The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no rerun brothers;
The revolution will be live.
– Gill Scott-Heron, 1970
Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.
– William Congreve, The Mourning Bride, 1697
No episode of Law and Order or The Good Wife can top this.
It all seemed to boil down to the not-insignificant detail of finding, in a rush, a mere US$315,000 in cash.
By 3:25 pm GMT on Tuesday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been granted bail by a London court. Sure, the conditions were more suitable to someone accused of being an al-Qaeda mole: bail to the amount of said $315,000 in cash only; curfew from 10am-2pm and 10pm-2am; reporting to a police station at 6pm every day; surrendering his passport; and carrying an electronic ankle bracelet. But at least he would be free.
Well, not really. Two hours later, Assange was rerouted back to the slammer; the Swedish prosecution had appealed the ruling. For another 48 hours at least, Assange would remain in Wandsworth prison, under conditions his lawyer Mark Stephens described as “Orwellian”, “Dickensian”, “Victorian” or all of the above.
The cliffhanger unraveled as in a wild and wacky Cannes Film Festival red carpet extravaganza – complete with media scrum, flash bulbs exploding, frantic straight-from-court twittering and supporting celebs from Jemima Goldsmith to Ken Loach and Benazir Bhutto’s niece. And all this engendered by accusations of rape brought by erstwhile Assange groupies Anna Ardin and Miss W, the twin Scandinavian version of Congreve’s “a woman scorned”. That wouldn’t even be considered rape under English law, according to Assange lawyer Geoffrey Robertson. Thus, if this is no rape, there’s no reason for extraditing Assange to Sweden – and from Sweden to the US, as selected “patriotic” American pitchfork mobs are clamoring for.
Saint Julian or Assange the Rapist?
Oh, the dangerous liaisons between sex and press freedom.
Speaking outside the court immediately after Assange was (not) freed on bail, Vaughan Smith, the founder of the FrontLine club in west London, tried hard to frame the pertinent level of the debate. He said, “This is not just about press freedom, it is about the Internet. As journalists, we should be very concerned about the possibility of legislation that would restrict our freedom. Assange has held up a very large mirror in front of journalists. Journalists are concerned by the reflection they see.”
Before all the courtly sound and fury, Assange had won the readers poll in Time magazine’s person of the year for 2010, way ahead of second place, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the same Erdogan who US diplomats, in WikiLeaks’ “cablegate”, described as a dangerous anti-American Islamist.
Now couple this progressive Assange/Erdogan double bill with a CNN poll where 44% of Britons declared themselves sure that the Swedish sex charges against Assange are “an excuse” to keep him in custody so he can be prosecuted by the US government. Oh, those dangerous liaisons between sex and press freedom, again.
And all this after Assange had sent a message to the world via his mum, Christine, relayed to the Australian news site Seven News. In it, Assange didn’t fail to drop a bombshell, “We now know that Visa, Mastercard and PayPal are instruments of US foreign policy. It’s not something we knew before.” Now that’s a front page, if there ever was one.
So who gives the chief executive officers of Amazon, Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter and, sooner rather than later, Google – all private corporations who exercise a barely-disguised Internet monopoly – the right to act as editors of what sort of information public opinion should have access to? Mega-corporations making public-interest political decisions? World public opinion may say: “OK, you can buy the US Congress as much as you want, but don’t mess with our right to choose.”
Instead of following the – granted, gripping – made-in-Scandinavia sex saga, the whole world ought to be discussing the really key issue of the times. Who is bound to benefit the most from crucial information leaks? Will it be relentlessly hegemonic hyper-capitalism and its minions? Or will it be democratic, anti-hegemonic global social movements – in sum, people power?
Were the great Herbert Marcuse alive, he would already be warning that the empire is very quick in learning, and profiting from, the WikiLeaks lesson.
Realists already expect fresh imperial, “anti-terrorist” legislation. It doesn’t matter that former Central Intelligence Agency analyst Ray McGovern has stressed a key point to CNN: Pentagon head Robert Gates said the WikiLeaks cables do not put American lives in danger (these reports are “greatly overwrought”, said Gates). The North Atlantic Treaty Organization also said: “no sources have been compromised”. Even AfPak supremo General David “I’m always positioning myself to 2012” Petraeus said the same thing. But that should not be enough to appease the power elite establishment, with its slimy coterie of sycophants, ideological gangsters and assorted parasites, all frothing at the mouth and eager to take out Assange.
They lost control, again
Make no mistake on what the real “new world order” is all about: the battlefield reads like a resistance movement to the appropriation of information technology by the power elites. The eagerness to silence if not take out Assange by all means necessary reveals the true face of the emperor: I shall have undisputed, indivisible control over any technology.
Naturally, even WikiLeaks itself is not immune to the battle. An apparent orgy of transparency may reveal no more than a smokescreen. Assange himself has always complained that alternative media has never been able to fully analyze and synthesize the torrents of data in WikiLeaks’ massive document releases. Yet vast swathes of world public opinion are having access to “cablegate” mostly via WikiLeaks’ mainstream media partners. They select, edit and find their “angle” to release the cables. That is, they manipulate them.
There’s no reason for anyone to swallow the spin applied by Le Monde, El Pais or The New York Times. There are numerous examples already of how a passing, innocuous opinion by a US diplomat becomes an indisputable fact if skillfully spun. Nothing compares to the public reading the cables themselves (WikiLeaks is already mirrored in 1,885 sites, and counting).
On a parallel track, the net is overflowing with conspiracy theories stating that WikiLeaks is nothing but a very sophisticated psy ops – including the assertion that Assange was handsomely paid by Israel to delete any embarrassing cables (as if Israel was not embarrassed enough already for what it is perpetrating in Palestine). True, WikiLeaks should also be scrutinized for what it is not disclosing.
But there are problems with the Israel psy-ops scenario. A writer may – or may not – have heard this from Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former, disgruntled Assange collaborator who is now launching his own whistle-blowing site, OpenLeaks, whose main differential will be to release leaks in smaller volume, and more slowly. As it stands, the best source on all these developments is WikiRebels, an enlightening one-hour documentary by Sweden’s public television SVT, which may be watched here: here.
The sack of Rome
One does not need to possess Michel Foucault’s analytical powers to be extremely suspicious of how the power elites, be they in Sweden or the US, and always in the name of “freedom”, “security” and a market-friendly consensus, try to impose their own hegemonic brand of transparency.
Sweden has managed to circumscribe and frame virtually every overtone of freedom and unpredictability in the realm of sexual relations – with the extra bonus that everything can be furiously dissected/inspected.
So beware those fornicators whose condoms malfunction in the middle of the proceedings! And be 100% sure that in each and every second of the nitty gritty there is irrefutable, foolproof mutual consent. Otherwise, you’re a rapist. Once again, it sounds like a “liberal” re-run of Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch. Confess! Confess! The Orgy of Transparency meets the Joy of Inquisition.
And that’s where Saint Julian the Apostle (of freedom of expression) converges with Assange the Rapist, the Martyr of Transparency. And this in a country that has one of the more advanced freedom of expression laws in the world.
Deep down, it gets shabbier. From Naomi Klein to Naomi Wolf, it’s clear to every thoughtful woman that Assange’s Scandinavian groupies thought they were enraptured by “love”. Well, it was just a one-night stand piled up on another – and how horrible to find out, in a “girlish” chat, that “love” was in fact “betrayal” by the usual soulless, chauvinist male. Who would have thought that Scandinavia harbors “women scorned” who believe in Hollywood fairy tales. Worse yet: cultured, fiercely independent women in both Europe and the US who take Hollywood for what it is consider it deeply humiliating for this chameleon Swedish law to infantilize women to such an extent.
And since we’re talking about sex, how not to refer to the poetic coincidence of this latest courtroom drama happening the same day when Italian Prime Minister Silvio “Il Cavaliere” Berlusconi, who Wiki cables basically depict as a greedy, irresponsible nutcase fond of cavorting with nymphs at Nero-style parties, barely survived a non-confidence vote and immediately afterwards Rome was (literally) burning in rage. Makes one think of Nero in reverse.
Yet make no mistake: it’s not only Ancient Rome that’s burning. It’s the whole empire. Hardcore hyper-capitalism may be simultaneously a Terminator and a giant with clay feet. Progressives must solve the riddle of how to fight this paradox. Sun Tzu’s Art of War meets Gilles Deleuze and his underground war machine. Nomad information-technology guerrillas are already deployed. The US counter-insurgency is being turned upside down. Netwar is a go. And don’t forget the condoms.