This post is intimately concerned with both the topics and the mechanisms of that installation. If you do not like politics in your art, please feel free to skip this post. I feel compelled to speak not only as an artist who examines the sociological and psychological underpinnings of people and societies but as a human being.
Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, has been being made media fodder for a disinformation and smear campaign directly along the lines I engaged in State of Mind after releasing The Iraq War Logs - hundreds of thousands of SIGACT documents detailing the war and subsequent occupation of Iraq from January 2004 through December 2009.
He is being tried in the court of media, which is seeking to influence public opinion and subvert the message of the documents themselves and the mission of Wikileaks. Those documents and that mission are far too complex to go into in this post; I urge you to investigate them yourself.
My concern as a media artist and student is to examine the use of ad hominem attacks, control of the media and disinformation for political purposes, and for shutting down or marginalizing public debate about serious and life-determining issues by distraction, dissembling and targetting the messenger in order to discredit the message.
The "case" against Mr Assange has taken several bizarre twists lately. The truth of the "allegations: are as follows:
- The charges are ex post facto. Both of the women involved have admitted several times in public documents that the sex they had with Julian was consensual. and that they continued to instigate friendly contact well after the alleged incidents. Only after the women became aware of each other's relationships with Mr. Assange did they make their allegations against him. There was no drunkenness, no drugging, no forcing, no persuasion; they admit they freely had sex with him. Neither one is underage.
- Mr Assange did not "flee the country" as is being promulgated by several Large Media Outlets. The prosecutor repeatedly declined to question Mr Assange while he was in the country and approved his request to leave the country on business matters. The first time these charges were brought, the Swedish prosecutor dropped the charges.
- At this point, Mr Assange is wanted for questioning - pretty much standard operating procedures when any criminal charges are brought against an individual. He is not "wanted" for a "crime." The Swedish police informed the press of the charges against him, and identified him by name, before they had even spoken to him - which they still haven't. The Swedish prosecutors (now multiple), in contravention of (apparently) Swedish law, have been announcing "We're going to arrest Assange for rape!" and then not doing anything about it, not telling him what the charges are, and not bringing him in for questioning.
This is not the behavior of someone who wants to prosecute a criminal in the court of justice; if they had a case, they would bring it, and Assange would go to jail for rape. This is the behavior of someone who wants to hang an innocent person in the court of public opinion.
This smear and disinformation campaign began only a few months after the release of The War Diaries and murky comments by the Pentagon alluding to extraordinary rendition and assassination of Mr Assange and the illegal shutting down of Wikileaks.
It has direct ties to yesterday's 19-0 vote by the US Senate Judiciary Committee's Combatting Online Infringement And Counterfeiting Act allowing the Department of Justice, through a court order, to order U.S. Internet service providers to redirect customer traffic away from infringing websites not based in the U.S.
It speaks directly to me as someone who lives and breathes the net and believes in informed public debate, access to all information so that I may make up my own mind and in the principles of the men who founded this country and are given lip service while being subverted for political and profit motives. It concerns my home and what is important in my life, which is what art is supposed to be about.
So please accept my apologies if you think this post has no place on an "art blog" or you do not care to know about such problems. I know it's uncomfortable and unfashionable. This hurts and frightens me. As with State of Mind, I felt I must speak or just start screaming.
I leave you with two excellent letters recently published by Mr Assange's Swedish and US attorneys in the firm belief in combatting propaganda with information. I urge you to make up your own mind about these tactics, this story and the role that art/information/media/influence and propaganda play in your own thoughts and ideas.
[added emphases mine - M]
LONDON, 2pm Thursday November 18, 2010
Mark Stephens of law firm Finers Stephens Innocent said today, “On the morning of 21 August 2010, my client, Julian Assange, read in the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen that there was a warrant out for his arrest relating to allegations of “rape” involving two Swedish women.
However, even the substance of the allegations, as revealed to the press through unauthorized disclosures do not constitute what any advanced legal system considers to be rape; as various media outlets have reported “the basis for the rape charge” purely seems to constitute a post-facto dispute over consensual, but unprotected sex days after the event. Both women have declared that they had consensual sexual relations with our client and that they continued to instigate friendly contact well after the alleged incidents. Only after the women became aware of each other’s relationships with Mr. Assange did they make their allegations against him.
The warrant for his arrest was rightly withdrawn within 24 hours by Chief prosecutor Eva Finne, who found that there was no “reason to suspect that he has committed rape." Yet his name had already been deliberately and unlawfully disclosed to the press by Swedish authorities. The so called “rape” story was carried around the world and has caused Mr. Assange and his organization irreparable harm.
Eva Finne’s decision to drop the “rape" investigation was reversed after the intervention of a political figure, Claes Borgstrom, who is now acting for the women. The case was given to a specific prosecutor, Marianne Ny.
The only way the accused and his lawyers have been able to discover any substantive information regarding the investigation against him has been through the media. Over the last three months, despite numerous demands, neither Mr. Assange, nor his legal counsel has received a single word in writing from the Swedish authorities relating to the allegations; a clear contravention to Article 6 of the European Convention, which states that every accused must be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him”. The actions by the Swedish authorities constitute a blatant and deliberate disregard for his rights under the Convention.
We are now concerned that prosecutor Marianne Ny intends to apply for an arrest warrant in an effort to have Mr. Assange forcibly taken to Sweden for preliminary questioning. Despite his right to silence, my client has repeatedly offered to be interviewed, first in Sweden before he left, and then subsequently in the UK (including at the Swedish Embassy), either in person or by telephone, videoconferencing or email and he has also offered to make a sworn statement on affidavit. All of these offers have been flatly refused by a prosecutor who is abusing her powers by insisting that he return to Sweden at his own expense to be subjected to another media circus that she will orchestrate. Pursuing a warrant in this circumstance is entirely unnecessary and disproportionate. This action is in contravention both of European Conventions and makes a mockery of arrangements between Sweden and the United Kingdom designed to deal with just such situations. This behavior is not a prosecution, but a persecution. Before leaving Sweden Mr. Assange asked to be interviewed by the prosecution on several occasions in relation to the allegations, staying over a month in Stockholm, at considerable expense and despite many engagements elsewhere, in order to clear his name. Eventually the prosecution told his Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig that he was free to leave the country, without interview, which he did.
Our client has always maintained his innocence. The allegations against him are false and without basis. As a result of these false allegations and bizarre legal interpretations our client now has his name and reputation besmirched. Thousands of news articles and 3.6million web pages now contain his name and the word “rape”. Indeed, three out of four web-pages that mention Mr. Assange’s name also now mention the word “rape”—a direct result of incompetent and malicious behavior by Swedish government prosecutors. My client is now in the extraordinary position that, despite his innocence, and despite never having been charged, and despite never receiving a single piece of paper about the allegations against him, one in ten Internet references to the word “rape” also include his name. Every day that this flawed investigation continues the damages to his reputation are compounded.”
Mark Stephens is contactable on 0207 344 7661 or his cell 07831 115000
Letter from Swedish Counsel Bjorn Hurtig to English co-Counsel for Julian Assange.
Note Neither Mr. Assange nor Counsel, nor WikiLeaks have ever received a single written word, at any time, in any form, from Swedish authorities on the Swedish investigation against our editor.
From: Björn Hurtig
Sent: Sunday, November 14, 2010 12:43 PM
Subject: SV: Our client
Enclosed You will find a copy of the documents that I have would like to send to the prosecutor. I have not been able to have the document translated in detail, but I will now tell You the most important things in it.
First of all I comment the ongoing investigation and tell the prosecutor that I have asked her several times that they should hear my client so that we can be aware of the accusations. They have said no to this initially (and by this I mean for several weeks). Furthermore I remind her that I several times have asked her to give me the evidence in the case. She has said no to this also. I then tell her that I have asked my questions informally and in writing and tell her about a formal request that I made 14 of September 2010. This formal request has not yet been formally answered, which I find to be a breach of Swedish law (23:18 Rättegångsbalken). I also tell her that Sweden has not followed art 6:3 of The European Convention of the 4 november 1950, because Julian has not been informed of the accusation in detail and in his own language. Neither has he been informed of the documents in the case in his own language. This is an incorrect behavior.
I then tell her that Julian is indeed willing to participate in a hearing. But I remind her that I asked her in writing (14 of September) if he was free to leave Sweden for doing buissines in other countries and that she called me and said that he was free to leave. This is important because it means that Julian has not left Sweden in trying to escape the Swedish justice. Then I reminds her that Julian and I several times have tried to give them dates when he could come to Sweden and participate in a hearing, for example I spoke to the second prosecutor Erika Leijnefors during week nr 40 and told her that Julian could participate in a hearing the 10 of October (a Sunday) or some day the following week. The prosecutor in charge (Marianne Ny) said no to this. Other times Marianne Ny has said no to our proposals due to that one of her police officers were sick or because the time did not suit her. This is also important because it shows that Julian has tried but Marianne Ny has said no. I go on remembering her that Julian has suggested that he could participate over a phone line and from an Australian Embassy. She has said not to this also. Then I tell her that Julian is willing to participate through a videoconference or to make a written statement over the accusation and the questions they may have. This is of utmost importance, since it shows his willingness to participate. I remind her of a ruling from our Highest Court; NJA 2007 s.337, in which the court did not put a man in custody although he was abroad and did not come to Sweden to participate in a hearing. It was not proportional to do such a thing, since he left Sweden rightfully (just like Julian) and thus did not try to escape the Swedish justice, he was willing to participate via phone or in writing and so forth.
In the second last section of the letter I tell the prosecutor that she should think of the damage that Sweden already has done to Julian by letting his name in public. I tell her that I have heard that there is a police investigation going on about the first prosecutor who let Julians name out In public, which shows that it is a serious matter. If the prosecutor now goes forward with a request of Julian being put in custody it is my opinion that the damage could be enormous; whatever the outcome of the trial may be. Therefore I urge her to come back to me with a proposal of when and where we could have this hearing instead of her dragging Julian in to court.
In the last section I tell her that if she proceeds with her plans of a custody trial, I want all documents. This I say because I do not trust them to give me everything.
So Jennifer, this is the main things in my letter. I hope You understand what I am writing. If not, please call me. I will not be able to take Your calls today though, since I will be busy the rest of the day. If You do not call med, please let me know a s a p if I can send the letter to the prosecutor. I would like to send it first thing tomorrow morning. You may tell med by mail.
So come and get me, Department of Mental Security, Ministry of Truth. Put me on a Watch List. You can hurt me, you can make me sick to my stomach, you can make me despair; you can make me ashamed of my own country before the face of its fathers. But you cannot take my liberty of mind. I am a free person.