation that I have. Making the culmination of the Snowden/Assange/Manning leaks a public service.
But though I haven’t heard much about the other 2 (and really don’t have much to say about them), Assange has long since burned up any credibility that Wikileaks afforded him. And so has WikiLeaks, frankly. It’s almost unthinkable that someone in the RNC and it’s affiliated entities didn’t also get burnt. And indeed the hackers got into some old RNC and GOP domains (along with their email payload), but not the current setup. And despite it likely being impossible for there NOT to be anything interesting in even the old emails, none of it was ever released.
Quite the public service.
The Ecuadorians, reluctant to expel Assange after granting him political asylum and granting him citizenship, intend to make his existence so unpleasant he will agree to leave the embassy to be arrested by the British and extradited to the United States. The former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, whose government granted the publisher political asylum, describes Assange’s current living conditions as “torture.”
His mother, Christine Assange, said in a recent video appeal, “Despite Julian being a multi-award-winning journalist, much loved and respected for courageously exposing serious, high-level crimes and corruption in the public interest, he is right now alone, sick, in pain—silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact and being tortured in the heart of London. The modern-day cage of political prisoners is no longer the Tower of London. It’s the Ecuadorian Embassy.”
Good grief. I have seen less graphic descriptions of starving Yemeni children.
“Here are the facts,” she went on. “Julian has been detained nearly eight years without charge. That’s right. Without charge. For the past six years, the U.K. government has refused his request for access to basic health needs, fresh air, exercise, sunshine for vitamin D and access to proper dental and medical care. As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. His examining doctors warned his detention conditions are life-threatening. A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes in the embassy in London.”
“In 2016, after an in-depth investigation, the United Nations ruled that Julian’s legal and human rights have been violated on multiple occasions,” she said. “He’d been illegally detained since 2010. And they ordered his immediate release, safe passage and compensation. The U.K. government refused to abide by the U.N.’s decision. The U.S. government has made Julian’s arrest a priority. They want to get around a U.S. journalist’s protection under the First Amendment by charging him with espionage. They will stop at nothing to do it.”
“As a result of the U.S. bearing down on Ecuador, his asylum is now under immediate threat,” she said. “The U.S. pressure on Ecuador’s new president resulted in Julian being placed in a strict and severe solitary confinement for the last seven months, deprived of any contact with his family and friends. Only his lawyers could see him. Two weeks ago, things became substantially worse. The former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, who rightfully gave Julian political asylum from U.S. threats against his life and liberty, publicly warned when U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He stated that because of the political costs of expelling Julian from their embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally. A new, impossible, inhumane protocol was implemented at the embassy to torture him to such a point that he would break and be forced to leave.”
Again, I have to suspend my disdain in order to keep to my principals.
I’m not sure that I agree with the United States’s overzealous need to get their hands on and prosecute the man for at least his past crimes. It’s a bit of a grey zone for me because I know for a fact that some of the information put real living, breathing, people at undue risk. Yet at the same time, the reason that much information is flagged as classified is often that we don’t want the public privy to it. Sometimes for good reason, often times because . . . humans.
WHOOPS! Better sweep that under the rug . . .
And if there is something to this speculated partnership with the United States to break Assange down mentally that goes beyond conspiracy theory, then, of course, I don’t condone this.
Frankly, it’s hard to make heads or tails out of any of this due to the sources of all the information. Of course a loving mother is going to describe in great detail every single trail of her own flesh and blood.
Assange was once feted and courted by some of the largest media organizations in the world, including The New York Times and The Guardian, for the information he possessed. But once his trove of material documenting U.S. war crimes, much of it provided by Chelsea Manning, was published by these media outlets he was pushed aside and demonized. A leaked Pentagon document prepared by the Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch dated March 8, 2008, exposed a black propaganda campaign to discredit WikiLeaks and Assange. The document said the smear campaign should seek to destroy the “feeling of trust” that is WikiLeaks’ “center of gravity” and blacken Assange’s reputation. It largely has worked. Assange is especially vilified for publishing 70,000 hacked emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and senior Democratic officials. The Democrats and former FBI Director James Comey say the emails were copied from the accounts of John Podesta, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, by Russian government hackers. Comey has said the messages were probably delivered to WikiLeaks by an intermediary. Assange has said the emails were not provided by “state actors.”
My god, Christopher Hedges really does have his head WAY up his ass on this one.
The Democratic Party—seeking to blame its election defeat on Russian “interference” rather than the grotesque income inequality, the betrayal of the working class, the loss of civil liberties, the deindustrialization and the corporate coup d’état that the party helped orchestrate—attacks Assange as a traitor, although he is not a U.S. citizen. Nor is he a spy. He is not bound by any law I am aware of to keep U.S. government secrets. He has not committed a crime. Now, stories in newspapers that once published material from WikiLeaks focus on his allegedly slovenly behavior—not evident during my visits with him—and how he is, in the words of The Guardian, “an unwelcome guest” in the embassy. The vital issue of the rights of a publisher and a free press is ignored in favor of snarky character assassination.
Assange was granted asylum in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sexual offense charges that were eventually dropped. Assange feared that once he was in Swedish custody he would be extradited to the United States. The British government has said that, although he is no longer wanted for questioning in Sweden, Assange will be arrested and jailed for breaching his bail conditions if he leaves the embassy.
1.) Yes, the Democratic Party has not yet honestly assessed their reasons for losing the most winnable election in American history. The only thing more terrifying than the goings on in the Whitehouse in the past 2 years (which has become eerily reminiscent of the Ministry of Magic in Deathly Hollows Parts I and II) are the reactions of the DNC. An organization that seems to have learned NOTHING.
Actually no, that’s wrong. They seem to have only picked up on a very BAD lesson. The need for a celebrity candidate. I don’t care who it is . . . for the love of GOD, not now!
And as for Hillary . . . BACK THE FUCK OFF! I like you, I think you would have been an acceptable president (extraordinary, given the current comparison), but none the less . . . step aside.
2.) I don’t like the casual way in which Hedges seems to deal with the sexual assault charges (the charges have been dropped). There are 2 victims listed in the article, listed as Miss A and Miss W. Both allege that a consensual sexual encounter become non-consensual when Assange refused to wear a condom.
Either way, Miss A’s charges went away because the statute of limitations expired. The charges related to the Miss W encounter don’t expire until 2020. He WAS arrested on those charges already (in Britan, as asked to do so by Sweeden), but was bailed out by high-level supporters and fellow journalists.
Next, it looks like Britan decided to extradite Assange back to Sweeden to face the music. By this point, the Wikileaks stuff had blown up and the FBI wanted him as well, throwing another kink into this international mess. Assange’s lawyers unsuccessfully fought the extradition (fearing Sweeden would allow his extradition to the US), so he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy for the past 8 years.
I don’t fully agree with how the Americans have been playing this. But it is also unfortunate that the initial sexual assaults seemed to fall by the wayside to this mess. No doubt because they are unimportant, given the context.
It’s an oversight of the many. Welcome to the patriarchy!
But given the last topic in which I and Christopher Hedges butted heads on, I am a bit disappointed at the lack of oxygen given to this important aspect of the story. The charges stemming from the Wikileaks stuff was on top of the other stuff. NOT the show with a side of sexual assault.
By the looks of things, the 2020 charges may well also expire in the shadow of the persecuted messiah Julian story. Is this right?
WikiLeaks and Assange have done more to expose the dark machinations and crimes of the American Empire than any other news organization. Assange, in addition to exposing atrocities and crimes committed by the United States military in our endless wars and revealing the inner workings of the Clinton campaign, made public the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency, their surveillance programs and their interference in foreign elections, including in the French elections. He disclosed the conspiracy against British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by Labour members of Parliament. And WikiLeaks worked swiftly to save Edward Snowden, who exposed the wholesale surveillance of the American public by the government, from extradition to the United States by helping him flee from Hong Kong to Moscow. The Snowden leaks also revealed, ominously, that Assange was on a U.S. “manhunt target list.”
What is happening to Assange should terrify the press. And yet his plight is met with indifference and sneering contempt. Once he is pushed out of the embassy, he will be put on trial in the United States for what he published. This will set a new and dangerous legal precedent that the Trump administration and future administrations will employ against other publishers, including those who are part of the mob trying to lynch Assange. The silence about the treatment of Assange is not only a betrayal of him but a betrayal of the freedom of the press itself. We will pay dearly for this complicity.
Dear lord. The last person to be persecuted as brutally as Assange is being (allegedly!) may well be Jesus Christ himself.
Uh . . . Assange helped to expose the inner workings (and failings) of pretty much every governing body with which his organization would come to touch on. WE GET IT.
Can we now be honest?
Be honest in saying that the man who should terrify the press (I guess that also includes me now) does not give a flying FUCK about the freedoms he has become the poster boy of? Do I really have to mention “SEAN HANNITY BACKCHANNEL!!” again?!
Even if the Russians provided the Podesta emails to Assange, he should have published them. I would have. They exposed practices of the Clinton political machine that she and the Democratic leadership sought to hide. In the two decades I worked overseas as a foreign correspondent I was routinely leaked stolen documents by organizations and governments. My only concern was whether the documents were forged or genuine. If they were genuine, I published them. Those who leaked material to me included the rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN); the Salvadoran army, which once gave me blood-smeared FMLN documents found after an ambush; the Sandinista government of Nicaragua; the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Central Intelligence Agency; the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebel group; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); the French intelligence service, Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, or DGSE; and the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosovic, who was later tried as a war criminal.
We learned from the emails published by WikiLeaks that the Clinton Foundation received millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the major funders of Islamic State. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton paid her donors back by approving $80 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, enabling the kingdom to carry out a devastating war in Yemen that has triggered a humanitarian crisis, including widespread food shortages and a cholera epidemic, and left close to 60,000 dead. We learned Clinton was paid $675,000 for speaking at Goldman Sachs, a sum so massive it can only be described as a bribe. We learned Clinton told the financial elites in her lucrative talks that she wanted “open trade and open borders” and believed Wall Street executives were best-positioned to manage the economy, a statement that directly contradicted her campaign promises. We learned the Clinton campaign worked to influence the Republican primaries to ensure that Donald Trump was the Republican nominee. We learned Clinton obtained advance information on primary-debate questions. We learned, because 1,700 of the 33,000 emails came from Hillary Clinton, she was the primary architect of the war in Libya. We learned she believed that the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi would burnish her credentials as a presidential candidate. The war she sought has left Libya in chaos, seen the rise to power of radical jihadists in what is now a failed state, triggered a massive exodus of migrants to Europe, seen Libyan weapon stockpiles seized by rogue militias and Islamic radicals throughout the region, and resulted in 40,000 dead. Should this information have remained hidden from the American public? You can argue yes, but you can’t then call yourself a journalist.
Is that a strawman?
I don’t disagree. The information had its rightful place in the public discourse. But so to, did the emails snatched from the old Republican server.
This is not partisanship. This is integrity. Frankly, me holding Hedges to his own standards.
“They are setting my son up to give them an excuse to hand him over to the U.S., where he would face a show trial,” Christine Assange warned. “Over the past eight years, he has had no proper legal process. It has been unfair at every single turn with much perversion of justice. There is no reason to consider that this would change in the future. The U.S. WikiLeaks grand jury, producing the extradition warrant, was held in secret by four prosecutors but no defense and no judge. The U.K.-U.S. extradition treaty allows for the U.K. to extradite Julian to the U.S. without a proper basic case. Once in the U.S., the National Defense Authorization Act allows for indefinite detention without trial. Julian could very well be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum-security prison, or face the death penalty. My son is in critical danger because of a brutal, political persecution by the bullies in power whose crimes and corruption he had courageously exposed when he was editor in chief of WikiLeaks.”
Assange is on his own. Each day is more difficult for him. This is by design. It is up to us to protest. We are his last hope, and the last hope, I fear, for a free press.
I puked in my mouth a little, there.
A man that helped fascism AGAIN regain a foothold in the liberal democracies of the western world, is the last hope for a free press.
Give me a break.
“We need to make our protest against this brutality deafening,” his mother said. “I call on all you journalists to stand up now because he’s your colleague and you are next. I call on all you politicians who say you entered politics to serve the people to stand up now. I call on all you activists who support human rights, refugees, the environment, and are against war, to stand up now because WikiLeaks has served the causes that you spoke for and Julian is now suffering for it alongside of you. I call on all citizens who value freedom, democracy and a fair legal process to put aside your political differences and unite, stand up now. Most of us don’t have the courage of our whistleblowers or journalists like Julian Assange who publish them, so that we may be informed and warned about the abuses of power.”
I call on you, the information-consuming public, to drop whatever illusions you may still have about the intentions of Wikileaks and Jullian Assange. Your failure to do so, I fear, places you at odds with the promoters of liberal values and hand in hand with the perpetrators of illiberal fascism. Of all the things I never thought I would say of Christopher Hedges, that one is WAY up on the list.
Jullian Assange should face a fair trial in the context of both sets of charges in which he is accused. But it’s time to drop the messiah complex that has infected seemingly every iota of reporting in terms of Jullian Assange. At one time, he did the world a great public service. As time went on, it would seem that he was more driven by an agenda than anything else. Though he was once a poster child of freedom and liberty, those days are LONG gone. Claims for which can now be backed with real-world evidence (as of January 2018).
Jullian Assange is no hero. It’s time to give up the illusion.