, 22 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
The first lesson of anarchists is that they never are. They aren't trying to bring down the powerful and corrupt, they are trying to replace the powerful and corrupt with themselves.
I experienced this personally at the Occupy Wall Street protest. I was sitting at a stone table in a quiet part of the park, and some of the organizers came over and threatened violence to make me move, so they could setup cameras for an event they'd schedule for later.
That Che Guevara T-Shirt you all love to wear is from a picture taken hours after Cuban show trials where Che sent his political enemies to jail. The picture doesn't celebrate a revolutionary, but the power that corrupts after you win the revolution. Freedom never came to Cuba.
From the beginning, Wikileaks was never about "leaks", but about opposition to the "liberal world order", the one setup after WW II based on institutions, like alliances, trade, independent central banks, free speech/journalism, due process, and so on.
These institutions do become corrupt over time. The question is whether you work within the system in order to improve these institutions, or whether you stand outside the system and bring it crashing down. Assange never wanted to do the first, he's always wanted to do the second
That's why Assange is on the side of Putin and Trump, leaders who stand outside the entire system and want to break it, to replace the existing institutions with, well, themselves.
Is the prosecution of Assange a threat to press freedom? That's a stupid question. The prosecutors aren't going after him for doing things normal journalists do, but for the things that normal journalists reject, like hacking and collaborating to help leakers steal documents.
To be clear, the existing norms of journalist explicitly reject what Assange did. They believe in having the freedom to publish documents leakers give them, but their ethics guidelines explicitly reject helping/encouraging the leakers steal the documents.
We were always going to reach this point with Assange, or Wikileaks, or his cohorts getting prosecuted, and this principle of "journalism freedom" being tested. He was always going to push the limits until we reached this point.
We should still be worried, though. While the prosecution doesn't threaten "old journalism", the institution still needs to evolve, instead of becoming corrupted/crusty. The indictment's hacking charge is weaksauce, and threatens "new journalism", anything outside the norm.
As Cardinal Richelieu is credited as saying, "give me 6 words by the most honest of men and I'll find something to hang them by". Give me the chat log of the most ethical of journalists working with a leaker, and I'll find something to convict them of.
So we should be worried about the prosecution of Assange, and what it means to our liberal values, but it's more complex than simply "attack on press freedoms". It's more of a story of a corrupt revolutionary vs. a corrupt system, where neither side deserves unquestioned support.
Trump's illiberal attacks on the press ("FAKE NEWS!!") are the simple kind, because the press telling the truth threatens Trump's lies. But DoJ prosecutions are largely independent from political influence. The DoJ is not prosecuting Assange because Trump ordered it.
That's one of those "liberal institutions": the DoJ is a non-political organization that resists politicians telling them to prosecute people for political reasons. If Assange is being prosecuted for politics, we have to ask how the DoJ has become corrupted by politics.
Part of the answer is that it might be political corruption NOT to prosecute Assange. I mean, corruption goes both ways. It's equally an attack on freedoms to claim somebody should be above prosecution for their crimes because they are a rockstar.
Prosecutors have a "hard" view of crime, created by the fact that everyone who does crime, and their supporters, have a "soft" view that what they've done is justified. It doesn't mater if it's leakers uncovering corruption or a drug dealer stealing a car, everyone is innocent.
But too hard a view would cause everyone to be prosecuted for some sort of infraction. This leads to prosecutors having a lot of discretion. This in turn means that, ultimately, such prosecution becomes a political decision.
For Assange, I think prosecutors are bending over themselves to avoid prosecuting him for anything (old) journalism related, but at the same time, are convinced he's "guilty", so needs to be prosecuted for something.
In other words, I think the message is if you a "legitimate" journalist (as defined by the system), you are safe, but if you are a revolutionary challenging the system with new ideas, then the system will squash you.
Anyway, as you can see from these tweets, I'm a "libertarian", which is to say I think the existing institutions are corrupt and need reform, but I reject those like Assange who want to discard the existing system.
So in answer to this question, @ggreenwald makes some good points, but is also exactly one of those revolutionaries who want to bring down the entire system who behaves corruptly whenever he's given power himself.
For example there was this tweet of his, which he's since deleted, where he threatened to use the power he's gotten to attack his own critics.
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