Two major events have rocked the USA in recent weeks. First, the arrest in London of Julian Assange for allegedly helping Chelsea Manning in an effort to crack a government password . Second is the final, albeit redacted, Muller report, a long-awaited legal reckoning of Donald Trump’s alleged participation in Russian interference in the US 2016 election, and subsequent alleged obstruction of investigations into the former.
I’m not a fan of either of these men. One is accused of impregnating women against their will and generally suffers from a severe case of self-righteous narcissism , and the other committed such a long list of reprehensible acts towards not only women, but every group imaginable other than rich, conservative, white men, that one hardly knows where to begin criticizing . However, in a situation where one of these people is the leader of the United States, and the other spends their time upsetting the rich and powerful, it comes as no surprise that they are held to different standards.
After spending hours reading the 300+ page Muller report of Trump’s attempts to obstruct what may or may not have been criminal acts, one finds that the government has decided that since Trump tried but failed to obstruct justice (an impeachable offense) due to unwilling henchmen, he should not be held responsible for his actions . On the other hand, Assange, who is being accused of trying but failing to commit a low-level hacking offense, is being carried bodily out of his home and extradited to the United States .
I don’t want to defend Assange. I think the political left needs to stop giving him a free pass. His identity is a techno-libertarian fantasy combined with a deeply-ingrained savior mentality, and I find the accusations of his violent acts towards women both compelling and unsurprising. But that’s not the point. The point is that a deeply powerless man, imprisoned, spied on, and pushed towards insanity is being held to a standard in which the intent of a crime is what matters. At the same time a rich and powerful figure is being excused from his intended crimes using the exact opposite argument.
To be honest, both arguments are compelling when seen in isolation. The true dynamics of power only become clear when the two are contrasted. We need to break out of this simplistic narrative of terrorist vs political savior about Assange and start examining what these developments tell us about the society we are creating.
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