Julian Assange

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By SLAVEJ ŽIŽEK*

They believe that if they continue to hold Assange in this undead condition, we will gradually forget about him. It's our duty to prove them wrong.

On this 3rd of July, Julian Assange will celebrate his 4th birthday in a solitary prison cell, without any conviction, just awaiting his extradition. It is a supreme irony that his birthday falls just one day before the XNUMXth of July, the date the United States celebrates its “Independence Day” – it is as if Assange's birthday was here to remind us of the dark aspects of not only from the “land of the free”, but from most western democracies.

When Belarus forced a Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius to land in Minsk in order to detain Roman Protasevich, a Belarusian dissident, this act of piracy was widely condemned by the global community. However, we must remember that a few years ago Austria did exactly the same thing (forced an aircraft crossing its airspace to make a forced landing) with the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales. This was done by order of the US, who suspected that Edward Snowden was on board that plane trying to go from Russia to Latin America. To make matters worse, Snowden wasn't even on the plane.

Against his will, Assange has become a symbol of this dark side of Western democracies, a symbol of the struggle against new digital forms of control and regulation over our lives – ways that are much more efficient than the old so-called “totalitarian” forms of control. . Many Western liberals insist that there are other countries around the world where direct oppression is far more brutal than in the UK and US, and they question the supposed hype around the Assange case? True, but in these countries the oppression is blatant, whereas what we now see in the liberal West is an oppression that largely leaves our sense of freedom intact. Assange brought up this paradox of unfreedom experienced as freedom.

That's why all the lowest tricks were used against him – even liberal feminists got their hands dirty. In the largest armed powers, oppressive measures are taken against those considered dangerous to the establishment. In the UK alone, we have MI6 quietly sweeping positions in state and educational agencies, trade unions under secret police control, quiet regulation of what is published in the media and what is shown on TV, minors from Muslim families interrogated by alleged terrorist links, to singular events like the illegal arrest of Julian Assange… Well, this type of censorship is much worse than the “sins” of cancel culture – why then do political correctness regulations focus so much on policing details of our speech instead of bringing these much more pressing issues to the fore? No wonder Assange was also attacked by some (not only) politically correct feminists in Sweden who refused to support him because they believed the accusations about his sexual misconduct (which were later dismissed by the Swedish authorities). A minor infraction of the rules of political correctness obviously trumps being a victim of state terror…

Assange, however, is not just a symbol. He is a living person who has been suffering a lot over the past decade. Independence Day is usually celebrated with fireworks, parades, ceremonies and family gatherings…but one family definitely won't be together today or tomorrow: Assange's.

Legend has it (and it probably isn't much more than that) that the phrase Neil Armstrong uttered shortly after he took his first step on the moon on July 20, 1969 wasn't "That's one small step for man. , but a giant leap for mankind.” Instead of official words stamped in the press, Armstrong reportedly uttered a somewhat cryptic remark: “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky.” Many people at NASA thought it was a casual comment about some rival Soviet astronaut. It was, however, only on July 5, 1995 that, when respond to a reporter's inquiry, Armstrong finally explained the riddle: “In 1938, as a child in a small Midwestern town, Neil Armstrong was playing baseball with a friend in the backyard. His friend hit the ball, which fell in the neighbor's yard, near the couple's bedroom window. His neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Gorsky. As he crouched down to catch the ball, young Neil heard Mrs. Gorsky yelling at Mr. Gorsky: “Sex! Do you want sex?! …You'll have sex when the boy next door walks on the moon!'”.

That's what literally happened thirty-one years later… When I heard this anecdote, I imagined a version of it with Julian Assange. Let's say that, when he received a visit from his companion Stella Morris in prison and the two were separated by the usual armored glass, he dreamed of intimate contact with her, to which she would have replied tersely: “Sex!? Do you want sex?? Why, you will have sex when you step free on the streets of New York, celebrated as a hero of our time!” – a perspective no less utopian than imagining in 1938 that a human being would step on the moon. That is why we must spare no energy to reach this goal, in the hope that, thirty-one years from now, we will be able to say with all sincerity: “Good luck, Mr. Assange!”

In stark contrast to the title of the Rolling Stones song, it is those in power who presume to have time on their side. They believe that if they just keep holding Assange in this undead condition, we will slowly forget about him. It is our duty to prove them wrong.

*Slavoj Žižek is a professor at the Institute of Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia). Author, among other books, of The year we dreamed dangerously (Boitempo).

Translation: Arthur Renzo.

Originally published on Boitempo's blog.

 

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