Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Julian Assange rape saga

"American politicians might use their time more productively working out how a 23-year-old army private had access to so much confidential material and was able to copy it and hand it over to WikiLeaks."
From Malcolm Turnbull's article in The Age this morning. A very good point that I hadn't considered. But as an aside:
"Certainly there are some, not only in the Australian's legal team, who argue that a rape accusation based on the details of the allegations in the public domain – some of them placed there by the women themselves – would be highly unlikely to come to court in this country. "
From The Guardian. They would be highly unlikely to come to court in this country, too. But I don't know how to think about the issue. How rape has become an issue in the Julian Assange thing, and what it means more broadly.

On one hand, rape claims must be taken seriously regardless of the celebrity status or lack thereof, of the accused. On the other hand, the accusations toward Julian Assange reek of that exact sentiment being abused for political gain. While taking seriously charges laid against somebody of public import could serve to normalise rape trials and highlight (or, more to the point, ensure that) nobody is above the law. In reality, it appears that the opposite happens; claims against those in the public eye are trivialised and the women vilified for lying, and seeking fame, attention and money. For being attention seeking whores, and how dare they! And then there are the people available to come out and publicly defend the character of the accused, and their charity work, contribution to society, the arts, public life, and/or whatever else. Which all too often ends in a denigration of the character and reputation of the women.

It is disgusting that a rape claim is being used to bring Julian Assange into custody, to muddy his character and by extension, his organisation and actions. If that is what is happening, and it seems like it is. Which ever way it falls, it feels like a great big conspiracy. Rape is a revolting, horrific crime. To use charges of rape makes it difficult for anybody to challenge the timing and the way that they have been brought about. To do so can imply or be made to look as though they are holding somebody in the public eye above the charge of rape. It shifts attention away from the other thing going on here, which is desperately scrubbing around to find a charge that could be levelled against Assange. Rape is one sure to turn the tide of public opinion against the man.

The other side of the conspiracy is that rape claims are being used in this scenario that looks like a set up, but that we can’t really outwardly conceive of like a set up. Who is the winner in this situation? Not the women who have allegedly been raped, and not Assange. It’s pitting pawns against each other and skirting issues like freedom of information, and information in the age of the internet. Perhaps various authorities that have bought themselves some time?

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