12.08.2010

Tea Party vs. Julian Assange

Tea Party leader Judson Phillips has publicly stated how he believes Julian Assange should be executed for his role in the release of hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables.

Conservatives in general have historically viewed secrecy as a weapon of Big Government and a threat to democracy. Instead of embracing the media revelations of what their government is up to, even Fox News pundits Bill O’Reilly (via youtube) and Rush Limbaugh (via youtube) condemn Wikileaks.

The Tea Party is well understood as an anti-establishment political movement. Assange has described himself as a market-Libertarian. The Tea Party is flagrantly infatuated with the Constitution to the point of elevating it to religious dogma while Wikileaks is an active agent in exercising freedom of speech, a most basic and obvious constitutional right. There’s a lot in common between them. Julian Assange fancies himself the biggest threat to authoritarian regimes and Tea Party activists also regard the US government as an unnecessary bureaucratic giant, and an abuser of people’s rights. The question is - why do they want to kill the man who proves it?

Maybe it has less to do with the leaks themselves and is rather an extension of nationalistic and xenophobic tendencies that are common among the ranks of the Tea Party. Julian Assange is foreign, after all, and the man who actually stole the documents, leaking them to Wikileaks is an American soldier and largely ignored.

I’m just trying to be provocative. I doubt that’s the reason behind the Tea Party’s repugnance for Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Nonetheless, it’s a sad case of irony to see Tea Party leaders express their desire to see the death of Assange who under other conditions may have been a Tea Party hero.

That said, I think the public is missing the more important issue. If I agreed that Wikileaks is a terrorist organization and that Julian Assange should be executed on charges of espionage (and Bradley Manning for treason) - that doesn’t change the nature or gravity of the documents released. Daily headlines lead with stories based on information gleaned from the diplomatic cables. There’s no doubt about the value of the information they contain. They may be tainted by immoral acquisition - but if I stole documents proving someone had robbed a bank - that wouldn’t stop the public pursuit of the bank robber - regardless of anyone's opinion of me.

Aaron Bady over at Zunguzungu has excellent (and verbose) analysis of Wikileaks' "Cablegate". Here are some of his latest posts:

2 Intelligent Comment(s):

Michael said...

I have come down against Wikileaks, but I do have some reservations about protecting all forms of secrecy.

It's important to remember that the Tea Party is more like a starfish then a spider (to borrow a metaphor) and doesn't really have a leader.

The Tea Party has one central issue - lower the size of government. Transparency, Christianity and listening to Glenn Beck are all things that correlate with that belief, and come up a lot from the Tea Party members, but are not the push or focus.

I don't want the government to hide things like accidental civilian deaths, such as those Bradley Manning exposed. However, I do want them to hide things like diplomatic cables, lists of the worst targets terrorists could choose, the names of Afghan informants and when the FED plans to reduce the money supply.

Perhaps the Tea Party members are concerned about abuses of the State Secret Privilege - such as when Obama's administration invoked it to throw out a tortue lawsuit.

More on state secrets as it relates to Wikileaks at http://www.popehat.com/2010/12/09/well-see-our-new-secret-weapon-will-turn-terrorists-into-pillars-of-salt/

Jeremy Corbally-Hammond said...

The link you provide articulates my stance better than I could. Thank you for sharing it.

I don't care if we need to punish Assange for releasing secrets in an indiscriminate manner and would call him a better man for turning himself in and accepting due punishment - but he's just one guy and Wikileaks is a small organization. Bringing him to justice is important, but also not much higher on my priority list than bringing to justice one single gas station robber. I would rather focus on the systemic injustices he's revealed.

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