2019 is a time when we’re supposed to have always been at war with Russia, when those who hold incorrect thoughts are Russian propagandists who should be censored for spreading “fake news,” and when the crimes that political prisoners are accused of become real simply because the official consensus says they are. In this world, heroes like Julian Assange are turned into the most heinous villains imaginable through media narrative control and the actions of corrupt courts.
Assange is arguably the biggest enemy of the global oligarchy, because he’s created a tool for exposing high-level corruption that continues to regularly do PR damage to governments and corporations. And the power structure’s means for retaliation have been to smear him, and to target him with misuse of the law at every opportunity. In fact, it’s not hyperbolic to say that the operation to take down Assange has driven society in a more totalitarian direction than it’s already been heading.
Show trials, where the government theatrically convicts people for crimes they haven’t committed, are a classic feature of dictatorships. Examples range from the Nazi People’s Court, where prisoners frequently had charges leveled against them without being able to defend themselves, to the extrajudicial arrests and assassinations that the United States has engaged in throughout the War on Terror. The persecution of Assange and other whistleblowers is taking America to a point where the state can treat dissidents the way that they were treated under the Third Reich.
As a U.N. panel found in 2016, Assange was being arbitrarily detained in the Ecuadorian embassy throughout his time there, with threats of prosecution giving him no choice but to stay confined in a legal refuge. During this time, his health deteriorated dangerously because he was denied access to medical treatment. He was kept in this situation as governments around the world continued to threaten him with prosecution, and as media outlets throughout the West harmed his chances for freedom by directing a politically motivated smear campaign against him. The most damaging piece of slander that these outlets have directed against Assange is the claim that WikiLeaks got Democratic National Committee emails from Russian hackers in 2016, a now thoroughly debunked lie that’s been floated as a route for prosecuting him.
Since the U.S. pressured and, through the International Monetary Fund, bribed Ecuador to force Assange out of the embassy last month, several of the popular slanders against him have been used. The U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) initial charge against him was transparently bogus; the Trump administration’s claim that Assange deserves prosecution for “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” comes from the same charge that Obama’s DOJ considered using against him, and decided the charge was legally insufficient for treating someone as a criminal. Last month, it was also revealed that the DOJ is investigating Assange for “obtaining and disseminating secret information,” an espionage crime that’s punishable by death. If these charges are carried out, both government leakers and their publishers will be subject, through precedent, to a dictatorial new legal paradigm where revealing the secrets of the powerful is punishable, potentially by execution.
Additionally, two weeks ago Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks for a bogus bail charge, with the Judge Deborah Taylor telling him upon his sentencing: “Your continued residence in the Embassy has necessitated a concentration of resources, and expenditure of £16 million of taxpayers’ money in ensuring that when you did leave, you were brought to justice.”
Taylor was deliberately misrepresenting the truth in order to exacerbate the charges against Assange. It was the British government’s decision to intensely police the area surrounding the embassy while Assange was being arbitrarily detained, and Assange couldn’t conceivably be held responsible for the resources they wasted.
Also reflective of a show trial has been Sweden’s suppression of vital evidence that Assange did not, in fact, commit rape. Even though texts from the women he slept with include “I did not want to put any charges against JA” and “it was the police who fabricated the charges,” Sweden has reopened its rape case against Assange. Assange will now get a secret trial with no jury once he’s likely extradited, at which point he’ll no doubt be “found guilty” of this and other fictitious crimes.
Assange’s persecution is resulting in the targeting of additional people who’ve been “implicated” in the series of spectacular misdeeds that WikiLeaks has been charged with. Chelsea Manning has just gone back to jail a second time for her refusal to testify about WikiLeaks, and the Swedish programmer Ola Bini was arrested last month for his associations with Assange. Ecuadorian officials made it so that Bini’s arrest warrant read “Russian hacker” even though he is neither Russian nor a hacker. They have baselessly charged him with “participation in the crime of assault on the integrity of computer systems” and attempts to destabilize the country, and claimed that he was attempting to flee the country in the wake of Assange’s arrest even though he’d been planning his flight to Japan long before that point.
All of these moves are characteristics of a totalitarian society. Disfavored individuals are arrested for crimes they haven’t committed, numerous people surrounding them are deemed guilty by association, and the public is made to accept the government’s absurd narratives. We are all Julian Assange. We’re all living under the boot of the Orwellian oligarchy that’s ensnared him and his colleagues.
At least Assange has been able to incorporate this final stage of his show trial with an aspect of stylish irony. When he left the embassy, he was seen holding a worn copy of Gore Vidal’s book “History of the National Security State.”
The transcript of Vidal’s political discussions with Real News Network founder and journalist Paul Jay, which Assange was evidently reading before and after his arrest, includes this passage:
There is nothing in our history to guide us; we’ve never been in this situation in which one gang basically has seized power. We’ve been very lucky: never — we’ve had dictators before. Lincoln was a dictator, but he was a dictator of the republic. The republic still stood when he was dictator, and we needed him. Franklin Roosevelt was a dictator, and we needed him. And they were — only briefly were they dictators. Now we have a dictatorial system, as best personified by the USA Patriot Act, which just removes us of our Bill of Rights. This is the most serious thing that has happened in the history of the United States, and how we get out of it’s anyone’s guess.
By choosing to hold the book at that moment, Assange was trying to give people this message. The message that tyranny has taken over, and that we need to fight back. Let’s find out how we can do that.