In a "high-octane speech" two years ago today, Ecuador granted Wikileaks demiurge Julian Assange political asylum, adding that he may stay in their London embassy for "two centuries." That would certainly be a long time, but haven't we each spent much longer trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassies of our own certitude?
Have we not each spent more than enough time confined by our own unwillingness to acknowledge our own past mistakes and transgressions, only to be visited on occasion by Lady Gaga?
Life continues to be unfathomably weird for the once proud (if not sometimes megalomaniacal) Australian hacker/transparency activist Julian Assange, lately with a peculiar, increasingly haute couture edge.
First, there came the announcement that the middle-aged son of Punk-era fashion luminary Vivienne Westwood—some guy named Ben Westwood—plans to have Assange model his debut collection in September, at a cocktail party held inside the Ecuadorean Embassy.
"My view about Julian is that he is a popular hero and he's done a great deal to change public opinion. I think it's a citizen's duty to stand up for justice and freedom of speech. I want to highlight Julian Assange's plight," Ben told the New York Times, very much explicitly adding that he hoped to prevent the Wikileaks co-founder from slipping "into obscurity."
He also very explicitly told the Times that he thought Assange was a Grade A piece of beef: "I can't think of anyone better to model my clothes. He is a good-looking man."
Then, this past week, Dr. Martens released a new romper-stomper named "Assange" to the sad, politically disengaged, confusion of whatever faceless 22-year-old had to cover it for MTV Style:
To some extent, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange perhaps embodies what DMs stand for: tough and able to take a beating. However, with Assange being holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for espionage and alleged rape, we wonder how well Dr. Martens have thought this marketing gamble through.
An embarrassingly casual misstating of the case, though it would be mean to overly pick on MTV Style for not knowing that Assange is not being formally charged with espionage as part of this extradition drama. Yes: It's true, that very credible reporting from the Washington Post and elsewhere has determined that "Federal authorities are investigating whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange violated criminal laws in the group's release of government documents, including possible charges under the Espionage Act." So, at best, then, we are talking about alleged alleged espionage, or alleged potential allegations of espionage. As usual, the shape-shifting Reptilian éminence grise at the satanic ritual abuse orgy is in the details.
While not nearly as bad as the Lady Gaga fan who passionately believed that Julian Assange was a pedophile—or Vice President Joe Biden calling Assange a "high tech terrorist"—this MTV Style blogger (who really is guaranteed to be 22-years old) highlights one of the few truisms of this now four-year saga of alleged sexual criminality:
Everyone has an opinion on the case, and no one but Assange and his two accusers knows what the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck they are talking about.
This weekend would be a great time to finally catch the little seen, persuasively and concisely argued (and freely available) investigation into the Julian Assange Swedish sex crime Rashōmon conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's longest-running current affairs program (their 60 Minutes or whatever), Four Corners. The show's episode page is a truly comprehensive resource aggregating more documentation pertaining to this complex case than most people are going to want to bother with, frankly, including the "Agreed Statement of Facts and Issues" as mutually accepted by Assange, his team, and the Swedish Prosecuting Authority, (embedded below).
Let's now review some contextual details and incontrovertible facts in the case of this guy at the Ecuadorean Embassy, that we all vaguely recall did stuff.
Assange has not been charged with anything yet. Contrary to the idiot wind that blew from people like the New Statesman's David Allen Green, this is not some weird myth, and Assange is not "wanted for arrest." Here is the legal opinion of a Swedish law professor Marten Schultz, who can concede this reality, while still being largely aghast over the amount of erroneous factoids that Assange's less-disciplined supporters have pushed around:
The UK supreme court's decision means only that Assange will be transferred to Sweden for interrogation. It does not mean that he will be tried, or even charged. It is entirely possible that he will be transferred to Sweden, questioned, and released if the Swedish authorities find that there are insufficient grounds for prosecution. It is impossible–as it should be–to predict how the case will unfold.
Another Swedish legal expert, Ove Bring, told Radio Sweden unequivocally that "under Swedish law it is possible to interrogate people abroad," and that Sweden's refusal to do so—for four years now—is simply, and scandalously, "a matter of prestige."
(This next bit is just Ove Bring's personal editorializing, but he firmly suspects that if Assange were interrogated "the case would be dropped, as the evidence is not enough to charge him with a crime." Personally, I feel this squares with the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm, Eva Finne, cancelling the arrest warrant early in the investigation. Everyone, but especially you, is free to feel differently about these unknown future outcomes, obviously.)
Over the past two years, Assange's legal council has implored the Swedish authorities to come to London and conduct their interview/interrogation in his Ecuadorean hermitage. They have refused—which makes no sense if their goal is an honest prosecution of this case.
Prior to that, as the "statement of agreed facts" makes perfectly clear, Assange remained in the country for questioning on August 30th, 2010, and "answered all questions asked of him." For a whole week, from September 8th til the 14th of 2010, Assange's counsel "requested that he be interviewed. That request was deferred by the prosecutor." Finally, his counsel asked, in writing, if Assange was free to leave Sweden. The prosecution said he was. Assange's team then proposed a week in October 2010 for the interrogation to take place, a time and date which the prosecution "later rejected as being too far away" (pretty funny in hindsight). As of the next month, Assange was willing to be interrogated, in person, at the Australian Embassy.
This is certainly paranoid behavior on Assange's part, but seems reasonably cooperative.
Does Assange have good cause to be paranoid? Honestly: Who knows?
Here are some relevant pieces of data in that regard. Amnesty International conducted a study on the litigation of sexual crimes in the Nordic countries and found them all to be severely lacking. Less than 20 percent of charges ever made it to court in Sweden, during the period in question, according to the humanitarian group. "Even if cases do go to trial, the acquittal rate is very high," their report continues, "There is therefore a common cause for concern about the lack of legal protection for victims of rape in the Nordic countries."
As for the UK and Interpol, we have these glaringly politicized case studies for comparison: A decade earlier, Britain refused to extradite Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, an accused mass rapist and torturer, citing his failing health. As ABC's Four Corners points out, Interpol's Red Notice arrest warrant for Assange looks shockingly preferential alongside the contemporaneous, lesser Orange Notice for Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi (and 15 subordinates) for the coordinated bombing of civilian populations and other violent and flagrant human rights abuses.
So, it is a matter of cold fact that Assange's case has been prosecuted with a fervor that is disproportionate to similar legal actions by the state actors in question.
Does that mostly speak, quite disgustingly, to Sweden and the UK's lax, perhaps even misogynistic, or simply callous, attitude toward sexual crimes, historically speaking? Yes. Yes. It certainly does.
Does it also suggest that Assange's case was unfairly politicized, somehow? Yes. It suggests that also, simultaneously.
To point these things out is not the same as to presume Assange's innocence in the matter of these specific charges: one count of "rape" (later reduced to "minor rape" meaning "lesser," not "the rape of a child"), "unlawful coercion," and "two instances of sexual molestation."
To point this all out isn't even to imply that Julian Assange has not been a Royal Jackass way, way too often in his life as a dissident political activist.
To point these things out is to say that we live in a terrible world when indefensibly sick, technically also alleged, sex-predator ghouls like Terry Richardson, Dov Charney, R. Kelly, and Bill Cosby all roam freely, while a political dissident accused of only a small fraction of their crimes has spent four years in various states of de facto house arrest. It is to demand, in earnest, the sanctity of our criminal justice systems, and call for the prosecutions of these heinous, intimate crimes to be untainted by political abuse, corruption or other kinds of favoritism.
Why not take some time today, a full two years after almost any average person has passionately cared about this case, to coolly and dispassionately review the available evidence?
Or, please, skim this, and join us in the Kinja discussion below, like a repellent Trash Golem whom I wish I could throw off a busy highway overpass.
Either is fine, really.