The Cult of Assange, and Occupy Everywhere

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.

About A Girl
Mostly writes on Half The World Is Watching. She is interested in and writes about feminist issues, politics and activism. An 80s child at heart, she loves old things, computer games, and keeping up with the development of social media.

9 Responses to The Cult of Assange, and Occupy Everywhere

  1. Richard says:

    Very good post. I agree that a lot of people are guilty of taking a less critical attitude towards people they agree with or see as “one of us”.

    The latest Private Eye (still on sale) has an excellent parody of Assange, including a para where he refuses to tell a passer-by the time but then demands to know if the passer-by is wearing clean underpants.

  2. Sue Thorne says:

    Looking at the tweets on the London protest. Could help smiling when I read that Assange had people chanting ‘I am an individual’ irony indeed; but did think at least they are there and I’m not.

  3. Snaf says:

    Can I please point out that many people were not impressed to see Assange arrive, did not cheer him and were disappointed by those that did.

  4. pv says:

    Very disappointing. Can all the Assange fanboys and girls actually, coherently, explain what they are protesting about and why?

    Re Assange himself and his dimwitted disciples, I am duty-bound to quote the immortal words of Brian’s mum:
    “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naught boy!”

  5. JS says:

    A couple of points:

    The trouble is, counter to your ‘entire organisation’ implication and in fact the I think Julian Assange is a rapist, I still like Wikileaks blog linked, Assange IS Wikileaks at the moment. It is him, and at last count 3 intern-esque helpers. There is no longer an activist core, a counter voice to Assange within the organisation or network as originally existed.
    So it makes the amplification of the lone messiah figure all too easy to perpetuate.

    The picture at the end really does tell it’s own story, although for the sake of accuracy that is outside the City debate and not at St Pauls, right?

    The matter of Assange’s conviction or not seems trite as he has already been tried by the right and left, and evidentially Swedish law seems to permit what much of the western world would consider rape as legal sexual activity.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the need for universal scrutiny and note that the left or those on ‘our side’ are notoriously bad. It’s all too easy to be blind to home truths whilst screaming for PC Simon Harwood to be strung up.

    In a way I find that case of unaccountability to be vastly more concerning as it will dictate the attitude and modal behaviour of an entire institution of power (the police) for a long time to come.

    As far as PV is concerned I would say never mind Assange fanboys or girls anyone protesting anything should be able to do this. Which is why this is such a good blog, because Soph does it very well, agree or disagree.

    The worst bit of Assange at LXE was the notion that he was “swept to the top of the steps” the implication being it was by adoring fans, though in reality it was by his security team.

    The most disappointing fawning was actually from the Guardian live blog that nearly had several cheap orgasms over his presence and the possibility he may have been beaten/detained/charged/questioned by police. Given their general current attitude it was surprising and disappointing. I think the media are just desperate for a hook as the central notion of the occupy protests, certainly from NYC, that there are very few definable central aims or demands, is very difficult for them to report. So they get bored and hang all their stories on Assange or anything else that makes a convenient hook and misses the point.

  6. Ross Wolfe says:

    It is a testament to the sad state of radical politics that Assange has become one of its posterboys.

    Occupy Wall Street has so far been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. The protestors have successfully stood their ground against Bloomberg’s attempt to evict them.

    But this victory can by no means considered final. Rather, it tasks us with the question: “Where do we go from here?”

    If this successful moment of resistance against the coercion of the State is to signal a turning-point for this movement, it must now address the more serious political problems that confront it. It is crucial that the participants in these demonstrations ask themselves where they stand in history, and more adequately conceptualize the problem of capitalist society. This requires thorough reflection and unsentimental self-criticism.

    To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

    “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What it Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies

  7. Pingback: Thoughts on occupations and 99%ism | Cautiously pessimistic

  8. Just stumbled across this post Soph. I was livid when Assange turned up. Like almost everything that was shit about Occupy in London, him turning up was down to people in the ‘media team’ (total misnomer) making the decision undemocratically on behalf of everyone else.

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