by T.P. Wilkinson / Chronicles of anticlericalism
If the circumstances surrounding the seizure of Mr Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London are correctly viewed, that is compared to appropriately comparable phenomena, then what we have is an audacious daylight act of state terrorism, comparable to the routines developed in Vietnam during the war the US waged against that country. Special forces of the State were deployed to “snatch” a person in violation of any due process or other conventions we are told restrict and regulate the exercise of police and judicial power. The fact that he was seized by people in uniform in broad daylight, does not alter the fact that the chain of events which led Mr Assange to seek asylum from the government of Ecuador and its systematic violation by the British government, is consistent with the lawlessness which now prevails when the State attacks its civilian opponents—the organised lawlessness that was called Phoenix. Many readers may well have forgotten how HM Government reacted to an extradition request by the government of Spain, when Augusto Pinochet was whiling on that blessed isle. It has always been unstated policy that asylum is only respected when it serves the designs of the regime. Pinochet was a friend of the regime. Mr Assange is not.
Julian Assange’s case, all nine years of it, can also be seen as a barometer for the policing atmosphere in the Empire. Culminating last year with the election of an army reservist and a general to the Brazilian Executive, the steady suppression of political reform in South America continued unabated while no effort was spared to isolate the Australian heretic. Philip Agee was assigned to Ecuador early in his career. He reported in CIA Diary how long it took then to change the Ecuadorian government, but how it was successful through a combination of bribery and other deceits. Getting an Ecuadorian president, who would agree to rescind Mr Assange’s asylum status long enough for Phoenix to fly into the Knightsbridge embassy, was no uncommon feat, even if it took time.
Mere mortals are fortunate to plan in days or months, a year at the most. However “the privileged few” know that they are part of an immortal institution for which time is just another resource. It is a serious mistake to measure institutional time and individual time with the same watch. What was presented as an almost accidental or fortuitous event was in fact the result of careful planning and coordination—of organisational intelligence. Organisational intelligence means that the institution created is capable of controlling the behaviour of all involved in a process even without conscious or deliberate commands. Mr Assange was declared an enemy and everyone involved knows how his or her particular work is directed to support the attack on the “enemy”. Those managing the Ecuadorian elections do not need to be told that a president who will revoke the London asylum is needed. Those who are charged with seizing Mr Assange know what they need and can see the opportunities. This is also a key purpose of intelligence coordination and exploitation—to assure that local operations benefit from those conceived globally or executed elsewhere.
Julian Assange was seized openly and in broad daylight to permit the regime to present his seizure as an arrest, rather than a kidnapping. The Press—which flatters its participation in state power by calling itself the Fourth Estate—has an important function. Despite some whining about violation of “freedom of speech” or “of the Press” from all the compatible corners of the Mass Media, the actual reporting serves to distract from the key issue which made Mr Assange’s Wikileaks revolutionary (as opposed to some other apparent disclosures): namely that unlike Edward Snowden, and more like Philip Agee, Mr Assange rejected the premise that the State has any right to secrecy at all.
This is not only treasonous (if one accepts any duty of allegiance to the sovereign) but also, heretical. It helps to recall that until the Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church forbade the reading of the canonical texts it called the Holy Bible by anyone not ordained. The Reformation is often trivialised as a few doctrinal changes and the establishment of national churches. However, it took considerable revolt and much violence before ordinary people were allowed to read the works, which ostensibly formed the bedrock of Christendom and Roman Catholic imperial ideology. Wikileaks is fairly compared with the first publications of the canonical texts in the vernacular and their open dissemination without clerical approval or control.
The public performance at the Ecuadorian embassy was designed to give the Press an event—always marketable in itself. There were no doubts some of the “privileged few” would have preferred to send a SEAL Team. However, there is probably a consensus that the executive action against Mr bin Laden was not as successful as intended. Staging the invasion of Ecuadorian sovereign territory (by diplomatic convention) with people dressed as police officers and paramilitary forces (none of whose actual organisational affiliation can be stated with certainty) gave the viewers a treat to “reality TV” version of their favourite vigilante/ cop show.
However it was also staged to give the kidnapping the colour of law—although clearly an illegal act. Moreover it shapes the issue around whether Mr Assange will be treated fairly as a criminal—his criminal status already established by the measures taken to seize him. (Again, recall that Augusto Pinochet was allowed to leave Britain despite a valid British extradition order and he had never requested asylum.) The performance also creates the “legal” position from which the Fourth Estate can reassert itself ritually by claiming that Assange’s seizure was potentially a violation of Press freedom.
First of all there is no such “freedom”. Moreover what is commonly understood as that “freedom” has rarely ever been exercised by nine tenths of those who claim to be the “Press”. The Press is only free by Western definition to the extent that it can be and is owned (by private capital or agents thereof). Free Press is like “free trade” (a concept originating to defend the free trade in African slaves).
Julian Assange– by refusing to recognize State claims to secrecy– performed a revolutionary act. This is what made his work significant and why he ought to be praised and where possible defended. However he cannot be defended by people who are not in some serious sense revolutionaries or sincere sympathisers. (That may even mean that Mr Assange’s defenders too become targets, if only in the “C” category.) The so-called Press or as the truly vain and vacuous are fond of calling it– the Fourth Estate– are merely calling attention to their role in upholding the regime they ostensibly would criticise. In the West the “journalist” has been marketed as a kind of holy person, when in fact the publishing journalist is often a “cleric”, or an advertising hack, or maybe someone who has to produce the “news product” with which the Fourth Estate (the propaganda industry) maintains the Establishment and its control over the system.
Gerald Horne’s suggestion that the Enlightenment “freedoms” were essentially articulated to create an ideology for white supremacy and private ownership of non-whites goes far toward explaining the contradiction in which these “lefties” find themselves. If one really treats information as public domain and denies the State’s right to secrecy (secrecy claimed to protect “interests”) then one strikes at one of the main pillars that supports the ideology of “freedom” for whites and slavery for the rest. The “interests” that the State ostensibly protects are the desire to retain and expand the private property owned by those who own the State. Today one State on this planet claims and defends its national sovereignty, denying all others, as an exclusive and globally enforceable prerogative—it is the sovereignty over the entire “owned” world and no one else has a right to property beyond the white elite by and for whom that State was constituted.
That State includes most of what is called the Press, concentrated as it is in some five global media corporations.
The fact that the Press is a business that trades in data, variously called information, advertising, etc., means that to publish beyond the Press– as Assange did– is to challenge the ownership of information, the propaganda of property, and the privilege of those who serve these institutions calling themselves “journalists”.
There are workers in the Mass Media, in the Press as a whole. Like most of the nuns and monks in the Middle Ages, they are often exploited labour for the benefit of the higher clergy. They are essentially workers. Workers cannot be faulted for defending their livelihood. Like any peasant or factory worker, they earn wages but do not own their product (a relationship protected by the modern intellectual property regime). It may be a tragedy when a strike is defeated and workers are forced to return to labour just to feed themselves and their families. However it is quite different when one watches out the top floor office window at the strikebreakers in action, waxing sentimentally that one is also a “worker”.
Julian Assange’s seizure, his kidnapping by forces of the State is not an assault on the Press. The Press is owned and managed by those who comprise that very State. The “freedom” of which Mr Assange is being deprived is his humanity. By suggesting that this is an attack on supposed “freedom of the Press” attention is being distracted (one of the jobs of the Press and its functionaries) from the crimes against humanity upon which the regime has always been based. Wikileaks breached the wall which had allowed “media courtiers” to hide their knowledge of State crimes. It validated the practice of viewing “state secrets” and deciding for oneself what the State was doing. The Press was created to praise and protect those crimes– crimes committed by Business and the State: by the ruling elite, both individually and collectively– through the manipulation of public consciousness.
The significance of Assange’s Wikileaks was that it opposed the prevailing control of information by the PRESS– through its cadres, often also known as “journalists”. Mr Assange’s release of documents and data produced by the State and the corporations for which it works has been an attempt to prove that there is evidence to discredit and condemn State/ corporate action– that there is malice aforethought. The principle is not just of one but a preponderance of smoking guns that need not be ignored. Unlike the stars of “investigative journalism” who call their selection and censorship “analysis” and deceive the public with celebrity and confidential sources, Wikileak’s sheer volume of documents can be examined without clerical mediation. This could be called a “Reformation” but not the reformation of Luther or Calvin– instead it has the calibre of Thomas Muentzer. No priests, or “stars” are needed at all. Certainly none are needed to establish the facts of a criminal conspiracy so large as US capitalism.
Unfortunately, Thomas Muentzer was murdered and the Peasant Revolt violently suppressed with the enthusiastic support of Martin Luther– the Great Reformer. Luther’s Reformation survived and a new form of state church emerged to compete with Roman Catholicism.
Muentzer’s death did not put an end to peasant revolts. Whatever happens to Julian Assange will surely not end the state of revolt in which the world finds itself now– a revolt against the New Rome on the Potomac. Surely Mr Assange knows that, too. He has given his life in a struggle in which many millions before him have suffered and died. He is not a “journalist” but a revolutionary and a true human being.
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