Leaks leaks everywhere a leak. A condom leak, cable leaks, police file leaks, Expressen leaks. One of these things has been justified as transparency, the rest have been dismissed as revenge.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has a problem. Well, he has many problems but right now we’re focused on the matter of his value system. Mr Assange claims to stand for transparency, which is a noble mission, and under the guise of said transparency did last month release hundreds of secret diplomatic cables. Mr Assange was then hailed as a hero by the Left and a villain by the Right, with some crossover as high-ranking Democratic officials labeled Mr Assange a terrorist.
Then came the leak by the Swedish newspaper Expressen of two women’s reports to the police alleging that Mr Assange had had unprotected sex with them both and refused to take an AIDS test. This leak was denounced as being part of an agenda to destroy him for the cable dumps. So this leak was not OK.
Mr Assange was subsequently charged with rape of two women by Swedish officials for what was deemed “sex by surprise” or having sex with a broken condom or no condom when use of a condom had the condition of the women’s consent. Since then, the Left and Right came together to denounce these women and these charges as set-ups, mocking the women, and engaging in what can be deemed internet harassment by leaking their names and personal information which are supposed to be protected and private in rape cases.
In acts of blatant misogyny and hypocrisy, the women were called “honeypots” for the CIA and worse. This kind of simplistic thinking leaves no room for thoughtful realization that a person can be both a political hero and a rapist. Power often begets abuse of power.
But no one called foul on that leak. It seems the rights of these women were to be disregarded and dismissed as the public tried them and found them guilty of being revenge-seeking men haters. My, that’s new. I’m bowled over by the progressive nature of such attacks.
Naturally, I’m compelled to rejoice in the consistency of the liberal agenda which allows patriarchal fables to dominate its thinking while claiming superiority over the patriarchs running the world. White men coming after other white men and throwing women in the garbage who get in the way of their agenda because they’re the good guys. See, you’re supposed to just believe these guys when they tell you these women are evil. No need for leaks or facts here because there’s a cause at stake. Who cares if a few women get raped or not raped or humiliated and shamed internationally before the facts are even out. These are the same people who denounce our role in Afghanistan in part due to the horrific rapes of women there. So, are we pro-rape or anti-rape? Or is it that we get to decide who is a rapist and who isn’t based upon whether or not we agree with other things they’re doing?
Stop me when this blows your mind.
Then came the leak of Mr Assange’s police files by the Guardian UK, which provided proof of more damning evidence against him, wherein it’s alleged that he held one woman down in order to have sex with her and had sex with the other while she was sleeping. In both cases, the matter is complicated by previous sexual consent or consent predicated upon the use of a condom.
UK Press reports that the charges consist of:
“Gemma Lindfield, for the Swedish authorities, told the court Assange was wanted in connection with four allegations. She said the first complainant, Miss A, said she was victim of “unlawful coercion” on the night of August 14 in Stockholm.
The court heard Assange is accused of using his body weight to hold her down in a sexual manner.
The second charge alleged Assange “sexually molested” Miss A by having sex with her without a condom when it was her “express wish” one should be used.
The third charge claimed Assange “deliberately molested” Miss A on August 18 “in a way designed to violate her sexual integrity”. The fourth charge accused Assange of having sex with a second woman, Miss W, on August 17 without a condom while she was asleep at her Stockholm home.”
And on December 18, 2010 the New York Times reported:
“But the details in the police report and dozens of interviews in recent months with people in Sweden linked to the case suggest that the Swedish case could be less flawed than Mr. Assange’s supporters have claimed.”
And then today, on Yahoo:
“Assange said the leak of the Swedish police report “was clearly designed to undermine my bail application.” He added: “Someone in authority clearly intended to keep Julian in prison.”
(Guardian investigations editor) Leigh defended (Guardian reporter Nick) Davies on Twitter Monday night, suggesting that The Guardian reporter actually kept out specific details from the police report while publishing what was deemed necessary for the story. That runs counter to Assange’s view that The Guardian treated him unfairly in how the paper covered the allegations.
“Nick left out a lot of graphic and damaging material in the allegations because he thought it would be too cruel to publish them,” Leigh said by phone.”
But this leak was denounced as part of an agenda and revenge seeking. Mr Assange accuses the Guardian UK of “selectively publishing” the facts. Where is the value of transparency now? How can Mr Assange decry the release of his police files and yet justify his release of hundreds of diplomatic cables? Mr Assange claims that the police files do not contain all of the facts. That is most likely true, but those facts will be presented in a court of law and ruled upon hopefully based on their merit. But is he suggesting that the cables he leaked tell the entire story? Did he release every single cable, the back-story and the motives of the authors or did he simply release the cables he was given and let the public decide for themselves?
The same argument that Mr Assange is using against his accusers (both of whom a friend of Mr Assange claims did not want to go to the police, they simply wanted him to take an AIDS test but he refused and then when he finally consented, the clinic was closed and the women went to the police) can be used against him. Mr Assange called for the resignation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton right after the cable dumps. This could be seen as him having an agenda and using the cable dumps to accomplish it. This can also be dismissed as revenge against the US foreign policy or even a further attack on women if I can be given the same free rein as supporters of Mr Assange give attacks against his accusers. No, I’m not really making that argument, but it serves to demonstrate the outlandish belief that we can assign intent to people we don’t know before we even have the facts.
The fact is that we do NOT know the truth here. What we do know is that Mr Assange has performed a valuable service in the name of transparency but now seems to be anti-transparency when it’s his own reputation on the line.
We do know that the line of defense Mr Assange and his supporters are using against these women is nothing new. Their pictures have been leaked and they’ve been referred to as honeypots – the evil Eve seductresses out to get a good man. This tired, misogynistic and patriarchal attitude does nothing to discredit the allegations in my mind – if anything, hearing Mr Assange make these accusations makes me wonder more about his attitudes toward women.
We do know that we don’t have all of the facts here, and wise people would wait until we did before ruining the lives of two women or Mr Assange. But so eager are we to defend the Transparency Hero that we denounce the humanitarian’s approach to women’s rights and we justify, dismiss and discredit rather serious charges. We are so eager to defend this man that we throw these women under the bus, make jokes about “sex by surprise” and still somehow manage to call ourselves liberals.
Rape is not an uncommon event. Rape among people who know each other is even more common. This fact makes rape a complicated, messy charge and very difficult to prove. Does that mean it didn’t happen?
There are women that you know right now who are interacting with someone who raped them and acting like nothing happened. It’s called conditioning. Part of the reason rape is so under-reported is because women see other women like Mr Assange’s accusers being put through character assassination slaughter and they think better of going public. Many women say that reporting a rape is like being raped all over again. No one likes a whistle-blower, and isn’t that what a woman who has the courage to stand up to rape – especially by someone she knows – is? She’s blowing the whistle on a patriarchal belief system that her body doesn’t belong to her.
Having sex with someone without a condom when they require a condom is not OK. Painting these women out as sexy, agenda-driven Machiavellian spies is akin to putting black face on them. I’ll not denounce Mr Assange as a rapist because that would be incredibly unfair. That is for the court’s to decide. But the Left’s automatic defense of Mr Assange and resulting crucifixion of these women is a betrayal of our value system, a betrayal of women’s rights, and indicative of a childish mindset that can only conceive of people in black and white.
Statistically, you know several rapists and a few child molesters. You don’t know who they are, but you know them and they often do lots of great things for their community. They are often very powerful men. They often employ a lot of people. None of those facts exonerates them from abusing their power and treating a woman’s body like a depository for their need to exert their power and dominance.
It is not outside the realm of possibility that these charges are real. If you read the statements by the police and by Mr Assange’s own colleagues and friends, it’s difficult to dismiss them as a joke. It’s hard to take anyone seriously who automatically plays defense with something this serious while championing Mr Assange for his role in transparency and then denouncing the leaks of the reports against Mr Assange. If you’re going to have a value system you want taken seriously, it had best be consistent. In that regard, this debacle has been an utter fail on the part of many liberals and most certainly a failure in Mr Assange’s asserted value system of transparency.
Updated: Dec 21 10:35 PM with Yahoo Cutline quote
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.