27 August 2010
According to prosecutors in Sweden, authorities in Stockholm will pursue a vague "molestation" charge against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
There is precious little evidence available in the public domain, though the few details circulating make me extremely sceptical of both the rape (which seems 100 per cent false) and molestation charges against Assange. More on that in a minute. But for the wild-eyed, spittle-flecked conspiracists bloggers - and Assange himself - the charges reeked of a U.S. government plot. And sure, one only need to read the Church Commission report to realize that such dirty tricks have a long pedigree in American intelligence circles. But even a cursory look at the case would suggest that while it appears that Assange's name is being dragged through the mud, it isn't by the CIA.
But the speed with which the conspiracy theories spread throughout the moronosphere was enough for The New York Times London correspondent, the terrific John Burns, to produce an article headlined, "Plotting doubted in Wikileaks case". That would be the Pentagon/CIA plotting to destroy Assange, obviously. Assuming that Assange knew the identity of his accusers when contacted by prosecutors, he nevertheless told any reporter within earshot that "we have been warned that the Pentagon, for example, is thinking of deploying dirty tricks to ruin us. And I have also been warned about sex traps." After expressing scepticism that it was an American intelligence job, Harpers magazine nevertheless warned that "as this incident makes clear, the war on WikiLeaks will be fought with unconventional tools and those following the story are advised to accept nothing at face value."
Amazingly, the bumbling fools in American intelligence managed to flip Anna Ardin, the left-wing feminist (often described in the Swedish blogosphere as a "radical feminist") spokeswoman for Broderskapsrörelsen, the liberation theology-like Christian organization affiliated with Sweden's Social Democratic Party (she is not, as I have seen written, a "Christian Democrat"). If any of these sub literate bloggers knew anything about the kristen vänster (but why should you know anything at all, when a simple, ideology-validating conspiracy is so much more satisfying?), they would probably have guessed that Assange's accuser was, as is common in Sweden, operating off of a very broad definition of rape and "sexual molestation."
If any of these bozos did twenty minutes of research, they might have found Ardin's blog - "my feminist reflections and comments on animal rights, Swedish politics and Cuba from a political scientist, Christian left and long distance runner" - and read her post, with the help of a Scandinavian comrade or Google Translate, "Våldtäkt en del av mäns makt" - rape [is] a part of men's power. Or they would have seen this article from Ardin's days at Uppsala University, where she, in her role as some sort of equality watchdog, denounced the tradition of singing ribald student songs, which included "references to genitalia and serious sexual content," as "offensive and stereotypical." She is, in other words, rather sensitive on gender issues. Or this blog post on how one can exact "legal revenge" on men who have been "unfaithful." According to The Guardian, sources close to the investigation claim that she filed a complaint because Assange didn't wear a condom during sex. So the boring truth is that Assange didn't come up against a CIA conspiracy, but the rather broad Swedish conception of what constitutes a sexual crime.
Harpers hints darkly that "the information was fanned in a tabloid-style paper within minutes (sic) of its being opened." First, Expressen is not a tabloid-style newspaper, but an actual tabloid. Nor is it, as Assange claimed, "right wing." So who would have leaked this information to Expressen? A bit of legwork here too would have revealed that Ardin interned for the editorial page of GT, the Gothenburg edition of Expressen. While there is no evidence to suggest that Ardin herself leaked the material to her former employer, it is certainly more plausible than fingering the Pentagon. But again, why bother doing any research when the sinister conspiracy is more ideologically satisfying?
If you, like many of the conspiracists, are confused as to how the Swedish authorities could issue and then, in less than 24 hours, withdraw a warrant for Assange's arrest, then you don't know the Swedish authorities.
Just ask the families of Anna Lindh and Olaf Palme for details. Indeed, when one prosecutor overruled the conclusions of another, more junior, prosecutor, she explained to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that "My decision doesn't mean that her decision was wrong." And to Aftonbladet, she dug in her heels: "That I changed the decision doesn't mean that her decision was wrong." Translation? Amateur hour at the prosecutor's office.
One final note on using Google Translate in blog posts, as is becoming increasingly common. Google Translate is a helpful tool, though in the race to be first with the latest news of Assange, many bloggers have been far too trusting of its often really terrible results. For instance, this story in Expressen, which was posted on many American blogs, contains the very simple phrase, referring to the allegations:"Allt är inte glasklart" - all isn't crystal clear. Google renders this without the negation, as "all is crystal clear." Also, Gawker, relying on Google Translate, links to a Swedish blog calling Anna Ardin possibly the "world's most hated woman right now." A few clicks deeper into the site - this weathervane of Swedish opinion about Ardin - and one gets to read charming, rambling stories of Jewish influence in Sweden and the creeping "Islamization" of Scandinavia.