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Throttling the Truth: Why the Case of Julian Assange Is More Important Than Ever

by | Aug 24, 2021

Throttling the Truth: Why the Case of Julian Assange Is More Important Than Ever

by | Aug 24, 2021

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In a world with a functional Fourth Estate, the case of Julian Assange would be on the front page of major newspapers every day. Instead, it has been all but blacked out. Perhaps this makes sense, given that the raison d’être of Wikileaks, according to its founder, was to provide to the public important news which is omitted by the mainstream media outlets. To defend Wikileaks in a sustained way would be for network news channels and syndicated newspapers to acknowledge, at least tacitly, that they have been coopted by the government, as critics have long maintained. Nonetheless, the unwillingness of truth-driven journalists to say more about what is going on is puzzling and suggests that the situation is far worse than we may imagine. The future of press freedom is at stake and, with it, the very possibility of dissent.

In some ways, the U.S. government’s quest to silence Assange has already succeeded, for the founder of Wikileaks is no longer having any effect on the world, and he has had very little effect since 2018, when his internet access was cut off. From 2011 to 2019, Assange lived in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, having sought asylum there in order to avoid persecution by the U.S. government. He was wrenched from his safe haven in 2019, when the government of Ecuador stopped protecting him and permitted the British government forcibly to remove him from the premises. This appears to have been a case of bribery or threat, and most likely both, given the well-established modes of “persuasion” used by the U.S. superpower to bend lesser powers to its will. Whatever ultimately precipitated his ejection from the embassy, Assange was taken away by agents of the United Kingdom and placed in Belmarsh prison, where he remains today, awaiting the court’s decision on whether to extradite him so that he can be made to stand trial in the United States on charges of espionage.

Assange, an Australian citizen, published troves of secret documents stolen by whistleblowers who wished to illuminate what they took to be malfeasance, both in the Global War on Terror and in the DNC’s (Democratic National Committee) efforts to determine the outcome of the Democratic presidential primary election in 2016. I suspect that, if the extradition quest succeeds, the death knell for Julian Assange will have been not the dissemination of war-related materials, such as the shocking Collateral Murder video showing Reuters journalists “neutralized” in Iraq by soldiers hovering above in an Apache helocopter, but the revelation that the progressive candidate Bernie Sanders never stood a chance against the pre-selected nominee of Democratic Party elites, Hillary Clinton.

I say this because despite the fact that Assange’s asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy was abruptly ended under President Trump, and may well have been a cynical and primarily political ploy to further discredit the already discredited Russian collusion narrative, the Biden administration continues to pursue Assange just as ruthlessly. According to the Russian collusion hoax, which dominated U.S. political discourse for more than three entire years and continues to be discussed by some pundits still today, Trump was elected as the president of the United States in 2016 only because of the Russians. Trump’s election had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Hillary Clinton was an abysmal candidate who haughtily called half the nation “deplorable,” nor because she was a hawk who rallied for the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq, nor because she was instrumental in persuading President Obama to bomb Libya, among other foreign policy disasters to her credit. Just as I doubt that President Biden will pardon whistleblower Daniel Hale, because doing so would tarnish the image of Barack Obama by acknowledging that he lied about the drone program, I doubt that Biden/Harris will drop the charges against Assange, who is blamed by all self-styled right-minded Democrats for the election of Donald Trump.

Whoever shared the DNC email trove with Wikileaks (whether Russian trolls or Seth Rich, the DNC staffer murdered in Washington, DC, on July 10, 2016—or perhaps someone else altogether) the missives clearly revealed to Bernie Sanders voters that they had been played. All of their hours of volunteer work, all of their hard-earned cash donated in small sums to a campaign doomed to fail from the start, were obviously for naught. There can be little doubt that some Sanders supporters declined to vote at all in 2016 after discovering in Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails what had been going on behind the scenes at the DNC. Thousands of registered Democrats left the party in what they hashtagged as a #DEMEXIT protest, and some among them went even so far as to vote for Donald Trump. For this, Assange will never be forgiven by millions of people, some of whom continue to suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) and persist in blaming the Russians for every catastrophe under the sun. Rational people recognize, of course, that if the DNC had not rigged the election, then there would be no reason for their voters to be angered by the primary result. Resolute “I’m With Her” Hillary Clinton supporters are not bothered in the least by the behind-closed-doors shenanigans of the DNC, but only by the fact that they were made public by Wikileaks.

Assange also shared with the public evidence of U.S. war crimes, so one reason his case is rarely mentioned by anyone in the mainstream media is simply that war coverage is slanted to support the U.S. military. Viewed as a simple market-driven problem, the major news channels today are primarily in the business of infotainment rather than journalism, and it seems unlikely that pointing out that taxpayers fund the murder of innocent people abroad could do anything but lower ratings. The networks are obviously more interested in audience satisfaction than truth, as the case of Rachel Maddow illustrates. A judge recently ruled that Maddow is not a journalist but a liberal activist, who offers hyperbole in place of facts and “distorts reality.” This, however, is supposed be fine because her viewers are expected to know that she is not reporting the news but sharing her own often emotional views. During the Trump years, the author of Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power somehow lost the journalistic plot to become Hillary Clinton’s arch apologist, ironically comporting herself in a manner not unlike Alex Jones and abandoning altogether her former role as an antiwar critic. Needless to say, Maddow, in contrast to Jones, has not been deplatformed across the Big Tech outlets and denounced as a lunatic, for she, unlike Jones, is a useful sensationalist, who has come dutifully to serve the establishment.

There was a time, years ago, when Julian Assange was still being discussed quite a bit in the mainstream media, and that initial, propaganda-riddled coverage seems to have got lodged in people’s minds. In my travels around the world, I have been surprised by the responses of people in completely different places to my questions about the founder of Wikileaks. Anecdotally, I can report that there are apparently intelligent, reasonably well-informed people, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and even Assange’s country of citizenship, Australia, who believe that he is an underhanded, morally despicable criminal. This they take to have been demonstrated by the fact that Assange was summoned back to Sweden to answer allegations of rape some years ago but “bolted,” as his critics characterize it, rather than confront his accusers back in 2011.

A decade after Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, it no longer seems to matter to many of those same people that Swedish authorities abandoned the Assange case for lack of evidence to sustain an indictment. The initial portrait painted of Assange, in a very effective discreditation effort, as someone who cowardly evaded justice by hiding out in the embassy, seems to loom larger in many people’s minds than the crimes which he exposed. Needless to say, this morally unsavory portrait was made even uglier to Hillary Clinton Democrats after the leak of DNC emails which most likely did contribute to Donald Trump’s election in 2016, regarded by so many as “unthinkable.”

The Assange haters, in clinging to the image created for them by the media, are either unwilling or unable to consider rational explanations, such as simple prudence, for Assange’s decision to protect himself through seeking political asylum. To offer only one of many possible examples, consider the plight of Michael Hastings, one of the most public antiwar journalists to have emerged on the scene in the twenty-first century and whose work actually ended the career of General Stanley McChrystal. Hastings died under strange circumstances in a single-car automobile accident on June 18, 2013, shortly after having told friends that he was being pursued somehow by the FBI, and also that someone had been tinkering with his car. Suggestions to the effect that there may have been foul play involved were swiftly dismissed, and Hastings has by now been forgotten by all but a few “conspiracy theorists.” But it is a fact that single-car accidents are a specialty of the CIA, and Hastings had picked fights with people in very high places. Indeed, at the time of his death, Hastings was working on an exposé of Obama’s lethal drone czar, John Brennan, who had been confirmed as CIA director on March 8, 2013. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) declined to investigate the case, and Hastings’ wife, Elise Jordan (a former speechwriter for Condoleezza Rice, improbably enough), went out on the media circuit to insist that the death was an accident.

Whatever may or may not have been done to Hastings, the point is that Julian Assange, being acutely aware of what the CIA and its affiliates were capable of doing, acted altogether prudently in protecting himself by seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, and remaining there up until he was forcibly removed. The Collateral Murder video footage, after all, depicted the execution of journalists. Even more ominously, Obama’s expansion of the drone program effectively normalized extrajudicial killing, formerly known as “assassination,” of noncitizens and citizens alike. From the cases of Anwar al-Awlaki, his son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan (editor and publisher of Inspire magazine) there can no longer be any doubt that the U.S. government is willing to kill even its own citizens with no due process whatsoever.

Before being muted and sequestered, Julian Assange, like both Michael Hastings and Anwar al-Awlaki, was a very public and vocal opponent of U.S. military interventions in the Middle East. Once in the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange and his lawyers were spied upon, which surely counts as evidence that his concern for his own safety was sound. Added to that, according to his defense team, there were discussions among Spanish paid operatives about taking Assange’s life while he was living under asylum. Nonetheless, Assange, who has been kept in Belmarsh prison with very little interaction with anyone for more than two years, is being treated as though he were a convicted criminal.

On July 7, 2021, the UK High Court ruled that the U.S. government could continue its quest for extradition, and on August 11, 2021, a judge ruled that Assange will remain in prison while the U.S. government is permitted to expand the grounds for its appeal, having raised doubts about the mental health pretext used in the January 4, 2021, court judgment according to which extradition to a supermax prison in the United States might lead to Assange’s suicide. What is undeniably a concerted effort to muffle the founder of Wikileaks is succeeding, for he continues to be wholly consumed with the matter of his own survival. This despite the obvious violation of procedure through spying on him and his lawyers, and despite the fact that Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, a key witness in the U.S. case against Assange, revealed in an Icelandic newspaper that he had fabricated his story in exchange for immunity offered to him by U.S. authorities.

The U.S. government wishes to try Assange under their expansive interpretation of the 1917 Espionage Act, for having illegally obtained and disseminated top secret U.S. government documents. But surely Assange has neither a legal nor a moral duty to support the government of the United States, least of all when he believes that it regularly commits war crimes, evidence of which he has made public and for which he is now being persecuted. As many critics have insisted, to claim that Assange violated U.S. law by publishing documents obtained and shared by whistleblowers sets a very dangerous precedent by expanding the power of the state to the point of being able to stifle dissent by preventing journalists anywhere from reporting on war crimes committed by governments anywhere. This is a step onto a totalitarian slope, allowing only the state propaganda department to determine what constitute the facts and allowing the government both to deny and to hide all evidence of the government’s own crimes, such as those detailed in the Afghanistan War Diary and the Iraq War Diary published by Wikileaks.

After twenty years of squandered blood and treasure, the U.S. war on Afghanistan ended unceremoniously with the Taliban taking over the country, demonstrating once again, as the saying goes, that Afghanistan is “the place where empires go to die.” Predictably, the major networks have continued to tap the usual suspects, the incompetent war architects themselves, to criticize not the war itself but the manner in which it was ended. While foreign policy experts seem at the moment to be consumed with an ugly blame game, I suspect that the timing of the U.S. withdrawal had more to do with other, more ambitious projects in the works, and in no way reflects an abandonment by political elites of their imperial aims. For it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a vigorous and well-orchestrated effort, in countries all around the globe, to create a different sort of world altogether, one where places such as Afghanistan no longer matter much at all.

Placing the case of Assange into the broader context of ongoing efforts to squelch dissent, it is noteworthy that the Biden administration press secretary, Jen Psaki, recently revealed, in a display of open scorn for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that the government is “working closely with Facebook” to stop the dissemination of what they regard as misinformation. But Psaki herself is open to charges of disinformation, not only about the COVID-19 vaccines, about which she parrots Fauci, claiming a mythical “The Science” as her source of knowledge, but also whenever she speaks about Biden’s predecessor. In an exchange with a reporter over negative vaccine messaging by Biden before becoming president, Psaki quipped, “I would note that at the time, just for context, the former president was also suggesting people inject versions of poison into their veins to cure COVID. So I think that’s a relevant point.” There is no film or document in which Trump tells people to inject themselves with poison or to drink bleach, because he never did.

The Biden Ministry of Propaganda continues nonetheless to keep these tropes alive just as surely as the Bush team continued to pretend that Saddam Hussein really did have WMDs and was somehow in cahoots with Al Qaeda, even as it became increasingly obvious that neither was true. The situation has become far more perilous now, however, for the very future of the republic. The government has long worked closely with the mass media news outlets, especially to promote war, but the very possibility of whistleblowing is in danger of being altogether eliminated as the government works with the Big Tech companies to censor so-called disinformation on the only available alternative news source, the internet. Already in 2021, the U.S. government seized entire websites in Iran, and there is little reason to think that they will stop there. After all, one country’s cyberattack is another country’s national defense.

In her press conference, Psaki was referring to “misinformation” about COVID-19, meaning reports in conflict with the administration’s own narrative, but by the same logic, there could no longer be any dissent from the misadventures of the U.S. military, no matter what they did. Convicting Assange as a spy would likely put an end to what small amount of true journalism continues on today, cementing the current substitution of propaganda for news, with the government granting the government itself the right to black out sites such as Wikileaks altogether. Before sermons by Anwar al-Awlaki were removed from the internet, he was “convicted” of terrorism in the public eye by extrajudicial state execution. If Assange were convicted in a court of law of espionage, then some in the government could be expected to feel justified in erasing every trace of his work from the world.

If the internet, along with the mainstream media, comes to be completely controlled by the government, then dissent will be impossible, and a formerly democratic society will have been transformed into a totalitarian system, where oligarchs determine what may and may not be said, and those who demur are criminalized, not for violent or fraudulent acts, but for disagreeing with “the official story” and standing up for the truth. We have seen how redefining “offense” as “defense” and “bombing” as “humanitarian intervention” were cynical but highly successful ploys to promote the war machine. Those who dare to dissent, like Assange, and manage to do it effectively, are discredited and deplatformed, by hook or by crook.

In the current COVIDystopic climate, even credentialed scientists and doctors are permitted only to parrot the decrees of the government’s small committee of policymakers with clear financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. When they dare to demur, backing up their dissent with data-based research, they are deplatformed. Remarkably, it has become official government policy in many places around the world that healthy people can be criminalized as public menaces and citizens required, on pain of loss of civil liberties, to serve as subjects in experimental trials for medical treatments of which they have no need. Under Obama, the presumption of suspect innocence was perversely inverted to become a presumption of guilt and used as the pretext for executing thousands of persons located outside areas of active hostility. Now we are witnessing an inversion of presumed health to sickness, with citizens being required to demonstrate their vaccination status in order to go about their daily lives. We have seen over a matter of mere months political leaders go from attempting to bribe citizens to undergo experimental vaccination in exchange for lottery tickets, cash payments and free food, to criminalizing their very attempt to conduct their lives peaceably in civil society by attending public events, dining out, using public transport, visiting museums or going shopping.

The Department of Homeland Security recently listed “Opposition to COVID Measures” as one of its “Potential Terror Threats.” What happens next? We know from history that once groups of people are convincingly portrayed by the government as despicable criminals and pariahs, then there is no limit to what “good people” will do to see that they be eliminated, and those who have freely declined the COVID-19 vaccines are now being punished in the cities of Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans, where they are no longer permitted to participate in society. The most frightening aspect of the propaganda campaign currently underway is that it has been propagated through easy-to-parrot soundbites (such as “Listen to The Science!”) which many people, in states of total self-deception, proclaim from the hilltops against what they take to be the unwashed, unvaxxed, unmasked and ignorant enemy. So convinced are compliant citizens by now of their moral righteousness that many of them will not even engage in discussions with those who disagree.

The revelations of Julian Assange, Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Daniel Hale demonstrated for all to see the government’s assertion of the right to kill anyone anywhere, without indictment or trial, on whatever grounds it deems sufficient. Assassination is certainly the most direct and facile way of dealing with dissidents who are articulate enough to defend themselves in a court of law. Anwar al-Awlaki, for example, was able to convey clear, antiwar, anti-imperialist objections to the U.S. government’s fiascos in the Middle East. Rather than allow him to pose an intellectual threat to the official story, by having him stand trial in a court of law, al-Awlaki was summarily silenced for all time through incineration by lethal drone.

Perhaps, then, no one should be surprised by the increasingly aggressive attempts by Western governments to coerce citizens to submit to experimental medical treatments, even while death has been acknowledged to be one of a number of documented side effects. The latest spec sheets for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now include a full paragraph warning about the danger of myocarditis, yet the propaganda campaign to vaccinate young persons at nearly no risk from COVID-19 plows ahead with the CDC now recommending a third “booster” shot for everyone who has already received two shots, regardless of their age or health condition.

As data continues to be amassed, more and more research studies are appearing to vindicate “the quacks” who disagreed early on with the reigning global public health narrative. These studies may be ignored by the Biden administration’s Ministry of Propaganda, but we must patiently await the day when the fear of the virus no longer propels people blindly to follow the government’s arbitrary diktats, nor to pressure their neighbors into doing the same. Public health officials, being political appointees, will not save the world from what looks at this point to be an inexorable march toward totalitarianism. Our last best hope lies in the courts. We must mount lawsuits to defend our civil rights, and we must, along with Julian Assange, cling to our faith that there are still a few sane and rational judges who have not been politically or financially coopted, nor terrorized by the sheer fear of death after a year and half of non-stop propaganda. Those judges will assess the data and side with the truth in defending societies from their bureaucratic tyrants run amok.

About Laurie Calhoun

Laurie Calhoun is the author of We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age, War and Delusion: A Critical Examination, Theodicy: A Metaphilosophical Investigation, You Can Leave, Laminated Souls, and Philosophy Unmasked: A Skeptic's Critique, in addition to many essays and book chapters.

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