requiem for certainty

Posts Tagged ‘assange

Assange’s Secrets and Ours

with 50 comments

The British courts are holding WikiLeaks maestro Julian Assange on charges related to sexual misconduct, or sexual molestation, or sexual something-or-other.  The confusion over just what Assange did wrong when he had sex with two Swedish women is, or perhaps should be, an object of concern.  The charges in Sweden were filed, dropped, then filed again.

The WikiLeaks example is growing richer every minute.  It is a perfect little capsule of contemporary culture, in its obsessions with truthfulness, both at the political level of international diplomacy (where we have for so long demanded state secrecy) and at the personal level of the sexual confessional (where we so fervently demand of ourselves, and especially of those ‘in power’ in some form, that they give up all their secrets).

Assange told our secrets and now we are forcing him to tell his.

Our secrets reveal acts of violence, hatred, intrigue, and all the other harsh realities one might expect from the diplomacy of the hegemon.  Assange’s secrets, for which he is now being held in a jail cell in Britain without bail, have it that, at least according to the charges, he would not consent to using a condom when he had sex.  Interestingly the coverage of just what the charges of ‘sexual misconduct’ amount to is all over the map.  The coverage on NPR this morning made no mention of the nature of the charges and only used vague terms that suggested, to me, nonconcensual sex, perhaps sexual assault or rape (definitely gaspable material, that).  The coverage in the Times buries the nature of the charge, saying that the sexual acts “became nonconsensual after he was no longer using a condom” (this sounds problematic but is very unclear to my untrained non-lawyer ears).  The coverage in the Sydney Morning Herald is fuller.  But things are all over the map.

All this suggests that it is, once again, these mega-states that are dirty, not Assange.  (Correction: it just may be that Assange is dirty, too, at least in one way.) It is one of the oldest plays in the book to make life a living hell for those who challenge the state by trotting out charges of sexual misconduct.  There is a sad and long history of this in the United States.  Martin Luther King, Jr. is just one of the favorite examples.  Assange is no King.  King was a hero.  Assange is a humble technician of a new way of ideas.  Both challenged prevailing wisdom.  And both were sent to the sexual slammer.

Update (756pm PST): Thanks to Jeremy for the comments.  You are right that the language above is too brash and vague. It is not my aim to trivialize the content of the allegations, but only to encourage reflectiveness about the procedure.

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Written by Colin Koopman

December 7, 2010 at 5:08 pm