The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Assange, Wikileaks, and Shooting the Messenger

Julian Assange

So, as you have probably heard, Ecuador, which is housing Julian Assange in its London embassy, has restricted all communication by him to outsiders, save his lawyers. No visitors, no phone, no email.

They have even gone so far as to install radio jammers.

The proximate cause of this is that Assange supported Catalan independence and Spain is furious.

The Intercept has a long piece on Assange’s silencing by Ecuador, and I’d appreciate it if you read it. (The debunking of the “Catalan independence is caused by Russia” is particularly necessary in these hysterical days.)

I’m aware that a lot of people, and especially these days, a lot of left-wingers who loved him when he was goring right-wingers other than Hillary Clinton, hate him, but this is ludicrous.

Catalan independence has a long history in Spain.

And, more to the point, it is legitimate to support people’s right to vote themselves out of countries they don’t want to be in. You may not agree with that, you may think people shouldn’t have the right of self-determination, but it’s a strongly ethical position with a lot of support.

To silence someone for speaking such an opinion is pathetic, and that it is done due to obvious political pressure doubly so.

Wikileaks has been a net positive for the world. A lot of people don’t believe this, but in almost all cases that comes down to disliking WHO Wikileaks has hurt with particular revelations.

Like it or not, the DNC leaks were legitimate news: The DNC interfered in the Democratic primaries to help one candidate, and people should know that–that information is in the public interest.

If you don’t want to be outed for doing shitty things against the public interest, don’t do them. And if doing shitty things against the public interest helps you lose an election you should have won, well, Jesus, do I have to spell this out further?

Meanwhile, the DNC has decided to sue Wikileaks for publishing the DNC material–material that was clearly in the public interest. (Also the Russian government, Trump, yadda, yadda).

Again, hate Wikileaks or not, publishing the material in question (and the DNC does not claim that Wikileaks participated in the hack) is a legitimate journalistic enterprise, well-covered by the freedom of the press.

Folks, rights do not belong only to people you like for ends with which you agree. That’s why they are rights.

As for the DNC and the Democratic party, their continued desire to blame everyone but themselves for their loss in 2016 bodes ill. Oh, they’ll be back in power in this years mid-terms, and possibly in 2020, but that will remain all they can do: Win when Republicans shoot themselves in the foot.

Remember that 2008 was Democrats to lose, Republicans were reviled. (And, though people forget it, for over a month towards the end of the campaign, Obama was behind. He did his best to lose it.) Then, while Obama stayed in power, Republicans took most State houses, governorships, and both the House and Senate.

Now I hear squealing about how Sanders shouldn’t run in 2020. The reason given is rarely just his age (which is a legitimate concern), it’s usually something like “some of his followers say nasty things” and “he’s divisive.” This is amusing, because he’s the most popular politician in the country; he regularly polls as beating Trump by the largest margin of any likely 2020 Democratic candidate, and yeah, if you care, he is more popular with blacks and women than he is with white males.

Assange is a side-issue. A bogeyman. And for all that Russia did some stuff, so is Russia. US pathologies originate in the US–at most they are taken advantage of by outsiders. The same is true of Spain.

Shoot the messenger, if you must, the message remains the same. Clean your house.

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Open Thread


Centrist Elites: Please Save Democracy from Democracy


  1. jo6pac

    I love dnc just when you think they can’t become a bigger loser tribe they do. I can’t wait until they lose the next election.

    I do wish Julian Assange could get out from under Amerikas thumb.

  2. Tom

    The center can not hold any longer. The unwillingness to just sacrifice a small bit of comfort to prevent a gaping wound has led to this.

    If the Catalonians turn to revolt and the Basque jump back in, Spain could very well shatter.

  3. NR

    I would have no problem with Bernie Sanders running for president in 2020, I think he’s an important voice (though it would be better to have a younger politician take up his cause I think). But you shouldn’t point to polls this far out as if they mean anything; at this stage, they are based on name recognition and nothing more.

  4. Tom R

    Hi Ian,

    I’m glad you’re feeling better.

    With regards to: “it is legitimate to support people’s right to vote themselves out of countries they don’t want to be in.”

    Would you apply this to the US southern Confederacy in 1861? I’m not trying to play Gotcha. I’m trying to understand to how this applies. Does this right have to be democratically voted, not just brought about by warlords or oligarchs?

  5. Olivier

    I think you are out of line here. The ecuadoran context surrounding Assange is very peculiar. Assange owes everything to Ecuador, which went to extreme lengths to preserve his freedom (that he is a virtual prisoner in the ecuadoran embassy is the fault of the UK, not Ecuador). That puts Assange personally, if not Wikileaks, in the debt of the ecuadoran government, with an obligation to be sensitive and mindful of ecuadoran interests. It appears he has not done that. Given the circumstances I find the reaction of Ecuador mild and restrained.

    You, on the other hand, seem to believe that even though he is an unwieldy guest of the ecuadoran government, he enjoys a God-given right to act as he pleases and, in particular, cause any amount of trouble to his host. That’s putting politics and ideology before civility.

  6. Assange has done more than just oppose Hillary – he has got into bed with Trump, on more than a few occasions. The thing is, he has paid a lot for this move when other people have not (Macron, for example.) He may take positions that are questionable, but so have many others.

    The real question is “Is this an appropriate level?” The answer is no, not even close.

  7. Damn fools are already talking themselves into running Clinton again.

  8. Ian Welsh

    I often put politics and ideology before civility. Civility is good, but it does rank rather lower than a lot of other priorities.

    Situations aren’t always clear cut. But secession because you want to keep some people in slavery seems pretty dubious to me and as I understand the evidence, that seems to have been the primary cause of Southern secession.

    Where situations become tricky is where things are mixed. Since I know Canada best, I’ll use Quebec as an example. When Quebec joined Canada it was a lot smaller. A lot of Federal (N. American) land to the north was added to it. The people who live in those places don’t want to leave Canada, but the bulk of the population, who live closer to the US border, do.

    As badly as Canada treats N. Americans (very badly), the Federal government is still not as bad as the Quebec government (if you know anything, you’ll know how great an indictment this is.)

    So, then, if Canada is divisible, is Quebec? But Quebec makes a lot of $$ from that northern land now, thru hydropower, which it sells to New York. It’d be a LOT poorer without it.

    Back when Quebec secession seemed likely, I know a lot of people who were willing to fight a war over that land, even if they didn’t care about central Quebec. (And then there are the transit rights for the St. Lawrence Seaway, and so on…)

    As for the South, if slavery hadn’t been involved, I’d say “let them go”, they’d have been happier, and the remaining US would have been better off, in my opinion. A festering wound, the real cultural differences between South and North are.

    But, in any case, I didn’t say Assange was right (although I tend towards his view). I said that his position is unexceptionable and surely within the normal range of discourse.

    The reason, of course, is that if you make peaceful secession impossible, you make violent secession attempts rather likely.

  9. Hugh

    Bernie Sanders is way too old to be President. He’s currently 76 and would be 5 or 6 thousand years old by 2020. I think the Democrats should go with someone younger –like Joe Biden who is only 75 and would be only 36 or 37 by 2020.

    Personally, I think the Democratic lawsuit is a great idea. If you are a party which doesn’t stand for anything and your grand strategy is to run as Republican lite, it is entirely understandable that you would want to do everything you can to divert your base’s attention by beating as many dead horses as you can. I mean just because Hillary Clinton was a shit awful candidate who ran an Al Gore level dreadful campaign and managed to lose to a self-caricature of a demented narcissistic psychopath it is clear that her loss by definition could not be her or the Democratic party’s fault.

    Throwing Assange into the mix I see as the Democratic party’s version of outreach to progressives who have no problem with Assange or wikileaks, you know as in reaching out and hitting them over the head with it. As a progressive, I gave up on the Democrats years ago. I see the current Democratic antics as both comedic and creepy by turns and completely typical of the apparatchiks who run the party, and really not that much different than the Republicans in that regard.

  10. When asked about my long-running effort to bring greater public recognition to Cascadia as a unique georegion not “of” North America but the rubble, the deteris, built up over ninety million years of the Pacific and North American continents colliding with each other and how I feel about secession, I call it a boonedoggle, a waste of energy and effort, of time and money. Energy and effort, time and money better spent getting a hold of ourselves by the bootstraps and being prepared to keep on keeping on when the “central” governments three thousand miles away on the opposite coast of a continent we’re not even a part of inevitably collapses. We are the hinterlands. We will not be foremost in their minds as everything around them burns. We need to be prepared to take care of ourselves without the “benefit” of a “central” government, benefits we barely enjoy now.

  11. tony

    Slavery was not really the core of the issue for the South. The North made it the issue because it gave them moral high ground.

    The Southern system would have functioned without slavery, however it could not function under the trade policy desired by the industrial North.

    Not that it matters. The Southern policy regardless of slavery was an oppressive free trade regime that would keep the majority impoverished and made slavery a viable institution. And the Northern soldiers did fight to free the slaves.

    Also if we take democracy seriously we might not care too much about the decisions made by slave owning oligarchs. The secession was meant to protect the oppressive system that kept all the poor down.

  12. nihil obstet

    Black out the names referring to currently living people, and you’d think this was all written in the early 1950s. The godless commies who are trying to take over the world use every sneaky trick there is. For a while, it looked like the collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest disaster the Washington D.C. power players had encountered. But then they created the war on terror to insure the continued growth of the police state, and without the commies to have to fight with propaganda, the workers in the capitalist countries could be immiserated. But then, it’s hard to depict everything that people might agree with as emanating straight from crazy bearded terrorists. You need the “You’re being manipulated by sneaky enemies, so forget them and believe what we tell you” narrative to keep people in line. So we’re back to the Russians, who are infiltrating everywhere! Everywhere, I tell you!!!

    I wonder how when our leaders will notice that capitalism is once more losing the propaganda battle, or if they feel they even need to care.

  13. highrpm

    political theater. wikileaks is the longest running show in washington.

  14. VietnamVet

    The Gettysburg Address is clear. It spells out the justification for the sacrifice; “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” America’s history is papered over. It is never acknowledged that this is a settler state that seized land from the natives or that the Southern States fought to preserve plantation oligarchy rich from human slavery.

    There has been no moral basis for the any of the American wars since WWII. In fact, similar to the South in the American Civil War, the forever wars are being fought to preserve a late-stage global Oligarchy that doesn’t give a damn who is killed or maimed.

  15. Hugh

    “Slavery was not really the core of the issue for the South.”

    The hell it wasn’t.

  16. Charlie

    “Folks, rights do not belong only to people you like for ends you agree with. That’s why they are rights.

    This really can’t be written or said enough.

  17. Jib Halyard

    Who exactly is silencing Assange?
    He’s perfectly free to walk out of the Ecuadorian Embassy anytime he wants.

  18. Ché Pasa

    We deal with these kinds of fictions all the time.

    Assange was never that “loved” by the left, not even by the pseudo-left. There was something more than a little off about him and Wikileaks from the outset. Skepticism about him and his operation was mandatory, and it was much more widespread than is generally acknowledged.

    One of the first things noted was that Assange was in the marketing business, not the “leaking” business. A great deal of Wikileaks’ work product has long since been forgotten, and a lot of it has been a “dump” to be endlessly sorted through for… something… if that’s what you want to do. Most people don’t, surprisingly enough.

    Assange has always had an… interesting… political point of view, and it has never been particularly aligned with the left of any variety. He’s more libertarian-rightist. Much like an early champion of his, Glenn Greenwald. The adoption and promotion of Assange by leftish bloggers means very little when it comes down to it.

    Another thing was that there was always some muttering in the background that Wikileaks and Assange might be black ops, operating as a honeypot for… some not benign interests. The Bradley/Chelsea Manning capture, imprisonment and court martial after the leak of sensitive material — much of which wasn’t classified — raised red flags about what was really going on. The Adrian Lamo thing sure didn’t help clarify matters.

    Assange is a guest of the Ecuadorian embassy, and as a guest, he can either follow whatever rules they set — or leave. Nothing prevents him from leaving the embassy whenever he wants, but part of his own narrative is that he can’t leave because somebody will arrest him and render him for torture or worse. Dramatic, sure, but highly unlikely.

    He hasn’t been silenced. But he no longer has the platform he was used to. No doubt he can adapt.

  19. different clue

    The DC FedRegime would like to get its hands on Assange so they can either Padillafy him or Guantanamize him. He is free to walk out of the Ecuadorean Embassy and into the strong claws of the DC FedRegime any time he wants to. Or he is free to not do so.

    He does seem to be a malicious troll at times, though. For example, he set back the hopes of combatting Global Warming by many years when he released the so-called “climate-gate” emails.
    He was smart enough to know that the Merchants of Carbon would weaponise these emails to stop the advance toward solving the carbon skydumping problem and de-warming the global.

    Runaway global warming to Condition Venus may be a part of Assange’s longest term legacy.

  20. Hugh

    Assange is “perfectly free to walk out of the Ecuadorian Embassy anytime he wants.”

    Ten points to Jib for the best Orwellian contribution: equating freedom with submission to a rigged system. Freedom is slavery, right, Jib?

  21. XFR

    Nothing prevents him from leaving the embassy whenever he wants, but part of his own narrative is that he can’t leave because somebody will arrest him and render him for torture or worse.

    Shades of how the WaPo denounced Assange for his “paranoia” in thinking the U.S. was behind his Interpol warrant–and in the very self-same editorial denounced Ecuador for interfering with U.S. interests by giving him sanctuary.

    If I ever had any doubts about what you really were, Che, you’ve quite thoroughly dispelled them now.

  22. Jib Halyard

    Presumably he will be arrested on his still outstanding warrant the minute he steps out the front door. At which point he will be entitled to a fair and open trial, just like anyone else charged with a crime in a Western country.
    And if the Americans also turn up with a warrant, then they too will have to afford him his day in court. With a lawyer and everything.
    A much better deal than Assange’s sugar-daddy Putin gives his opponents before bringing out the Novichok. Do you really not see the difference here?
    You might want to rethink your definition of “Orwellian”.

  23. Ché Pasa

    Glenn Greenwald used something of the same “paranoid” ploy regarding living in Brazil.

    He said that without guarantees that he wouldn’t be arrested (for the Edward Snowden thing) he couldn’t return to the United States. Before that, he said he lived in Brazil because the US wouldn’t allow his partner David Miranda to come to the US as his spouse .

    But then there was the Pulitzer and Laura’s Oscar — and suddenly these issues became inoperative, and Glenn has been picking up accolades and been on speaking tours in the US ever since, never once subjected to the arrest and imprisonment he had said he so feared.

    In my view, Assange is in something of the same position. He says he can’t leave the embassy for fear of arrest and rendition, and he won’t leave unless he gets guarantees of his liberty. No one in authority can or will give him those guarantees, but at least the Swedish case is no longer pending.

    Glenn never got guarantees of liberty either, but he’s certainly been able to travel and speak freely, with and without David’s company. He made the most of his presumed predicament, though, didn’t he?

    It’s theater.

  24. nihil obstet

    And if the Americans also turn up with a warrant, then they too will have to afford him his day in court. With a lawyer and everything.

    Will he be treated as well as Chelsea Manning, who was held for nearly a year without charges, and altogether 3 years prior to trial in conditions that the UN Special Rapporteur on torture called “cruel, inhumane, and degrading” and which nearly 300 members of the academic legal community called “degrading and inhumane pretrial punishment”. Manning subsequently received a sentence that was universally condemned as excessive even for the charges that were prosecuted. Since Assange isn’t an American citizen, he probably wouldn’t be treated that well.

    Treatment of U.S. citizens who are whistleblowers has been sufficiently in conflict with the claimed protection of the laws to give anyone cause to fear being subject to a government that has acted in ways that show vindictiveness with extreme cruelty.

  25. Ian Welsh

    In fact there have been high profile cases where people have been seized when they entered or traveled in America. They aren’t hard to find, so if you don’t know about them, you don’t want to.

    As for Assange very high profile people, including in government, have said they want him. Again, this is simple to know, and if you don’t know about them, you don’t want to.

    I don’t think I would have played Assange’s hand the way he did, but his fears aren’t unfounded. Especially if you know what has happened to some prisoners in US prisons. Again, these are high profile cases, so if you don’t know about them, you don’t want to. I find it hard to believe that any habitue of left wing blogs doesn’t know of them.

  26. Jib Halyard

    @nihil obset,
    Is a civilian like Assange subject to US military law? There’s your answer right there.

  27. Ché Pasa

    Remember, Assange’s would-be protector lives from time to time in the White House. His fears of rendition, torture, endless incarceration, disappearance, etc. go back to the Bush/Cheney regime. The Bush/Cheney regime has been out of office for almost a decade.

    There is little doubt that he faces some jeopardy — legal or otherwise. Anyone with his… profile… is subject to state scrutiny, don’t you think? Goes with the territory.

    But I think he and his supporters have vastly overblown the nature of that jeopardy, and they’ve done so for effect.

    As I say, theater.

  28. nihil obstet

    Jib, is a foreigner like Assange on foreign soil subject to U.S. secrecy laws?

  29. different clue

    Clinton fully supported / supports the Bush/Cheney agenda for what to do with Assange if the DC FedRegime authorities can ever get their hands on Assange. Millions of Jonestown Clinties
    talk about Assange the Putin Catspaw on their Jonestown Clintie blogs.

    Obama persecuted more whistleblowers than all the Presidents before him combined. So all the Mainstream Democrats share the Bush/Cheney agenda for Assange.

    Eventually the world establishments will neutralize Assange, either by freezing him in place or kidnapping him for extraordinary rendition and guantanamization, or straight-up assassination . . . if they think they can figure out how to make it look like an illness or an accident.

    When that happens, we will see if wikileaks became a real movement and a real organization, or whether it never became anything more than a worshipful cult extension of Assange the Great Leader.

  30. Jib Halyard

    @nihil obstet

    There is a reason countries have extradition treaties.
    Which provide for hearings. At which Assange will have every right to defend himself.

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