Why Progressives are Wrong About Julian Assange

Since when is the definition for somebody who opposes rape “radical feminist”? Wouldn’t a better and far more accurate term be “decent human being”?

I think so. But that seems to be the consensus among progressives : that those who attack Australian-born whistle-blower Julian Assange are radical feminists, and I suppose by definition then, not really progressives, as if you can’t be both.

And I think a great divide has been exposed by the controversy surrounding the accusations laid against Julian Assange – namely, rape.

The divide I am talking about is that between politics and morality. You can like someone’s politics without approving of their behavior and one should not be tied to the other. When you start to defend somebody’s behavior because you like their politics, it’s difficult to tell whether the tail is not wagging the dog.

Progressives see Assange as a hero. Many of them have ended up siding with him at the expense of the woman he is said to have raped, and by extension, all women. All the old excuses have resurfaced: why did she stay with him, why didn’t she report him, blah, blah, blah. It could not have, given those things, been rape.

As it happens, the left has been split by this situation. Feminists are now at odds with progressives, and rightly so.

Rape is wrong. Period.

Being a counter-culture hero does not excuse it.

For people to whom Assange is a hero there is no limit to suspicion and paranoia. Is it a CIA plot? Are the rape charges coming to light merely in response to his work with WikiLeaks? The timing is suspicious. Michael Moore has defended Assange – he even put up $20,000 in bail money and said the rape inquiry was “stink[ing] to the high heavens”:

This whole thing stinks to the high heavens…. They go after people with this kind of lie and smear…. What they say he did… his condom broke during consensual sex; that is not a crime in Britain. This is all a bunch of hooey, as far as I’m concerned. The man has at least a right to be out of prison while awaiting his hearing.

Keith Olbermann has too, making clear that he also questioned the charges; he even suspended his Twitter account because of the outrage over his interview with Moore. Both are progressives. Both are themselves heroes to many.

Some have called Olbermann’s apology (made 15 hours before suspending his account) a non-apology:

Rape has touched my family, directly and savagely, and if anybody thinks I have addressed it without full sensitivity, then that assessment is the one that counts, and I apologize. But these accusations that I “revealed” an accuser’s identity by retweeting Bianca Jagger’s link, or that I ‘shamed’ an accuser by asking a question about the prosecution of a man governments are trying to bury, or that I do not ‘understand’ charges that have yet to be presented in their final form, reflect exactly the kind of rushing to judgment of which I’m accused, and merit the same kind of apology I have just given.

The sense of it seems to be that rape isn’t really important as long as Assange is engaged in what is seen by progressives as very important work in exposing government lies and cover-ups.

One has to wonder how they would feel if we were talking about their sisters and daughters. Would politics still trump morality?

Tigerbeatdown.com has led the charge against Moore, accusing him of “rape apologism” and I cannot argue with the reasoning. I am more than a little disappointed that progressives can’t seem to separate two very different issues, exposing government secrets and raping women.

If the right-wing often seems unaware of moral standards and ethics, it now seems the left-wing has no moral high ground to stand upon when they utter their denunciations. This, to me, is just another symptom of ideology run amok.

I for one will not marry my morality to ideology. Praise Assange if you feel you must for exposing government secrets but condemn him for rape if he is guilty instead of making defenses for his behavior based on your support of his politics. The two have nothing to do with one another.

Anyone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty but right now I would no more trust a jury of progressives to look dispassionately at the case than I would a jury of conservatives.

Are political centrists the only sane people left on the planet?

Finally, I wanted to say a word about attacks and criticisms leveled here against PoliticusUSA’s Sarah Jones, a fellow writer and editor. I am astounded that a charge of “feminist” (as a pejorative no less!) immediately attaches itself to her and moreover, invalidates any points made, however sound the logic. It is as if feminism is a poison pill that automatically kills any argument made, but neither conservative Ultra Patriotism™ nor Progressive hero-worship bear the same stigma. Why is feminism to be discounted, but no other bias, if indeed feminism is a bias?

Why are so many people afraid of feminism? Indeed, why are so many people willing to kill mothers for the sake of fetuses and to let women be raped for the sake of heroism in exposing government secrets? I confess I don’t understand. Why does one thing become irrelevant because of another? Does right or wrong change as a matter of convenience? Does it sometimes apply, and sometimes not? Is it now one thing, and now another?

In the end, there are those who will devalue Assange no matter what because of what he has done politically and there are those who would overvalue him for what he has done politically, as though that has anything to do with what he might have done to a woman. I am not going to argue the rights and wrongs of WikiLeaks because it is irrelevant to the discussion. We must look at the two issues as being completely separate because they are two separate issues. It’s a shame that so many progressives and conservatives seem unable to see the forest for the trees.

25 Replies to “Why Progressives are Wrong About Julian Assange”

  1. I have read as much as I can find available about what happened between Assange and these 2 women, and can’t find anywhere that these women claim that Assange raped them. From the information available, these women only went to police to force him to take tests for HIV and other STDs. It seems that based on the women’s stories of their sexual encounters with Assange, prosecutors and others have themselves decided to define what happened as either rape or sexual assault. Are they right? I don’t know. Should the charges be taken seriously, even though they don’t seem to have been (originally anyway) brought by the women themselves? Of course! Should we be cautious in our judgments of everyone involved? Most definitely! I don’t think someone is a “rape apologist” for merely being skeptical in light of all of the currently available information. I think the skepticism does, in fact, stem from the fact that it was prosecutors, and NOT the women involved, who decided to call their encounters with Assange “rape” or “sexual assault”. I know that this makes ME skeptical, and I am a feminist! Though I am skeptical, I still think the charges should be fully and carefully investigated. But for people to assume Assange raped these women is just as bad as to assume the charges are made-up or that the women or prosecutors have conspired against an innocent man.

  2. “to let women be raped for the sake of heroism in exposing government secrets” …sorry but i see a fundamental flaw in this and in a few similar prases in this blog. I myself have not heard anyone say or suggest that as long as he is exposing secrets it is alright if he goes out and rapes people. The fact of the matter is that Assange has not formally been charged with any crime. His lawyers insist the warrant against him is merely for questioning on the accusations made by the two women, Miss A and Miss W.

    No one is making an excuse for rape. NO ONE. ‘They’ are merely suggesting that the media (and certain bloggers) are perpetuating a highly exaggerated story. Possibly to gain page views in the same way newspapers use borderline false headlines just to get people to buy in etc. OR it is part of an operation to drum up national and international pressure to get him extradited and face a (no doubt kangaroo) court.

    I suppose i would probably be classed in most areas as having a “progressive”view (in the political slang use). I fully support wikileaks policy and actions so far. I like to think of them as someone holding a mirror to a nations face and showing it what it truly looks like. What can you do if you dont like what you see? well you can change….or you can just smash all the mirrors.

    i find it disturbing that after people have attacked assange by vitually making up a story of libellous nature which you have embraced, you then gone on to attack anyone who supports him, by saying they are condoning rape!

  3. You should be reading twitter and the comments on this website and others then. Naomi WOlf said it wasn’t rape siince the girl woke up. Come on.

  4. Everyone seems to have forgotten that the initial charges against Assange were dropped. And then reinstated by a prosecutor in a different district. Which adds to the suspicion that the charges are politically motivated. And even those initial charges were not brought by the women, but by the prosecutor. The women went to the police to ask for advice. Not to accuse him of whatever the hell the charges are.

  5. Many women on the left are thinking now that they are in the wrong place and I have to agree. The language used by supposedly liberal pundits to describe these women was outrageous and I was hard-pressed to find a “liberal” who wasn’t engaging in the kind of blame the victim, glorify the alleged perpetrator, language that is so offensive and backwards. Thanks to certain people, there will be a lot more rape victims who don’t come forward now – but I suppose that is part of the goal. No one wants to deal with the issue unless it happens to their family.

    The women are now in hiding, in fear for their lives over the death threats they’ve received. They never even wanted him charged. The police did. They only wanted him to take an AIDS test. The left who have driven this discourse, tweeted their home addresses and names, and vilified them without ever informing themselves of the TRUE nature of the accusations were wrong. Many of them still believe it was a broken condom. It was never just a broken condom. Go read the Guardian UK, watch the BBC and then maybe you’ll be informed.

    Hraf, on a personal level as a writer and your friend, I’m proud to know you and men like you who see what’s going on and take a stand for all human rights.

  6. I’m holding out on the rape thing until positive proof is brought forth. If he is guilty slay him, if he is not, well he isnt.

  7. Ginny, great comment that clearly states my position as well. Let the legal issue play itself out and I’m holding my American true-tested mantra “innocent until proven guilty”. However, he has to go through the process and put all evidence on the table.

    My ultimate wish with Wikileaks is that at least it causes governments to pause and make sure they are walking the walk, in fear of if they are not, they will be exposed.

  8. I concur completely Hraf. These are two separate issues. I am disappointed at the comments on Sarah’s post about Assange’s double-standard and it’s bothered me all night. Still does. That comment about “feminism button” tells the whole story. I am also glad that you brought up and eloquently pointed out the left’s malfeasance on this whole issue just as they did with POTUS with the tax cut deal.

    As far as the defenders of rape (and that’s what I’m seeing), there is an automatic response among many that say the accuser has some ulterior motive or it’s a CIA-inspired plot. All that may be true and it’s not the point. It’s the mindset and knee-jerk reaction that allows a person to think that way. Instead of saying let’s wait and see, it’s been attacks on the women as a first response. Even if it were only one woman, there is no excuse for demeaning the accuser. But for crying out loud, there are two!

    I am disappointed in the left for their hypocrisy and inability to bifurcate the issue AND for the attacks on the accusers. I am furious at the less-than-human attacks and condescending nature of the comments questioning Sarah’s over-sensitive “feminism button.” It doesn’t matter if it’s conservative, liberal, progressive or RWNJ, there is no excuse.

    Sorry to rant. Your article was spot on and speaks for reasonable human beings everywhere, and for that, I thank you.

  9. The writer seem to overlook the fact that the charges are not yet proven. Surely any dissection of Mr.Assange should wait until after he has expired?

  10. By the way Sarah (better than Ms. or Mrs., you never know, creates all sorts of problems, I’m still a mister although I’m a batchelor -stupid language-). I “Tweeted” your piece (and mentioned it “on thread”), because I believe yours to be a “necessary perspective”. It seems to me that either the women concerned have been deliberately “over expossed” or that their human rights have been breached, either way their are questions over their “celebrity status” (if you’ll excuse the expression), which speak directly to the issue of women’s rights and status.

  11. Speaking as the writer, William, the writer has not overlooked anything. I have made no claim that Assange is guilty. My point (since you seem to have missed it) is that the rape charge (whether guilty or innocent) has nothing to do with his work with WikiLeaks. I am arguing that he should not be defended against rape accusations because of releasing government documents. Doesn’t that seem a bit absurd to you?

  12. Thank you, Rmuse. I saw your comment on Sarah’s post and I thought it was spot on. I was out most of the day and missed the debate (to my sorrow) but you took up the slack.

    Certainly no need to apologize for ranting. This situation demands a rant or two…or three.

  13. Yeah, that’s the way it’s supposed to work, after all. He’s innocent until proven guilty, but he’s not innocent because he is a left-wing hero over WikiLeaks, and that seems to be the tree the progressives can’t see.

  14. Sarah, thank you. I hadn’t planned on writing this but I grew progressively (pardon the pun) angrier last night and had to address this rather than the START Treaty or some other news item. This is important too, and progressives have really dropped the ball on this. I thought you advanced a very compelling argument in your own article and the response filled me with dismay. I have had enough of the high school locker room attitude so many people – men and women both – seem to have.

  15. He will have his day in court, and then we will know. My point is that nobody can say he is innocent of rape because he did something “great” by exposing government secrets. They have nothing to do with each other. The implication is that any court will determine if the charges are being made falsely in order to get back at him for something else he has done.

  16. Thank you William. I am not anti-Assange. I’ve written on Wikileaks before and I support transparency efforts. I simply want to remind folks that when we hold this dialogue, the two issues do not need to be conflated, nor do we need to engage in behavior that violates anyone’s rights. We can support WikiLeaks while also not attacking these women and supporting due process.

  17. Exactly. He should be innocent until proven guilty and the left should stop harassing women who support the alleged rape victims’ rights to be heard.

  18. Hraf your post is spot on and I totally agree with this… “I for one will not marry my morality to ideology. Praise Assange if you feel you must for exposing government secrets but condemn him for rape if he is guilty instead of making defenses for his behavior based on your support of his politics. The two have nothing to do with one another.”
    Exactly! One has nothing to do with the other so get over it!
    As for attacks on Sarah, they are unconscionable! If so called “rabid-feminist” hadn’t fought hard for woman’s rights, we would not be able to vote, and hold Corporate jobs,run for POTUS, Congress or Senate! We’ve had a Female speaker of the house! Woman’s right have come a long way….if not for people speaking out we would be chained to the kitchen having babies right where the “Right” wants woman at.
    “Feminist” label/box has been lumped in with “TreeHugger”labels that used to mean people doing “good” fighting for womens rights, for BC, Pro-choice etc & turning/making it bad like “Tree-hugger”. Sorry I’m both and anyone who would dare attack Sarah Jones for being a “feminist” like its a bad thing better check themselves in the mirror & STFU!
    We NEED people to speak up for Women & people to speak up for the environment! I am using “Tree-hugger” here to illustrate how doing good is somehow twisted into a “Bad” thing by certain peoples.
    It is very disheartening to hear the Left using these labels on one of our own. Shame on You who dare slam Sarah Jones!

  19. As ginny says, neither woman claimed rape when they went to the police. They were only motivated to do so when one called the other (they are friends) and they discovered he’d banged both in quick succession, and both were worried about condomless sex. They both wanted to be able to force him to get a STI test before leaving Sweden, despite his saying he was too busy, and wasn’t infected.

    Hell both these women are Swedish feminists for chrissakes. You’d think if it was actually done against their clearly expressed non consent at the time of occurrence these Swedish feminists would call it rape. Instead both were real friendly and familiar with him post the occurrence — until one called the other (they’re friends) and they discovered that he’d had sex with each very near together in time — and in each case without an intact condom.

    In the first case the condom broke, and the leaked prosecutor or police files to the UK Guardian newspaper stated that A suspected he tore it (on what evidence or is this merely feminist groups prosecutor musing/fabricating) and he continued though she didn’t want him to. There’s not even an allegation that she told him that at the time. Instead we learn that he pressed his weight on her. What shiite. That’s what often happens in so called missionary position sex, and some other styles too.

    In the second case according to the leaked prosecutor’s office report, woman W told him not without a condom the night before, they talked it through, she maintained her condition, and so he lost interest and went to sleep. The next morning the new (after feminist group pressure) prosecutor’s story is he began having sex w/her w/out a condom when she was half asleep, she woke up and didn’t say no or push him away but rather asked, “you don’t have HIV do you”, he said of course not, and she had sex with him, without saying no, telling him to stop, or that this is rape, or in any way resisting him.

    No not rape in either case, even if the prosecutor’s story is completely believed by a jury.

    This case is likely to and should create a real backlash against radical feminist forever expanding claims as to what constitutes date rape. It’s all about making any sexual event the woman isn’t entirely pleased about in retrospect date rape, if she says so, without any such declaration to the male immediately before or during the sex act being necessary.

    That’s an utter outrage and enormously misandrous and utterly unfair to men. Especially attractive men to women.

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