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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Open Government as terrorism

I had wanted to say something about the Swedish context of the Assange extradition process. But two major contributions persuade me to postpone that for the moment and focus instead on the wider reasons for the demonisation of Assange. First an academic colloquium on Wikileaks which sets the scene thus -
every allegation that WikiLeaks and Assange have come up against thus far are just that, allegations. The juridical principle of presumed innocence has been repeatedly ignored, and the closing of accounts based on a “crime” being committed appears prejudicial – in the double sense of both prejudice and prior to law.Since the cables began leaking in November 2010, the violent reaction to WikiLeaks evidenced by the numerous political pundits that have called for Assange’s assassination or execution, and the movement within the US to have WikiLeaks designated a “foreign terrorist organization” (even Assange's London legal adviser has been put on a terrorist watch list), amount to a profound showing of authoritarianism, thereby signalling the underlying logic of the state. If you listen to the fear mongering that pervades conservative media outlets in the US,WikiLeaks is rendered in the national imagination as a “threat to America”. This notion actually has some resonance of validity if we consider “America” as a cipher for systemic covert dealings and organised impunity rooted in an entrenched system of privilege then indeed WikiLeaks represents a threat as it challenges the parameters of liberalism, the ideology upon which the American state is founded.
The “Wikigate” scandal thus marks a watershed moment for the future of both liberalism and the state. Consequently, it also represents an important occasion to think critically about what this case tells us about the limits of democracy, freedom of information, transparency, and accountability, and as anarchist critiques have long suggested, the violence of the state when it cannot control these limits.
And, today, the Guardian has a long piece exploring the reasons for the venom of the attacks on Assange from the media
The personalized nature of this contempt from self-styled sober journalists often borders on the creepy. On the very same day WikiLeaks released over 400,000 classified documents showing genuinely horrific facts about massive civilian deaths in the Iraq war and US complicity in torture by Iraqi forces, the New York Times front-paged an article purporting to diagnose Assange with a variety of psychological afflictions and concealed, malicious motives, based on its own pop-psychology observations and those of Assange's enemies ("erratic and imperious behavior", "a nearly delusional grandeur", "he is not in his right mind", "pursuing a vendetta against the United States").
There are several obvious reasons why Assange provokes such unhinged media contempt. The most obvious among them is competition: the resentment generated by watching someone outside their profession generate more critical scoops in a year than all other media outlets combined.
Other causes are more subtle though substantive. Many journalists (and liberals) like to wear the costume of outsider-insurgent, but are, at their core, devoted institutionalists, faithful believers in the goodness of their society's power centres, and thus resent those (like Assange) who actually and deliberately place themselves outside of it. By putting his own liberty and security at risk to oppose the world's most powerful factions, Assange has clearly demonstrated what happens to real adversarial dissidents and insurgents – they're persecuted, demonized, and threatened, not befriended by and invited to parties within the halls of imperial power – and he thus causes many journalists to stand revealed as posers, servants to power, and courtiers.
Those impatient to get a  blow-by-blow account of how the Swedish authorities have handled the Assange case can do not better than read this 57 page briefing put together by Nordic News Network. This post by Craig Murray deals with the strength of the case against him. 
And those impatient to get a more detailed analysis of the legal peculiarities should consult Naomi Wolf’s paper

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