Newspapers and other media in the United States, Britain and Australia have recently declared a passion for freedom of speech, especially their right to publish freely. They are worried by the “Assange effect”.
It is as if the struggle of truth-tellers like Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning is now a warning to them: that the thugs who dragged Assange out of the Ecuadorean embassy in April may one day come for them.
A common refrain was echoed by the Guardian last week. The extradition of Assange, said the paper, “is not a question of how wise Mr. Assange is, still less how likable. It’s not about his character, nor his judgement. It’s a matter of press freedom and the public’s right to know.”
What the Guardian is trying to do is separate Assange from his landmark achievements, which have both profited the Guardian and exposed its own vulnerability, along with its propensity to suck up to rapacious power and smear those who reveal its double standards.
The poison that has fueled the persecution of Julian Assange is not as obvious in this editorial as it usually is; there is no fiction about Assange smearing faeces on embassy walls or being awful to his cat.
Instead, the weasel references to “character” and “judgement” and “likeability” perpetuate an epic smear which is now almost a decade old. Nils Melzer, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, used a more apt description. “There has been,” he wrote, “a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing.” He explains mobbing as “an endless stream of humiliating, debasing and threatening statements in the press”. This “collection ridicule” amounts to torture and could lead to Assange’s death.
Having witnessed much of what Melzer describes , I can vouch for the truth of his words. If Julian Assange were to succumb to the cruelties heaped upon him, week after week, month after month, year upon year, as doctors warn, newspapers like the Guardian will share the responsibility.
A few days ago, the Sydney Morning Herald’s man in London, Nick Miller, wrote a lazy, specious piece headlined, “Assange has not been vindicated, he has merely outwaited justice.” He was referring to Sweden’s abandonment of the so-called Assange investigation.