I’m reading a New Yorker profile published in 2010, written by Raffi Khatchadourian, titled ‘No Secrets.’ About halfway through the article, I’m hearing about Julian Assange’s thoughts on a conference organized by the Australian Institute of Physics, a bunch of “career physicists,” Julian says, “the body of which were sniveling fearful conformists of woefully, woefully inferior character.”
Over the years, I’ve found conformity and limp-wristed character is not exclusive to the Australian Institute of Physics but rather the whole world seems to be full of the same sad compliance. Pretty much every academic conference or literary festival I’ve attended has provided a one-stop shop for displays of unthinking conventional reverence.
Following this statement, Khatchadourian writes how, ‘[Julian] had come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution.’ Julian Assange’s activism now sees him challenging the power structures that control our world; the institutions that shape our politics, write our policies and move the very landscape of our culture.
Let’s never forget that fighting injustice and exposing corruption in the early twenty-first century led to unlawful detainment, sex assault allegations, and Hilary Clinton’s chilling proposal of an all-out drone strike. One serious question that should concern all of those involved in politics right now is, who will be remembered for defending Julian’s freedom of speech?
Exposing war crimes once made Assange a darling of The Left, especially where anti-war advocacy was concerned. More recently, however, Assange has found collusion with political figures we traditionally associate with Right-wing Populism, such as Nigel Farage, with both men remaining likeminded in their shared criticisms of the European Union, an institution with neo-liberal leanings. The Clinton emails, at the peak of the presidential race, continued to damage Julian’s reputation with the popular Left.
Consequently, on April 5, 2018, an open letter appeared at Counterpunch.org, titled ‘The Isolation of Julian Assange Must Stop.’ The letter, signed by everyone from Pamela Anderson to Noam Chomsky, stated that ‘if there is no freedom of speech for Julian Assange, there is no freedom of speech for any of us — regardless of the disparate opinions we hold.’
The emphasis of this statement finds momentum in the phrase, ‘disparate opinions we hold’ since we’re currently operating in a political landscape where people care more about opposing disparate politics than they do about supporting basic human rights.
Instead of worrying about blue versus red, we should be concerned about individual versus institution – a battle that is fought at a higher level than the level of the democratic process. It’s certainly a battle that is fought at a level that is higher than the process of political point-scoring that characterises the popular media trends we see.
Ultimately, we must break free from the shackles of our own fearful conformism. We must begin to show our own unified support for Julian Assange or risk abandoning even more ground to The Right.