Patrice Riemens on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 22:31:41 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two,

Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two

The Wikileaks Fracas: senseless challenge - or sensible defiance? (continued)

Back to the Wikileaks Affair. The publication on July 25th 2010, in five
major newspapers (/The New York Times/, /The Guradian/, /Der Spiegel/, /Le
Monde/, /El Pais/) documents on the Afghan War (about murders on
civilians, special 'killer' units against Talibans, double dealings by
Pakistan, etc.) displays the signs of a confused and contradictory
strategy. But at the same time, it also betrays a candid and wholesale
espousal of (the mode of) sensationalist hyperbole which is the hallmark
of the spectacle society. Dispatches followed upon each other for some
months till the end of September 2010, when Wikileaks' German
spokesperson, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, left the organization - or was kicked
out - due to a personal dispute with Julian Assange [60]. And the latter
is now subject to a bench warrant on a double complaint of sexual
misdemeanor in Sweden, and which was converted, as per the Schengen
agreements, in an European arrest warrant in November 2010. [##****].

These allegations (of sexual misconduct) do not shed a very favorable
light on the already controversial figure of Julian Assange, but it is
important to note that the whole fuss took place a frenzied media
spectacle. By delving a little deeper into the matter, one can bring the
more complex aspects of the issue to the fore. Indeed, according to
Swedish law, consensual, but unprotected sex may afterwards be
reformulated as sexual assault if one of the parties asks for a test
regarding sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and the other party
refuses. Since Julian Assange has up to now declined to submit to such a
medical checkup, the accusation has been upheld. But to indulge in sexual
violence, and to refuse to submit to a blood test are two different (kinds
of) offenses [61]. On December 7, 2010, Julian Assange turned himself over
to the London Police. That same day, under pressure of the US Government,
Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, Paypal and Western Union blocked all
money transfers to Wikileaks, and froze its accounts. Julian Assange
remained in prison till December 16. One year later (after a protracted
court case, all the way up to the Supreme Court of the UK -transl) Great
Britain assented to the extradition request by Sweden, which still wanted
to prosecute Julian Assange for sexual offenses. In the meanwhile, in the
United States, a good many conservative politicians pointed to Assange as
an enemy that must be combatted, Sarah Palin wished him dead, and others
asked for a reward, dead or alive. Even among the more progressive
politicians the view prevailed that he is a dangerous terrorist.

Maybe the allegations of sexual assault have been fabricated, but what is
for sure, is that Assange has been widely described as an authoritarian,
paranoid and inflexible personality, entirely unwilling to bear with the
irritations that go with human relationships, being totally engaged in his
own, personal crusade. So here we have yet again a fanatic, and then one
of the more obsessed, representative of /nerd supremacy/. In case you need
more convincing, just read his - unauthorized - autobiography, which came
out in November 2011 [62]. Having spend the advance money on his legal
costs, Assange subsequently tried, but failed to break up the contract
with his editor.

One more thing worth noticing in the Wikileaks affair is what Julian
Assange had to say in an interview with /Forbes Magazine/ in November
2010. He (stated that he) does not consider himself an enemy of the United
States and of capitalism in general, quite the contrary. His remarks on
the issue could not have been clearer: Wikileaks disclosures are meant to
improve markets' information, since perfect markets demand completely
truthful information. This way, people are free to decide on which product
to focus. And he went on to declare his libertarian faith:

"It?s not correct to put me in any one philosophical or economic camp,
because I?ve learned from many. But one is American libertarianism, market
libertarianism. So as far as markets are concerned I?m a libertarian, but
I have enough expertise in politics and history to understand that a free
market ends up as monopoly unless you force them to be free.
WikiLeaks is designed to make capitalism more free and ethical." [63]

Wikileaks' war has caused collateral damages, and made at least one clear
victim: the young American soldier and IT specialist Bradley (now Chelsea)
Manning, who was accused of downloading tens of thousands of secret
documents and to have passed them on to Wikileaks while he was serving as
computer intelligence analyst in Iraq. From November 2010 Bradley - then -
Manning was first detained for 10 months in distinctively inhuman
conditions in Quantico (Virginia) military prison before being transferred
to Fort Lavenworth (Kansas). Activists, lawyers, and noted personalities
in the art and culture sphere have staged protests the world over against
the barbarous treatment of the 'spy' Manning, whose precise responsibility
is still largely debatable [65]. Some people have called her/him a hero,
and her/his name was put forward for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. But
(in any case) her/his sad story shows that frontal opposition (to the
powers that be) is just a little tolerated in the digital realm as it is
in the real world. Denouncing the opacity of power in favor of
transparency within a mode of operation borrowed from war and spectacle is
the exact opposite of what would/should be the concrete struggle for
freedom, understood as the  extension of the sphere of autonomy, both
personal and collective.

(to be continued)
Next time: more on Wikileaks and other -leak sites

. . . . . . . . . .
[60] see  for a concise
story. Daniel Domscheit-Berg is now member of the (German) Pirate Party:
[##****] I have tightened up the legalese as of the original, which was a
bit dubious, speaking of 'rape', and Swedish 'arrest' warrant (Assange is
merely summoned to appear before a magistrate - in Sweden), since I
believe it is important to have the legal aspects of the procedure right
in order to arrive at a proper appreciation of Assange's locus standi -
and of his conduct in this.
This note applies to the rest of the book, where the Assange vs Swedish
justice is concerned.
See for Swedish law on sexual assault:
and on the Swedish case against Julian Assange:
[61] The affair is muddled, since both women lodged a complaint at the
same time [not so, since both women became acquainted when one shared her
'experience' with the other, which convinced them to go together to a
magistrate - transl.]. The documents of the Swedish police were published
by The Guardian "10 days in Sweden. The full allegations against Julian
Assange" December 17, 2010:
[62]  Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography, Cannongate Books, 2011:
[63] Forbes Magazine, November 29, 2010:
[64] See Bruce Akkerman & Yochai Benkler, "Private Manning's Humiliation",
?The New York Review of Books/, April 2011:
Meanwhile Bradley-Chelsea Manning's first trial has taken place since this
book was written (and so did the first name change). Manning was found
guilty on nearly all counts of indictment and condemned to a 35 years
prison term (report in the NYT:
You can write her:

Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
( - Dutch site)
( - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy

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