Wikileaks: Sweden, rape and openness. Does honesty work for a democracy?
2010/12/02 § Leave a comment
As someone who follows the media in Sweden rather closely it came as not much of a surprise at all to me that Julian Assange, the face of wikileaks, has been dealt a bitter pill by Swedish authorities. He has been accused of rape a few months ago in Sweden (in fact half a year ago). The fact is that the current Interpol warrant has not been much of a surprise, it has been awaited and appears to be completely unrelated to the current wikileaks revelations (regarding the diplomatic exchanges). And hence it is not obvious to me at all that the current events of him being prosecuted and the recent wikileaks revelations are related at all.
The story simply is that Assange has been underground for a while now, while the Swedish authorities have been investigating if they should prosecute him or not. He has been accused of rape a while ago while he was still in Sweden in fact, but the whole process was slow, confusing, indecisive and hence, Assange seized his chance to leave the country of Sweden (all this came after the “Iraq Video” actually). Is the current revelation by wikileaks the cause for the Interpol “Assange wanted” story then (Article on DN.se)? Who knows? But really, it is far from obvious that dubious sources, such as secret services have put pressure on the Swedish government.
In fact, if anyone has played their cards right, the Swedish authorities have been played by cultural reasons rather than political. What I mean is this: the topic “rape” carries nowhere in the world (arguably of course) as a heavy and causes as much attention as in Sweden. If any agency would want to frame Assange without interfering directly by putting pressure on a government or Swedish agency, rape is the way to go.
The cultural backgrounds are complicated and too much for a quick discussion here. But it appears to be a fact that you will find no other major news media in the world paying so much attention to the crime of rape on a daily basis than the Swedish media, for whom this is a constant topic. It may have to do with the Swedish concentration on gender related issues and feminism, it certainly is something the Swedes do not take lightly. Lately it has been discussed heavily what consenting intercourse entails. For someone not involved in the discussion it may sound bizarre that some law incentives went as far as demanding a written contract before intercourse (even though, admittedly, someone may argue that this was but a farce by the individuals who wanted to reveal the preposterous nature of the current discussion in Sweden).
Of course, all that is no argument for Assange being not guilty of the crime he is accused of. All I am saying is, that if I were the CIA or any other agency, I would choose to blame Assange of rape while in Sweden (and do not forget that the hoster of the wikileaks website now resides solely in Sweden, after Amazon in the US shut them down. Sweden was the haven the US did not control on their own soil. So one would imagine this to be a major “point of attack”). This makes anyone an easy victim of the media who pay extreme attention to the topic anyhow, especially if the accused is a known figure. Anyone with the least knowledge of the cultural background in Sweden knows, that this would under any circumstance cause a major upheaval.
Interestingly in that context is that recently there have been false accusations of rape in Sweden rather frequently (http://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/valdtaktsfriad-far-ersattning-1.1210039). Not surprisingly, if a mere accusation is sufficient to cause an enemy major difficulties, without much effort, some people will resort to it. Namely, there have been women accusing men of rape, when all they had in mind was a personal vendetta for something entirely unrelated. Some recent investigations into accusations of rape that received much attention ended in the plaintiff retracting their accusation, admitting questionable motives. Sadly enough, the damage is often done already by an accusation and it sticks even if a court clears the accused.
Now this is another topic altogether and the reason why it is so touchy is, that there are real victims of rape of course. Hence it is a tough topic to deal with. Sadly, false accusations lower the chances of real victims to be taken seriously. A real and severe problem In Sweden indeed. However, besides the specifics, my point is again, that if you would choose any accusation to throw at Assange in Sweden that causes major trouble with little effort you would likely choose to blame someone of rape.
I do not want to resort to conspiracy theories here. My point simply is that I can see how Assange could be framed with such an accusation. And at the same time there is not much that keeps us from believing such an accusation is true either. No other fact that history. If you believe most stats, then rape is something that most perpetrators resort to after a history of sexual violence or at least some type of deviant sexual behavior in the past. Assange is almost 40 years old without any such history, apparently. Besides, let us not forget that if in doubt we should rather rule in favor of the accused: not guilty until proven otherwise.
However the situation may be. It is an interesting fact that the US government seems to put pressure on anyone they can pressure. Namely for example the Hoster of the wikileak website Amazon. http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/netzpolitik/0,1518,732355,00.html
This can not come as much of a surprise. What I am wondering about really is something that has been discussed only marginally lately: is what wikileaks does bad for all of us?
Someone the other day stated that it is not “good” if every secret is revealed. This is a very touchy issue indeed. Does a democracy stand that kind of openness that wikileaks demands?
If we take wikileaks seriously then their sole purpose is a noble one, to enforce an open society for the benefit of all of us. But does that work?
Is a democracy functioning without secrets? Does a democracy work without lies and deception? Would politicians always reach their ends without lying to “us”? Presumably not, since it is difficult to unite people behind a common cause without a fair bit of generalization. But is that a good thing? Why unite people behind a “false” cause?
However, it appears to me that wikileaks has an honorable motive, but possibly one that has no place in a reality where not all nations play on a leveled playing field. What I mean, being a child of the cold war times I wonder, what would happen if democracies open up while there are totalitarian states where people have no say? Does sanity not only function if all parties involved subscribe to sanity? What if one party does only play for self-interest?
I suppose game theory can help us with that. There are many scenarios that show, that openness only gets you that far…under certain circumstances further, under other circumstances less far. It all depends on the players involved. My point being, that maybe Assange subscribes to a world that is a utopia?
I wonder, and possibly I am wrong, if wikileak’s attempt is noble but foolish?
Once again, I have more questions than answers, but one thing for sure, I cannot help but think that wikileaks posses a heap of important questions we should be discussing. Instead we are discussing if Assange raped someone and if he went too far by revealing some lame diplomatic “secrets” everyone was aware of anyhow (anybody in Germany knew for instance that Merkel takes no risks, is not progressive and does not like the US too much, and that Westerwelle is mainly a clueless simpleton).
I am saddened that the real topic posed by wikileaks no one takes up in a discussion. Maybe that is what the “rape accusation’s” real victory is. And besides the question if Assange is a criminal or not (for whatever crime he is accused of), the actual question on my mind is: how much openness can a democracy handle? In essence really, how much honesty can any society/ group of people handle? How much honesty can you handle with friends and family? Is openness not mostly a noble goal few honestly subscribe to? Try being honest with EVERYONE you meet tomorrow and see “how far you get”. 😉