In the news: Julian Assange.
While the prosecutor in Sweden is denying it, the lesson here seems to be: publish a Wikileak naming anti-Taliban Afghan sources and risk getting them killed, and nothing happens to you. Publish a Wikileak embarrassing the United States, and get the whole media talking, while you’re charged with rape.
I’m not happy about the earlier leak because it shows gross irresponsibility on the part of a website that is, effectively, a media outlet. I reckon they should be held accountable for that. But this time, I’m sorry: red diplomatic and corporate faces are far less serious.
Without undermining what the two Swedish women allegedly went through, which is either connected to the leaks through political pressure or sheer bad timing, this whole affair reminds me of one gag in the old Alas Smith and Jones sketch show.
In it, Mel Smith, as the newsreader, brieﬂy reads an item about a terrible tragedy in México where thousands had died, but ‘it didn’t matter because they didn’t speak English,’ and emphasizes another where an Englishman was assaulted over an argument about the cut of his suit.
Put some Afghans’ lives at risk, ‘it doesn’t matter because they don’t speak English,’ but embarrass some diplomats and rich guys, and it’s a big deal, sexual assault charges or not.
All because some English speakers have red faces. Oh, how we love ﬂexing our muscles.
I’m not much of a fan of these wiki-style sites, even if I run one, but Assange might become a bigger name than the diplomats realize, a cause célèbre for free speech. Already the ﬁrst hearing in England suggests as much.
The establishment may be closing in on him, with Visa rejecting payments, and a Swiss bank saying no to Assange opening a bank account. Anyone who has loved the “young loner on a crusade”-type stories (you can tell I watched Knight Rider) might ﬁnd an unlikely hero in Assange—Jemima Khan, Ken Loach, and John Pilger (who himself is no stranger to ﬁghting on the little guy’s behalf) have.
PS.: The credit card company was not Visa, but Mastercard.—JY