So the big Julian Assange news today is that he’s being released on bail, and Michael Moore is contributing. In fact, Moore went on Keith Olbermann’s show last night to encourage other progressives to donate to Assange’s bail — the accusations, they agreed, are “hooey.” Because Assange is a flight risk, his bail was set at $315,000, and he was released with a monitoring device to a 10-room mansion on a 650-acre estate owned by Vaughan Smith, the founder of a journalists’ club in London.
Now, I’m glad Assange was released on bail — there’s no reason to hold people in prison (especially in solitary confinement) if they don’t pose a threat to others and if they can be reasonably guaranteed to show up at their trials. Bail away, I say. Does Assange have a target on his back, and is the US undoubtedly trying to get him into the best possible position for extradition? Yessir, I would guess yes. Is that totally fucked? Yes, yes it is! And does Michael Moore have every right to contribute to Assange’s bail? Sure he does.
But let’s not pretend that contributing to Assange’s bail is a neutral act, and that Moore is only contributing because he can. Bail doesn’t help Assange fight extradition. It doesn’t do anything to forward his WikiLeaks-related plight. It gets him out of jail for the rape accusations. Moore also can contribute that $20,000 to RAINN, but as far as I know he hasn’t gone on Olbermann to tout that giving spree.
Moore could also use his platform to stand up for, say, Bradley Manning — who is also being detained, by the way, in pretty deplorable conditions. Manning, though, doesn’t have a name that has become synonymous with the WikiLeaks project; he doesn’t have the same cult of personality surrounding him as Assange. In fact, you can’t even blame lying bitches for his incarceration. To talk about Manning, we’d have to talk about the actual content of the information posted by WikiLeaks; we’d have to get into whether states ever need secrets, and what degree of transparency we should be demanding, and how much the public has a right to know, and whether anything should be obscured from public view. We’d have to address a figure who did some complicated things, and who doesn’t have the enormous support that Assange does. We’d have to talk about the fact that WikiLeaks is way, way bigger than just Assange. We’d have to muddle through conflicting ideals of transparency and safety and freedom and security. We’d have to do the hard stuff, in other words, the stuff that doesn’t fit as cleanly into back-patting blog posts and one-time donations. Moore, to his credit, publicly supports the release of Bradley Manning, and spread the word about pro-Manning protests on his website. But Manning certainly hasn’t gotten the attention from the left that Assange has; he hasn’t become the poster boy for free speech and transparency. The accusations against Manning — stuff that actually relates to WikiLeaks — have been largely obscured.
I’m glad that some people — Glenn Greenwald, for example — are doing the hard stuff. I certainly can’t claim that I have been, at least not in any public platform. But it’s disheartening to see someone like Michael Moore, who claims to be the champion of the little guy, so quickly forget that there are a lot of little guys here who are in a lot of trouble and who don’t have the world watching. There’s Bradley Manning. There are all of the rape survivors who are hearing the same old shit about how women ask for it because we went here or we talked to him or we consented to something sexual or we fell asleep in his bed or we wore that or we must have wanted it because he’s so important. There are the two women who accused Assange of rape, who have had their names and addresses and personal information distributed across the world, and at least one of whom has fled Sweden.
Oh, right. Little guys.
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