WikiLeaks and Freedom
Recently, WikiLeaks advocate WL Central posted an admonition about death threats to Julian Assange and his family. It’s amusing to see a WikiLeaks defense based on the laws of nations. When law restrains WikiLeaks they cry “freedom”, and disdain it. When law protects WikiLeaks, it’s something to which the rest of us had better adhere. Apparently, some laws are more equal than others.
Most striking in this post were the comments accompanying the WikiLeaks appeal; many remarking on American hypocrisy relative to free speech and freedom. In other words, if your desires are limited in any way you’ve been robbed you of your freedom.
Let’s set the record straight. You have no right to unrestrained freedom. You’ve never had a right to unrestrained freedom. And it’s highly unlikely you will ever have a right to unrestrained freedom. Unrestrained freedom is anarchy (WikiLeaks’ true aim). Few people and no governments will accept anarchy.
Webster defines freedom as: “1) …the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints…2) immunity from an obligation or duty.” Restraint is defined as: “2) discipline in personal and social activities…4) a rule or condition that limits freedom.” Law is defined as “ 3) a rule or body of rules of conduct inherent in human nature or essential to or binding upon human society”.
What we have in America is restrained freedom; freedom restrained through law.
Why restrain freedom? Because your desires will inevitably come into conflict with mine. This is why we create law; to moderate our myriad conflicting desires.
I might desire to post your bank account information. You might desire not to have that information public. You might desire to publish my medical records. I might desire to keep them confidential. You might desire to establish one State religion. I might desire to worship as I please, or not at all.
You might desire to publish sensitive communication between world leaders, to expose what you consider to be duplicity. I might desire some channels of communication remain private so good men can debate and seek conflict resolution without the yoke of public opinion obfuscating their true thoughts.
I might want Assange stopped at all costs; Julian might want to spread further mayhem.
Imagine freedom unrestrained by law (self-serving dictatorial whims are not “law”). We’ve had historic examples. Hitler had unrestrained freedom. Chavez just assumed it (temporarily, of course – believe that?). Such societies become abominations of force. The violently strong prevail, without restraint. Force is applied not in the defense of liberty but in the abridgment of it.
Many assert that Assange cannot be tried under the American Espionage Act because, among other defenses, he is not an American citizen. That is, you can only be held accountable according to the authority of your own nation. This thinking supposes there are no absolute codes of human conduct or accountability, therefore no claims upon such a code can be pressed.
Criminals across generations have attempted this argument, to escape judgment, and failed. The Nuremberg trials are the most graphic example; Guantanamo Bay detainees the most recent. Disingenuously, defenders of the latter’s right to criminal trial in American courts are many of the the same voices disputing US lack of authority to try Assange in the same court system. You can’t have it both ways.
Recently, Assange threatened to release more documents if any government attempts to “curtail his activities”. In spite of the damage and widespread denunciation the first leaks caused, Assange now says: “give me what I want, or I will do more harm”. So said Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and an infamous band of contemporary megalomaniacs, whom I won’t flatter with further mention, here.
One would think Assange would relish the media circus of an American trial. What an opportunity to expose the transgressions of government. What an opportunity for transparency. What an opportunity to martyr oneself as the defender of free speech.
But, this latest threat to release more documents is not born of the quest to further your freedom; this time it’s all about Julian.
So much for the courageous and altruistic freedom fighter; reduced to a common extortionist in a desperate fight for self-preservation.
However, the authors of the WL Central post are correct in one respect. Civilized nations have laws that protect people against harm, and threats of harm, outside of judicial systems. Anyone threatening harm to Assange or his family should be held accountable.
Further, I do not believe Assange should be extradited or prosecuted. The criminal negligence belongs to Bradley Manning, who actually leaked the classified material to WikiLeaks. Using the Espionage Act, in this specific case, is a slippery slope. And Julian has his hands full with sexual assault charges that have done more to damage his legacy than WikiLeaks did. He becomes more of a caricature, by the day.
Assange desperately wants the limelight. He wants to write his name in the history books. Fine; he’s done that. He’s had his fifteen minutes. Let’s move on.
But all bets are off if he continues his anarchic behavior. WikiLeaks: behave now – or else.