It has been three years since the government of Ecuador granted political asylum to the Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, Julian Paul Assange, in its small ground-floor London Embassy, in the United Kingdom.
The Australian computer programmer, publisher and journalist is wanted in Sweden to face charges of sexual assault allegations, but many observers believe the charges are politically motivated by the United States just to get Assange extradited to the US to face further prosecution and possibly be put in solitary confinement for many years for releasing secret American documents five years ago.
Remember, the US Vice President, Joe Biden, has labeled Assange “a digital terrorist” in the past and this clearly shows the mentality of the US government on the Assange issue.
According to Helena Kennedy, one of Assange’s lawyers, “Julian Assange has spent more time incarcerated in the small rooms of the embassy, with no access to fresh air or exercise and contrary to international law, than he could ever spend in a Swedish prison on these allegations.”
Above and beyond Assange’s personal freedom, what’s at stake includes the impunity of the United States and its allies to relegate transparency to a mythical concept.
The sad aspect is that’s the same country that has turned democracy into mere form rather than substance. From the Vietnam War era to today, from aerial bombing and torture to ecological disasters and financial scams moving billions of dollars into private pockets, the top-level secrecy hiding key realities from the public has done vast damage.
But in all this persecution and vilification of Assange by the economic and political elites, what is at stake for us as a proponent of free press and speech is the fear of the emerging of, “a dangerous version of media and democracy,” particularly from the US government.
Since the release of the infamous “Collateral Murder” video by Wikileaks, the world has changed in major ways for democratic possibilities. Assange has been so deplored and reviled by the very people who say they should be called agents of free flow of information in the world. For such powerful entities, truly informative leaks to the public are plagues that should be eradicated as much as possible.
According to Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction.org, while the US government is trying to justify its reasons to put Assange behind bars, many corporate titans, including venerated innovator billionaires of Silicon Valley, are not much more kindly disposed. He said the extent of the US government’s relentless commitments to anti-democratic greed, using corporations like Google, has been brilliantly deconstructed in Assange’s 2014 book, “When Google Met WikiLeaks.”
“Google’s geopolitical aspirations are firmly enmeshed within the foreign policy agenda of the world’s largest superpower. As Google’s search and internet service monopoly grows, and as it enlarges its industrial surveillance cone to cover the majority of the world’s population, rapidly dominating the mobile phone market and racing to extend internet access in the global south, Google is steadily becoming the internet for many people. Its influence on the choices and behavior of the totality of individual human beings translates to real power to influence the course of history,” Solomon quoted Assange on Common Dreams as saying.
Assange also added, “It is not simply having prejudice about what the risks are, but actually testing them. There are all sorts of myths that go around about what can be done and what cannot be done. It’s important to test. You don’t test by jumping off a bridge. You test by jumping off a footstool, and then jumping off something a bit higher, and a bit higher.”
Solomon, who said he visited Assange not long ago, said, “I found Assange no less insightful during informal conversations. This is a dangerous person, in words and deeds, dangerous to the overlapping agendas of large corporations and governments in service to each other and dangerous to those who constantly make a killing from war, vast inequities and plunder of the planet.”
However the situation may be, courage, which too often is the stuff of mystifying legends about heroism, we believe that Assange’s observations might help us to grasp how it can gradually be summoned from within ourselves.
Worth pondering: “Courage is not the absence of fear. Only fools have no fear. Rather, courage is the intellectual mastery of fear by understanding the true risks and opportunities of the situation and keeping those things in balance.”
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