Written by JADC member Helen Mercer
With the recent judgement handed down by the High Court judges supporting the US appeal in the case of Julian Assange we have truly entered an Alice in Wonderland world. Logic, not to mention due legal process, has been abandoned as the judges, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, ‘try the whole cause and condemn him to death’.
In comparison the recently published ‘Julian Assange in his own words’ presents a world of sober analysis and penetrating insights. This almost-pocket-sized book consists of very short, pertinent extracts from Assange’s many writings, interviews and speeches published before he was imprisoned on remand in Belmarsh two and a half years ago. These allow a deeper understanding of the outlook of a person described by Edward Snowden as ‘one of the most far-sighted thinkers in technology…consistently ahead of the curve’.
The book groups the extracts into thirteen themes, covering the core purpose of Wikileaks and of Julian’s life, and allows the reader to construct his or her own view from these building blocks. A powerful preface by Charles Glass summarises what emerges: “Assange has taken the side of the victims against the powerful who conspire against them in secret” and in particular, like the poet Wilfred Owen with whom Glass compares Assange, his subject is war – “the pity of war, the pity war distilled”.
The book acts as a powerful antidote to the ignorant lies about Assange’s character. Judges, journalists and politicians have felt free to smear Assange as a ‘narcissist’ and ‘self-publicist’: this book reveals a man to be admired for his integrity and humanity, an intelligent and considered thinker.
Assange explains the world in terms of systems. The internet, he explains, is ‘the top of the whole neoliberal system’ of commercial transaction and property laws which underpin it. He targets the ‘privatisation of words’….’the way we refer to our common intellectual record is becoming privatised, with different parts of it being soaked up into domain names controlled by private companies, institutions and states”. The “investors of a few Silicon Valley companies” promote a mindset and culture tolerable to their interests, a process he describes as ‘digital colonialism’.
Operating on the premise that ‘our civilisation can only be as good as our knowledge of what our civilisation is’, Assange’s aim in creating Wikileaks was to create a ‘rebel’ system which would expand humanity’s ‘full intellectual record’. Such a record would counteract the various levels of censorship and hence the determination of what constitutes ‘knowledge’.
An important passage analyses the ‘censorship pyramid’ (p.59) a key component of the knowledge industry which other philosophers have described, in which powerful actors control and direct the means of production, distribution and exchange of ‘knowledge’ or the ‘narrative’.
When it comes to understanding how complex human institutions actually behave Assange asserts that all existing political theories are bankrupt. It is ironic that, had he been left free to develop his full capacities, he might have made valuable contributions to this rich field of human thought.
The second theme which emerges, especially in the section on activism but echoed throughout the book, is his own sense of personal commitment and his call to action by others. “If we can only live once, then let it be a daring adventure that draws on all our powers…The whole universe or the structure that perceives it is a worthy opponent, but try as I may, I cannot escape the sound of suffering….men in their prime, if they have convictions are tasked to act on them”.
Karen Sharpe’s painstaking collection should become an essential tool in the campaign for Assange’s freedom.
You can Buy the book from www.orbooks.com