Monday, August 23, 2010

Serious: Entering the Assange Discussion

“Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society.”
-Michel Foucault

As a person who loves the written word, especially when it comes with a well formulated argument, I just want to say that while reading through the news about Julian Assange yesterday and today I found some of his supporters to be a little ready to jump to conclusions. This particularly really sticks in my craw. (There's some really nasty stuff if you scroll down to the bottom.)

I wouldn't think that I would need to say this, but rape and molestation charges are both very serious things. They certainly aren't "sexy", and to say that rapists can't be physically attractive people, well, this should be obvious, but, what?! Oh, Assange is so pleasing to my eyeballs (what hair! what great suits!)--he doesn't "need" to rape! Clearly the argument at "Fuck Yeah, Julian Assange" is that only dumb and ugly people rape. What logic skills you have! Next you're going to tell me it's only strangers at night in dark alleys or scary men in cars with candy. You know what else? People still tend to blame the victim, and this leads, obviously to victims not wanting to report their claim. We're working under a very complicated system here and I think trying to oversimplify to save the image of a hero can be incredibly problematic because you end up with arguments like these at "Fuck Yeah, Julian Assange."

I am not saying that this isn't, as so many have claimed a "smear campaign." I am saying I don't know, but that I will not and cannot jump to any assumption as of yet because rape and abuse is still not taken seriously, which is made VERY clear by comments like the ones I cited. I can say that I have an issue with trust in the first place, which stems from a history of abuse, and not just from my first boyfriend when I was 15, but from the world at large. Patriarchy works as a system of power, and my ex probably felt he could have a say over my body and my emotions because the government has had a say for so long over people's bodies, lives, and emotions.

Point being, I don't trust the Pentagon not to frame Assange with rape, but on the other side of this, I know that just because someone is fighting for the lives of so many people abroad, it doesn't mean that this person is not capable of raping or molesting women. I have known so many sexist radicals and other like-minded deviants. Radclyffe Hall, although a pioneer for gender-queer people, was a fascist. People have said Amiri Baraka is homophobic. Charles Olson, although heavily involved in politics, was said to be sexist (I tend to believe it, from what I've seen of his poetry). Sometimes people don't apply the rights of one group (usually their own) with the rights of another. I don't want the accusations to be true, but I have known for a long time that sometimes you don't get what you want. This makes me incredibly sad, because as a friend of mine said "I really need a hero right now."

But there's other issues here. To quote The Guardian: "It seems an unusual time to embark on a career of multiple rape" (although it seems this article has been removed?) The time being right before the release of 15,000 more documents on to the wikileaks website. and the Pentagon and Obama Administration keeps pleading, because, hey! wikileaks is making them look bad! So when I said I don't trust the Pentagon, I hope you got the fact that I just don't put it past a system so invested in having power over its people that it would use women's bodies as a mode to get back at someone who is the spokesperson for a group making efforts to give power back to people without it, because as the "collateral murder" video made perfectly clear, there's a lot at stake for soldiers and civilians of all countries involved in the war.

I will repeat, rape and sexual harassment are serious, but so is war. Not to say the two are separate either, because they most certainly are not. In the youtube video "Assange arrest warrent 'no mistake' the interviewer asks, "It's quite normal to accuse someone of rape and then two hours later to say, 'No, that's not the case'?" False accusations happen, for a lot of reasons, and sometimes those reasons still have to do with patriarchy and sometimes it is because the person making the accusations feels it is the only way s/he will be heard (although I guess we are told to yell fire, not rape, because otherwise our cries could be seen as a joke, and thus ignored) or it's s/he could be a horrible person. To further this point, here's something worthwhile from the SFGate: "Charging someone with rape is a serious issue. What's more troubling is that it was done at a time when Wikileaks and Julian Assange are the focus of the U.S Governments anger. Anyone who abuses the legal process to make a false claim should be punished." As well they should be, but who would be at fault here, the people who encouraged these women to make false claims, the women themselves, or both? Also, we must not forget that sometimes women are encouraged to settle out of court to make it so a high profile person doesn't have to look bad. This whole thing is incredibly complicated.

The timing is the issue. The rape case (at this point) has been dropped, and possibly the molestation charges, but we need to remember that Assange is not Wikileaks. He doesn't speak for all of the people who do the every day work of the organization, but that also doesn't mean these accusations should be ignored. And for that matter, that the person beating their spouse next door should be ignored. Or the Pentagon funding a war where people are raped and murdered and soldiers are taught hateful , racist language to distant them from an "enemy" who may not be as easily identified as some may want them to think should be ignored. Because as it seems to me, the enemy is everywhere, and for the most part, isn't where we're being told to look. This includes inside ourselves, our friends, and family.
I repeat: this is serious.

"The goal is justice"
-Julian Assange