WikiLeaks:

Cathy Bannister writes: Re. “Rundle: ringside for Assange’s court appearance, in all its gory detail” (yesterday, item 1). The excitement surrounding WikiLeaks and Julian Assange arises from the decision to release the Iraq and Afghanistan war diaries in such an indigestible quantity.

On the one hand, many (including John Birmingham in The Monthly) have claimed that the names of US coalition collaborators were published in searchable form, putting their lives at risk. John Pilger, speaking a few nights ago on Late Night Live, claimed that no such names have been released, and Assange himself in his piece for The Australian wrote that there was no evidence that anyone had been harmed as a result of the leaks.

Certainly there’s no way anyone without vast knowledge of the war could wade through the great mess of documents and know precisely what was there, or what the consequences might be. This begs the question of Assange’s motivation.

In the late 1980s, I was involved with the early news groups and became friends with the young programmers who were exploring ACSNET and AARNet, the earliest forms of the internet in Australia. It’s possible to imagine the mindset for publishing largely unedited source material might come from someone who formed a morality in the late-80s and early-90s University IT departments, as Assange clearly did.

These people felt that the internet would be a force for equality and justice, and that everyone could have a soapbox. Likewise, they strongly believed code should be open, free and available to all (and this ethos survives in Linux and other open source platforms). The parallels with the decisions behind the war diaries are obvious. The war diaries have been treated as open source code, published freely for anyone to make of what they will.

In comparison the couple of hundred diplomatic cables have been treated completely differently. As has been noted, the content is almost trivial. I mean, Rudd? A workaholic control-freak given to making pronouncements on the fly? Who knew? Berlusconi a womaniser? Better drop that bid for canonisation then. One wonders whether the care given to this release was to try to draw attention away from the mishandling of the publication of the war diaries.

Matthew Lee  writes: Guy Rundle wrote:

“For better or worse, better and worse, Swedish s-x crime law has taken on the values and attitudes of Macquarie University c.1989, in which myriad acts between bodies are constructed as a series of legal permissions. That separates Sweden from the mass of other countries as behaviour that other cultures would see as private exchange becomes public law.”

Does Guy suggest that the law be restricted from concerning whether “myriad acts between bodies” (presumably in the bedroom) are consensual? Would he rather the question of consent be left as a private exchange, out of the reach of public law?

Rundle again:

“The second charge is … ‘having s-x without a condom despite complainant’s earlier expressed unwillingness to do so’ followed later by ‘Charge two, unsafe s-x, does not allege non-consent. It alleges earlier notice of an unwillingness to engage in unsafe s-x, quite a different thing.'”

She expressly made the point that she was unwilling to have unprotected s-x and yet when that happens there’s not a lack of consent? What meaning does “consent” have left? Or do people need to consistently assert their unwillingness/non-consent, i.e. does Guy believe there is ever a presumption to consent? Guy would do well to go back to school on this one, perhaps a class from Macquarie Uni c. 1989 is in order?

“this moment is when the contradictions of second wave feminism are played out to endgame, because feminists will have to choose which side they cleave to — a state prosecuting possible s-x crimes (whose possibility I do not deny), laced into a global power structure, or a radical force holding states to account, and unleashing new forms of social energy and flow that challenge inherited patriarchal structures?”

Why do second wave feminists, or anyone for that matter, have to choose between Sweden’s legal processes (whether you agree with their laws and processes or not) and WikiLeaks continuing to do what they do. Is WikiLeaks about to overturn Sweden’s s-xual consent laws such that this legal action should be suspended till we know the outcome?

I’m pretty sure most people would be able to separate the alleged illegal actions of Assange in Sweden from his role in WikiLeaks, and further to that, separate Assange from WikiLeaks (and everything up to and including the new forms of patriarchy challenging social energy.) In fact it seems to me that the only reason why one wouldn’t be able to do that would be if you thought WikiLeaks was entirely the work of Julian Assange’s p-nis.

Rundle again:

“We’ve seen this before of course — in the period of imperial feminism of the mid 2000s, when numerous liberal feminist commentators took the next step, and committed themselves to imperial wars that they hoped would advance the cause of gender liberation in patriarchal societies.”

Oh yes, because the consensus on George Bush’s foreign policy is that it’s feminism that has a lot to answer for. I’m not trying to say there aren’t any feminists that might’ve looking in a wrong direction then, but why is it only feminism that has to fix itself here?

What about entitled privileged dudes who might consider there to be such little difference between protected and unprotected s-x that separate consent need not be considered for the latter?

John Richardson writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Given the pre-emptive strikes made against WikiLeaks by the US government, the words of Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs, US Department of State, in announcing that the US will host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day event in Washington, D.C. next year, are positively laughable.

To quote the good Mr Crowley: “we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor & silence individuals, & to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support & expand press freedom & the free flow of information in this digital age.”

And the US wonders why it has a credibility problem?

Michael R. James writes: To top off a frenetic 24 hour news cycle of the harassment of Julian Assange, nothing was quite as chilling as seeing him being ferried to a gaol cell by a security van sporting a big Serco decal. It is perfect when you think about it.

The huge companies that dominate the internet and its commercial transactions (Amazon, PayPal, Visa, MasterCard) doing the government’s bidding without so much as a D notice. Even Swiss Banks — well, yes that makes sense too when you realize Assange or WikiLeaks don’t have a lazy billion dollars to grease the sweaty avaricious palms of Swiss bankers. Now the world’s favourite policeman, well the private flunkies to whom governments like to outsource their dirty work.

Serco is the company that runs most of the UK’S prisons and also Australia’s refugee detention camps/gulags. I would be pretty sure Serco would be able to handle extraordinary rendition which, no doubt, is excessively profitable.

Unless a division of Halliburton or Blackwater has that market sewn up. Orwell would not be surprised at any of this.

Beryce Nelson writes: Why is the US so paranoid about the information coming out of WikiLeaks? Does it reveal them as foolish or dangerous? No, just naive as usual. To the rest of us the whole WikiLeaks exercise is an ironic statement about the failure of secrecy in this century of instant communication transfer. The US just doesn’t get it.

As for the current attacks on Julian Assange, the best response would be found in the works of Shakespeare. You know the one — tangled webs and all that. When will the US ever learn that deception and brute force will ultimately fail? Both Shakespearean literature and the landscape of human history are littered with perfect examples.

If the UK and Australian Governments continue to be seen as having a part in this shadowy attempt by the US to discredit and silence WikiLeaks by bringing down its founder then the 1000 year English struggle for democracy may well have been for nothing.

I am deeply ashamed of their apparent role in this misuse of the judicial process — and as for Sweden!

Denise Marcos writes: Julian Assange is a clever strategist: he has placed Foreign Minister Rudd in an invidious position. The focus is now on Rudd to ensure he proffers the best support and protection for the world’s highest profile Australian citizen.

Should Rudd appear half-hearted in this matter it would be seen as payback for the uncomplimentary leaks — he has no choice but to give Assange  optimum assistance lest he appear churlish.

Peter Fray

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