Wikileaks: Speak Up Now (or Forever Hold Your Peace)
In Post 9/11 America, the United States took a dramatic turn away from the principles of law that have guided western civilization for the past several centuries. Fundamental notions of due process, habeus corpus, trial by jury, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, have been fundamentally breached. Americans mostly seemed to accept these radical changes because the effect of them was to punish “terrorists,” who therefore did not deserve these protections.
In the current attacks on Julian Assange and Wikileaks, we are witnessing the next step in the process of transforming a democracy into a totalitarian regime. The full power of the American government is engaged in discrediting Assange and shutting down Wikileaks. Voices on the right are calling him a terrorist, while Democrats use measured terms to convey his dangerousness without explicitly labeling him or describing the harm he has caused. Most significantly, few political figures are defending him or the principles for which he stands. Tellingly, Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell has called for the laws to be changed in order to successfully prosecute Assange. (What do you call a system of government that changes the laws in a particular case in order to get the outcome it desires?)
It is important to keep sight of a couple of facts in this debate. Julian Assange, whatever you think of him or the disclosures, is not a terrorist, in any sense of the word that we have ever used before. Although the word “terrorist” is a by nature a politically loaded term, and there is not even a definition that is widely accepted, we have always reserved it for people who cause death or serious injury. Wikileaks has not injured a single person; Wikileaks uses information, not weapons. Assange has written and spoken widely about his values and ethics, and believes he is helping democracy and providing a valuable and ethical service to inform the citizens of free nations all over the world. His own words defending his work are well-worth reading, especially if you have not heard anyone else make his case. Can you think of another “terrorist” who has stated values that are enshrined in our constitution? It is also vital to remember that Wikileaks acts in concert with mainstream news organizations all over the globe, and all of the “damaging” material it has leaked has been co-published with The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, and other international establishment news organizations. What rational argument is there to charge Wikileaks with “crimes” that are not also leveled on its co-publishers?
And that’s where we run into serious problems. Whether you consider Julian Assange a terrorist, or just think he must be forcibly stopped, you are endorsing a radical transformation of constitutional protections in the United States. If terrorists are not entitled to due process, and if terrorists are people who are acting on unpopular ideas, anyone with unpopular ideas can be designated a terrorist at any time and imprisoned or killed, on the government’s say-so. And if you don’t think Assange should be jailed, but merely stopped, you are enforcing government-dictated limits on the already-timid press, whose unrestricted freedom is the only means by which a democracy can function. Both of these outcomes are conditions of a totalitarian state.
We are on the brink of allowing centuries of iron-clad rights and freedoms to be turned into privileges accorded only to some. There is very little we can do to halt the radical assault on our rights, other than using the blunt-force instrument of the ballot box, and even that has had little effect on the theft of our country. But in this case, there is one very clear and very simple action that a concerned citizen of a free country can take that sends a powerful message. Donate $25 to Wikileaks. This show of nominal support sends the clear message that we are against the destruction of our democracy and we are for free speech and freedom of the press. You can donate here. It is one of the only concrete acts you can perform to halt the attacks on our freedom, and the more people who do it right now, the better chance both Wikileaks and our democracy have for survival.
Mastercard, Visa and Paypal have all suspended transactions to Wikileaks. You can still use the link above to find out how to mail a check to Wikileaks or make donations via bank wire transfer. However, two other sites currently allow electronic payments. Xipwire allows donations to Wikileaks (you can donate $10 just by sending the TEXT MESSAGE “WL” to 56624). And Flattr, which uses Paypal or your credit card to fund your account, may be suspended in the future, but is currently allowing this workaround.
This post has been edited to correctly reflect Senator Mitch McConnell's title of Minority Leader.