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An Australian Perspective On The WikiLeaks Mess

  • Written by Syndicated Publisher 42 Comments42 Comments Comments
    December 8, 2010

    Should Julian Assange hang, or fry, or be injected with poison for telling the truth? Should his fellow WikiLeaks hackers die beside him? Should he do four years for it? Should he do two weeks? All our better angels briskly murmur ‘no’. Let him who would say ‘yes’ not hold his peace.

    Bob Ellis – view the original article here at the ABC

    How would Mick Young have handled the Julian Assange affair? Famous for defusing difficult subjects with a mild, commonsense one-liner, Mick would have said, “Well, we’ll have to arrest Laurie Oakes too. And David Marr. And Bob Woodward”.

    Hard to find the argument against this. Marr told how his prime minister called the Chinese ‘rat-fuckers’, Assange let it be known how he proposed to bomb them for being difficult. Oakes once published a budget speech before it was given, thus imperilling for a while our economy. Woodward pretty much hobbled the US presidency by showing its burglaries, bad language, and hate campaigns.

    And Assange has done similar things, albeit a thousandfold, and prominent Americans including presidential candidates and vice-presidential candidates think he should be killed for it. In this they go against the First Amendment – Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances – thoughan opposite mode of thought has been Fox Newspeak lately: no-one but Hannity, Beck and O’Reilly, it yells, can say anything at all. They should be waterboarded if they do.

    Assange is shaping up as Australia’s Dreyfus and the Prime Minister by throwing him to America’s assassination-mongers has lost, oh, half a million Labor voters to the Greens overnight, the way she does. She said on September 7 we should ‘let the sun shine in’; but when Assange did she put on the cloak of the Princess of Darkness and called his deeds ‘illegal’.

    Should Julian Assange hang, or fry, or be injected with poison for telling the truth? Should his fellow WikiLeaks hackers die beside him? Should he do four years for it? Should he do two weeks? All our better angels briskly murmur ‘no’. Let him who would say ‘yes’ not hold his peace.

    Yet it’s likely he’ll be killed soon, and hung like a stinking mouldy albatross called ‘Julian’ round Julia’s neck, and a film as interesting as The Social Network made about him, with David Wenham playing Assange, Geoffrey Robertson playing himself, Amanda Bishop as Julia Gillard kicking the furniture and Brian Dawe as Robert McClelland wincing.

    Do the people have a right to know? Seems not. Should David Marr hang too? Looks like it. (Hullo David)

    I wrote last week of Australians’ dissimilarity to Americans. Not even Andrew Bolt would call for Assange’s assassination. Not even Piers Akerman, fond of scoops himself, would recommend he get five years. Not even Alan Jones would call him (or Marr) a traitor. If he did he’d have to target Andrew Wilkie, MP, as well: the indiscreet officer who rightly said there were no WMD and was called by John Howard ‘emotionally unstable’.

    No, Australians differ from Americans in many, many ways. We do not carry handguns. We do not leave half-witted young men on Death Row for 20 years. We do not have a Death Row. We do not have the word ‘God’ on our coins. We do not send in pilotless aircraft to blow up families whose religion we do not like. We are better than that. The most famous Australians – Greer, Hughes, James, Humphries, White, Murray, Pilger, Carey, Robertson, Blanchett, Crowe – are all truth-revealers, and this I think is no accident. They are Australians all. And we Australians like to tell it how it is. Rupert’s father Keith revealed Gallipoli. Hawke, Keating, Beazley and Evans told all in Labor In Power. Sir Ron Wilson, Spitfire pilot, unveiled the Stolen Children. And so on.

    And Julian Assange is one of us, as worthy at least of our protection as Chapelle Corby. He has broken no law and has greatly enlarged the amusement of nations. He has done more solemnly what Stewart and Colbert do every night. He is a kind of Chaser and some of us love him for it. And nearly all the Left revere him and would like to see him Australian of the Year. He has changed the world for the better. Who can deny it?

    But has he endangered lives? Well, maybe. Let’s wait a bit and see. If 10,000 killings in the next year can be plausibly blamed on him, he may well have behaved irresponsibly. But a million wartime deaths can with equal force be blamed on Tony Blair, and three million ruptured Iraqi lives, and he has not yet been hanged or even waterboarded for it.

    It is time our Prime Minister sat in on some ethics classes in a school in New South Wales. She would learn there that revealing wrong is not a crime, or a sin. She would learn that doing wrong is. And that protecting wrongdoers is a crime – as in sheltering serial killers on the run, or shielding priestly pederasts from investigation. She would learn it is not ‘illegal’, as she quaintly puts it, to report a planned act of illegal war, as Assange did Rudd’s and Wilkie did Howard’s, but a proper thing to do. Even a patriotic thing to do. As was the Stolen Children Report, and the Voyager Enquiry, and the several James Hardie asbestos-mesothelioma court cases. And the many, many trials of Lindy Chamberlain. And Breaker Morant.

    Wrongdoing should be exposed, as a rule. It should not be kept secret. And we should let the sun shine in, as the Prime Minister lately recommended, biting her tongue.

    It is impossible anyway in the social network age to keep it out. Not only information, butresponse to that information, is instantaneous now. And to say it takes weeks to discover if an act is illegal is nonsense; you can look it up. You can text another Julian, Burnside, and ask him.

    Once again an Australian citizen, like Hicks, is being neurotically targeted for baseless punishment by crazed Americans, who are into furious revenge these days, even murderous revenge, and once again an Australian Prime Minister is cravenly doing nothing to stop it. If Assange has done international wrong, let him stand trial in The Hague. If he has not, let him come home to Parkville, drink coffee with Barry Jones, and yarn about the past, as Australians do.

    Is there a third alternative? I don’t think so.

    Or perhaps you, ho ho, disagree.

    [poll id=”6″]

    Bob Ellis’s last two books on Australian politics, One Hundred Days of Summer and Suddenly, Last Winter, are in bookshops now.