Eighteen long and laden months have passed since the Ecuadorian government, in synchrony with the British government, and under the instruction of the American government, transferred Julian Assange from one informal jail to an official gaol, and through this single act of relocation repealed the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. This event, one which the historians of the present are determined to forget, did not commence, nor did it conclude, my own process of political disillusionment, but still, it would be difficult to exaggerate its importance, not just in my own life, but in the chronicle of American civilization. It has immeasurably broadened my political perspective by narrowing my focus to a single point: the measures that can be taken to free Assange before the machinery of the state ends his life. Needless to say, it was this imperative that drew me to Tulsi Gabbard’s ill-fated presidential campaign, repelled me from Bernie Sanders’s masquerade, alienated me from the Democratic Party, reinvigorated my contempt for the Republican Party, and muddled every one of my opinions of Donald Trump.
“Assange or nothing,” I have occasionally tweeted. No other political consideration will seriously guide me in five days’ time, when I enter a narrow, unstable booth and cast a meaningless ballot. It is meaningless, not just politically, but also practically, as President Trump is trailing Joe Biden in New Hampshire by eight points or more, according to the most recent bit of polling. Never have I been inclined to vote for Biden, who once compared Assange to a “high-tech terrorist” and who, last year, penned a prolix malediction of Assange for the New York Times, thereby answering the question I was prevented from asking him on the campaign trail. After all, it is Biden’s Democratic Party that has inexorably propagated the political fiction that is Russiagate, a dizzying conspiracy theory that, for all its flimsy incoherence, has besmirched Assange’s reputation among the liberals who halfheartedly defended him before the Trumpish Age. They have unknowingly partnered with the neoconservatives who, in their more outspokenly cynical support for the tyrannical function of the American Empire, have always been unsympathetic to Assange.
We are bereft of proof, even the most tenuous of circumstantial evidence, that Biden and his Party have any true affinity with Assange. Only by the disorienting impact of propagandistic admass are the people convinced that the Democrats believe in freedom of information, transparency of state, and the other principles for which Assange and Wikileaks advocate—such principles with which the Democrats take umbrage. If they truly championed such causes, then they would acknowledge the veracity of Wikileaks’s most troubling revelations and take meaningful action to improve their own Party. Instead, they have dismissed the work of this publisher as the malicious (although not necessarily fallacious) activity of a “hostile foreign government” and blamed it for their failings at the ballot box.
Political parties are notoriously reluctant to confess to their wrongdoing, and equally unwilling to reverse direction, but the Democrats of the Trumpish Age practice the defensive projection of guilt and blame as if it were their involuntary nature. Customarily, an unsuccessful political campaign prompts an internal assessment, the purpose of which is to determine privately how better to reach the electorate in the future. Yet, the Democrats’ public response to their own humiliation in 2016 has been to prosecute their political opponents and intimidate voters, including many of their own supporters: according to National Public Radio, nearly ninety percent of Americans who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries of 2016 voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election, yet they are regularly blamed for the few who did not, as this so-called defection allegedly tilted the election for Trump.
Even if we concurred with this sloppy calculation, it would not confirm the unrelated implication that those who declined to vote for Clinton are morally culpable for the injurious iniquities of the Trump Administration. Such a premise is predicated on confidence in Clinton’s virtue, inherent or relative, but invariably undefined. This confidence is so rigid, so hostile to suggestion and critique, that it precludes any and all questioning from the first: we are told to accept Clinton, and the Party she appears to represent, lest we empower the legendary malice of Republicans. Glenn Greenwald noted this recently, reminding his readers that journalists are not supposed to be publicists for the Democratic Party. In turn, the American electorate, especially the peasantry and the working class, are under no obligation to support a political organization that refuses to listen to their concerns. To insist otherwise is to pervert the purpose of democratic action.
Such a perversion has been the objective of the Democratic Party for the last several years. Every day, commentators in the mainstream media castigate the millions of Americans who chose not to vote for Clinton. Their reasoning is irrelevant, the diversity thereof dismissed with indignation and reduced to a ridiculous object of scorn. We will not bore ourselves with a thorough rebuttal to each of their dishonest, threadbare arguments, for our interest today, with so little time remaining before the election, is the purpose of their messaging. To put it quite simply, the goal of their censorious speech is to convince the public that we must fall in line with the Democratic Party, that we must lend the Democrats our unqualified assistance. We cannot be skeptical, much less critical, and all inquiries must wait until sometime after the election.
Unfortunately, we never reach that unspecified time. Many of my progressive acquaintances have argued, often with conspicuous impatience, that we should vote for Biden and the Democrats and then “move them left”, a nebulous concept that conveniently disregards their refusal to “move left” before the election, when their campaigns were still on the line. After the election, the admonition states, the progressives can “pressure” the Democrats with public demonstrations, but why would the corporate media, which routinely conflates criticism of the Democratic Party with support for the Republican Party, condone such behavior? Won’t this elaborate information apparatus caution them that they are playing into the hands of the Right? The political establishment will need only to wait until the midterms of 2022, at which point the progressive protesters shall be cast into the same damning light as the malcontents “responsible” for the tragedy of 2016. We cannot fight the Democratic Party, we will be told, lest we facilitate the rise of the Republicans, who, it is rumored, are inestimably worse than the Democrats.
This campaign of relentless messaging is a brutish attempt at cultural muting, and it will continue until we are silenced by law. Assange is one of the first to suffer this fate of judicial dumbfounding, a punishment popularized by the neoliberals of the Trumpish Age after the neoconservatives’ less successful efforts to advance it in the time of George W. Bush. It is a bipartisan ambition, though this point is often lost in the separate observation that the criminal case, and the criminal charges, against Assange are elementally political. Five weeks ago, Judge Vanessa Baraitser postponed her decision to rule in Assange’s extradition hearing until January of 2021, long after the presidential election is settled. In this delay, Assange’s supporters read an involuntary acknowledgement of the political nature of the prosecution, and while I did not share this view, I wonder nonetheless: could the judge’s comments be used against her if and when her ruling is appealed? In other words: could Assange’s attorneys argue that, as long as Trump is in office, their client suffers a credible risk of political persecution? Conversely, might the attorneys for the Department of Justice claim that, if Biden becomes president, then these concerns are illegitimate?
I am not encouraging my readers to vote for Trump. I cannot disregard Assange’s haunting call to action: “Resist this attempt by the Trump Administration!” Nor can I condone the many awkward efforts that have been made by certain pundits to parse this instruction, to separate Trump from his own Administration, and to identify the vaguest indication that the current president sympathizes with Assange and his mission. I cannot reconcile such a supposition with Trump’s affection for an unapologetic authoritarian such as William Barr, nor with Vice-President Pence’s negotiation of a multibillion-dollar payment to the Ecuadorian government in exchange for Assange; one does not dispose of someone else’s thirty pieces of silver. Lastly, I cannot cite my own involute knowledge of international law, a subject to which I would immediately defer to Assange’s lawyers. The most I would presume to do is to advise them of this hypothesis of mine, one which will mean nothing unless Trump wins re-election.
For the record, I am confident that Biden and the Democrats will win. As I have observed in other essays, and as I have mentioned several times on Twitter, the ostensibly non-partisan “get out the vote” campaigns, organized by obscenely wealthy individuals and their unfathomably influential institutions—the elaborate information apparatus—have expended fortunes unknown on Biden’s behalf, and hitherto, more than seventy million “early votes” have been recorded. I do not believe that Trump can overcome such a mountainous financial disadvantage, and even if I did, Biden is a prohibitive favorite in the state of New Hampshire. Accordingly, I already know what I will do this coming Tuesday: I will cast my vote for Julian Assange, who is not an American citizen and who is therefore ineligible to be President of the United States.