Illustration by Robbespierre on Wikipedia, C.C.A. 3.0.
Whenever there’s a high-profile criminal case, it seems that the press tries as hard as it can to trash the defendant’s sex life in order to make them look bad and take away their right to a fair trial. Scott Peterson, Neil Entwistle, Gary Zerola, Casey Anthony, Phil Markoff, and countless others have been victims of this…and so has Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame.
On Friday, the Guardian published all the graphic details of the rape and sexual assault accusations against him, writing in an editorial, “It is unusual for a sex offence case to be presented outside of the judicial process in such a manner, but then it is unheard of for a defendant, his legal team and supporters to so vehemently and publicly attack women at the heart of a rape case.”
Then, the Daily Mail wrote about how Assange “stole” another reporter’s girlfriend, complete with disparaging quotes by the Swedish coordinator of WikiLeaks, who seems to be a bit of a traitor. They also wrote about “the secret son Assange fathered with a girl of 17,” failing to mention that he was all of 18 at the time, as anyone who has read his Wikipedia article would know. Numerous media outlets have been mercilessly ragging on his OKCupid profile, and Gawker mockingly detailed a series of emails he sent a few years ago to a girl he had a crush on.
This puts Assange in a tough situation. He called it “disgusting” for a senior reporter and former friend at the Guardian to “selectively” publish the most incriminating details of the rape allegations, and his Swedish lawyer has called for an investigation into who leaked the documents. But because Assange has basically dedicated his life to releasing secret documents, some people have called this hypocritical.
First of all, I don’t think Assange is a hypocrite. There is a vast difference between releasing government secrets, which the public arguably has a right to know since government is supposed to serve the people, and releasing graphic details about someone’s sex life in order to make them look bad. (Assange explains this brilliantly in an interview with the BBC: “We are an organisation that does not promote leaking. We’re an organisation that promotes justice.”) Second of all, nothing in his love life is particularly incriminating, and the online dating profile and emails, if anything, show that he is intelligent and a good writer. And finally, I believe that Assange is not a rapist. It is very difficult to read such a graphic account of the charges, but nothing contained in it, in my opinion, shows that Assange forced anyone to have sex against their will.
I want to keep my blog basically G-rated, but let me give a few facts. Both women who accused Assange of rape admit that they had consensual sex with him shortly before they say they were raped. The first accuser appeared perfectly happy in public with him, continued to let him stay in her apartment, and held a party in his honor, all after the alleged crime occurred. She also blogged about ways to take legal revenge on cheating boyfriends. The second accuser actively pursued Assange by attending the seminar that he spoke at and hanging around outside in hopes of getting invited to lunch with him. The accusers initially went to the police in order to force him to take an STD test, not to claim that they were raped, and it is alleged that they sent text messages indicating that they planned to sell their story to tabloids. The two women didn’t make the accusations until they met each other and discovered that they had both slept with Assange. And finally, a senior Swedish prosecutor threw out the allegations because she believed that they would not constitute rape even if they were all true, and they were only brought up again once WikiLeaks began its controversial publishing of diplomatic cables.
At the risk of being called extremely politically incorrect, I believe that what makes rape a horrific crime is that it takes away a person’s sexual innocence and forces sex upon them against their will. Given that neither complainant, from what I can gather, objected to having sex with Assange, but just disagreed with him about whether a condom should be used, these conditions simply aren’t true in this case.
Many people have noted that one can support WikiLeaks as an organization without supporting Assange as an individual, and that’s certainly true. But I support both. Let me be on the record as saying that I have read all of the aforementioned trashy articles, and I like Julian Assange. It shows class that he doesn’t like to talk about his sex life in public…a lot more class than the reporters who keep asking him about it. Although obviously not the most pure and chaste person in the world, he is brave, intelligent, principled, and honorable…and not a rapist.