The Cult of Assange, and Occupy Everywhere
October 15, 2011 9 Comments
Today’s the day of mass occupation. All over the world people have decided to occupy squares and spaces, in an act of mass civil disobedience. In London, people chose the London Stock Exchange – though this is rather misplaced as the LSX is not actually a) public property and b) where the trading goes on – and that failed, so they’re now outside St Paul’s. It seems this was inspired by Egypt’s Tahrir Square, and then Occupy Wall Street.
Criticism of the appropriateness of this one-revolution-fits-all approach (which I have offered and discussed among friends) aside, I’m concerned about the Cult of Assange, and what that really means in terms of holding people to account. Assange turned up at Occupy London, to a media furore, and loads of cheering (and booing – but from what I could see Assange was freely given a platform from which to speak). I watched a video in which one woman screamed “WE LOVE YOU JULIAN!”
I put my head in my hands.
No, he has not been convicted of anything – though this blog does throw that somewhat into doubt, as does this. No, I am not saying he is a rapist. No, I am not saying I don’t like WikiLeaks or that I disagree with the general principle of transparency (though it would seem Assange himself is not a big fan of things being too transparent).
I just think that we need to stop the whole Messiah parade for a second and actually ground ourselves in reality. Julian is but one person in an entire organisation that purports to represent true freedom of information. I don’t know if he raped anyone, and I don’t think it’s my place to publicly say so even if I think he did.
But y’know, there is a terrifying theatricality and atmosphere of hysteria around Assange – and others who we deem to be ‘in the movement’ or ‘on our side’ – that we are in danger of ignoring or glossing over what would normally be considered contemptuous and amoral (at the least!) behaviour. It’s like the hysteria that broke out when Johann Hari was found to have fabricated quotes. “Not Hari!” the left screamed, “He couldn’t POSSIBLY do this, because he’s on OUR side” – Look what happened. We let one slip through the net, we let them all.
I think it’s important that we suspect, scrutinise, and examine all that we think may be doing wrong, regardless of their job or their position in society. Regardless of whether we want to protect them because we think they are doing good for ‘the cause’.
I can’t help but feel disappointed that Assange turned up to Occupy London, and I’m sure others do too. Now, he will make the headlines while the true stories behind the ‘Occupy’ movement get lost. To me, the picture on this blog really does say a thousand words – and it is the total opposite of what we need at the moment.