Thursday, April 11, 2019

Assange is (also) a terribly treated hero

I just independently used the same noun as Pamela Anderson, it turns out

Julian Assange has spent seven years at Ecuador's embassy in London. The new leader of the Latin American country Mr Lenin [no kidding] Moreno has never liked him too much so he abolished the asylum today. He could have allowed Assange to quickly run to another embassy but instead, he invited the British cops to the embassy – to the Ecuador's territory – and they dragged Assange to a British jail by force.

The event was probably ignited by a U.S. extradition request. In America, Assange faces a risk of death penalty for his publication of classified documents.

Clearly, Assange has been an insightful and important man – I've liked some tweets of his – but he's been also breaking some laws. Hacking computers must be treated as a crime and investigated, I think, and the same holds for the distribution of classified information and other things. In Sweden, he is also accused of rape.

So some investigation probably has to take place. On the other hand, Assange has been so much more. He has founded WikiLeaks and this computer system – with sophisticated tricks to cover the leakers and sources etc. – has allowed the global public to learn many things that the public simply should know. For example, in Iraq, the U.S. Army has committed "collateral murders" of Iraqi civilians.

This is just one example among many for which Assange would deserve at least a Pulitzer prize. Many of these findings are profound and Assange has surely been one of the world's most important discoverer of carefully hidden inconvenient truths.

Britain pledges not to extradite him to the U.S. if the death penalty risk persists but I am not sure whether Britain may be trusted when it says such things. OK, despite the mixed heritage of Assange, today's event is just another major example of the present world's brutal fight against the propagators of inconvenient truths and against the freedom of expression in general.

Assange has sacrificed his life's comfort and health, so far, to his mission. He has surely turned into a white-haired (and bearded) man prematurely. Some organs of his have problems. The embassy wasn't a terribly convenient, large, or safe place to live for 7 years, you know. Edward Snowden, another guy doing remotely similar things, just moved to Russia. To say the least, Russia is larger than the embassy (and than Ecuador or the U.S. or any other country, for that matter). Well, I think it's also safer and happier than people imagine. From his comfy Russian home, Snowden has called today a dark moment for press freedom.

It's one of the signs of the new, reversed era that Russia is a relative safe haven for those who speak the truth. And it seems clear to me that e.g. Theresa May's anti-Assange excitement is at least partially driven by her and British Russophobia. Even a neutral person like Assange may be considered "correlated with Russia" and this correlation is apparently enough for some people to do steps that threaten his very survival. That's so very unfortunate.

Maria Zakharova's, Lavrov's ministry's spokeswoman, said that the "hand of democracy is choking the neck of freedom". Poetic.

So while he should be tried, if I were in a committee, I would give Assange the Pulitzer and other prizes. If I were a relevant president, I would pardon him. He has used problematic tools but the overall sign of his contribution has been pretty clearly positive. I think that the future history books will be able to realize that point. And I think that due to his bad treatment, the future history textbooks will look at the present as a dark epoch in general. In our epoch, the men who discovered Watergate might be executed instead of winning awards.

Without people like Assange, I think that many more very bad things would be taking place – and they would often be taking place invisibly. Although the very thanks to him may be dangerous, we should thank him for his services, clever ideas, and self-sacrifice.

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