My criticisms of how Julian Assange dabbles in white nationalist rhetoric and what that means in light of his arrest gives me a certain set of reflections about solidarity.
Industrial hacks like the dependably-vomitous Michelle Goldberg have provided case studies of how broken the mainstream press is and why this coverage has been shallow, racist, and idiotic. Rather than focus on the multitude of ways that the WikiLeaks disclosures positively impacted the lives of entire countries in the Global South and minorities in the North, we are spoon-fed superficial supermarket tabloid bile that treats Assange as if he were a naughty rock star rather than one of the most important news publishers on the planet.
That foregrounding of Assange’s fickle personality as opposed to the lives of Black and Brown workers is the picture-perfect definition of liberal white supremacy. Whatever one can say about Assange and his reactionary politics (something I would argue Margaret Kimberley did par excellence on her Freedom Rider blog in the past several years), the reality is that the WikiLeaks disclosures opened a wider opportunity for journalists to report on the brutalities of American imperialism. Kimberley in particular is one of the most astute political thinkers in contemporary letters today, light-years beyond Goldberg’s plagiarized State Department press releases, and her writings on Assange are essential for those looking to develop a truly ethical lens by which they might comprehend this occurrence.
White supremacy has been injected into the WikiLeaks project for years now by multiple actors of varying political tendencies. Every story that has focused more attention on Assange rather than the meaning of the material he was publishing was a building block of this racist edifice. What’s more, this edifice has effectively and successfully distracted from the real and much more interesting news in those disclosures.
But unfortunately that edifice included Assange himself. He defines his politics as Classical Liberalism, or as we call it in America, Libertarian in the vein of Ayn Rand, Ludwig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and the political party that runs candidates such as Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. While Assange has hedged his bets over the past decade by fraternizing with solid Lefties like John Pilger, Slavoj Zizek, and others, he never has changed his affinities for abolition of the welfare state, privatization of the public domain, deregulation, and the rest of the so-called free market ideology. As a result, we had the privilege to read these sorts of missives:
These are the talking points of the xenophobic political actors that demonize and launch police state campaigns of violence against refugees in the EU and US. It is pretty obvious that Assange wrote these things to curry favor with elements within the Trump administration, particularly seeing as many liberal press outlets claimed Trump benefited from the release of the Podesta email cache. It might be understandable to desire to stop living under the conditions Assange was within the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Yet however one rationalizes the occurrence, he still wrote a lot of crazy racist bullshit on Twitter that was both disconnected from reality and toying with very dangerous notions that have been fueling violent campaigns of state brutality, not unlike what he exposed via his website in the first place.
And of course the bitter irony of all of this is that these human beings he demonized with such Tweets were precisely the people he instead needed to build solidarity with. For in the sum of all things, Assange is/was a refugee with citizenship in a South American country, not unlike the many people headed northwards into the United States today who are fleeing the same American imperial violence that Assange was targeted by. His colleagues in the journalism industry abandoned him years ago, as Goldberg demonstrates clearly. He is a white collar software engineer as opposed to a landless peasant or a disenfranchised laborer but there still exists an ironic legal overlap between the WikiLeaks publisher and those who head Northwards.
Furthermore, these are people who bring with them histories, cultures and practices that are much more loyal to their heritage and ancestors than the purported “secular Western values” that are the fodder of reactionaries who talk like Assange. As the Global North has perpetuated the violence of imperialism while justifying themselves owing to purported “Enlightenment values,” the Global South has evolved in distinct and important ways in the past century that has been much more syncretic, holistic, and compassionate than what the North has been capable of.
As the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc brought about the complete hegemony of neoliberal capitalism’s policy measures within all Northern political parties, including social democratic ones like the American Democrats and the British Labour who betrayed their worker constituencies, the pink tide of the democratic socialist Bolivarian movement rocked Central and Latin America in a way that mortified Washington to its core. Flawed as they have been, Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales did not yearn to be more European. Instead, Chavez openly boasted about being proud of his African and Indigenous ancestors.
Why would self-described “conservatives” in the North be so antagonistic towards people who uphold the notions of tradition, patriotism, Christian preferential option towards the impoverished, reverence towards ancestors, and strengthening of family security through social programs that make life easier for parents of young children?
In one word, whiteness. It is because these Southern peoples have darker skin than those in the North that they are condemned to the brutality of American imperialism.
The fact Assange could not comprehend that his plight is one and the same with other refugees is solely because of his whiteness, the ideology of settler-colonialism that has broken any potential bonds of solidarity successfully for 525 blood-soaked years now.
But as regretful as that all is, we still stand and solidarity with him. For if we fail at that, all writers that speak truth to power are next, particularly the ones who are not Classical Liberals.