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World of the anarchists: many conspiracy theories but just one enemy

Date

Gerard Henderson

A century or so ago anarchists vowed to bring down the state. Modern day anarchists have a similar intention. It's just that, at this time of advanced narcissism, they expect a little help from government along the way.

The first Dateline program of the year went to air on SBS TV on Sunday. It featured an exclusive interview with Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder received another soft interview - this time from Mark Davis. The reporter suggested to Assange that "it looks like you will be in need of a home" and that "Australia is hardly rolling out the welcome mat for you".

Assange accepted the free kick and launched into an attack on Julia Gillard and the Labor government.

In the end, he said, Australia would "give the United States everything it wants" and went on to allege that Labor has been compromised by the WikiLeaks controversy.

The only evidence proffered in support of this claim turned on the WikiLeaks founder's coverage of the Labor minister Mark Arbib's purported conversations with officials in the US embassy in Canberra. Assange believes that Arbib should have been removed from the front bench. This overlooks the fact that, at best, the report of what Arbib said was hearsay. Moreover, he did not do anything that other politicians - Labor and Coalition - have done for ages. Namely, talk to an ally about national Australian politics. What's wrong with that?

The softness of the interview meant that Assange was not asked about what the Prime Minister should do about his predicament. The fact is that, some time ago, Assange voluntarily travelled to Sweden where, among other things, he attended a party along with leftists and left-of-centre types. It is well known that Sweden has probably the most stringent sexual assault laws in the Western world. Assange should have been aware of this.

There is nothing that the Gillard government can do about Assange's predicament. He is the defendant in a case in Britain against an extradition application lodged by Sweden. There is no evidence that the US government has influenced these proceedings and no evidence that Assange would be more likely to stop a possible extradition to the US if he remains in Britain rather than is compelled to go to Sweden.

Assange's legal team, including Geoffrey Robertson, QC, has been putting it about that there might be some conspiracy afoot in this case. But there is no evidence to support this view. In view of this, Assange's claim that the Gillard government is somehow responsible for his predicament is totally unfounded.

The well-known conspiracy theorist John Pilger has also joined the chorus. Writing in the New Statesman last month he traced Assange's plight to a plan to silence and criminalise independent journalism by the "imperial mafiosi" - meaning, presumably, Barack Obama and his administration. This overlooks the fact that if Assange had not attended a left-wing party in Sweden he would not now be facing any legal proceedings whatsoever.

An irony of the Assange case is that the WikiLeaks founder is not in dispute with the right-of-centre governments but with left-of-centre administrations like those led by Obama and Gillard. Assange believes that he is entitled to reveal virtually all government secrets. Then he demands the protection of the very governments he maintains are involved in abuse of power - even to the extent of suggesting that Australia should somehow interfere in the legal processes of democratic nations.

The Assange case has already become a saga. In addition to the likes of Pilger and Robertson, walk-on parts have been undertaken by film directors Michael Moore and Ken Loach along with such celebrities as Bianca Jagger and Jemima Khan. This even though the US has not sought Assange's extradition or even laid charges. Assange is a long way from Guantanamo Bay.

It seems that the White House is always the enemy. On Sunday Dateline also ran a piece on the film Fair Game, the thesis of which is that the White House during George W. Bush's time revealed that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. This was done, it is alleged, to discredit Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, who was a critic of the invasion of Iraq.

The Dateline presenter Yalda Hakim travelled to Santa Fe to interview Plame. She ran a fashionably anti-Bush line and failed to question the message of Fair Game. The director of Fair Game can always claim artistic licence. But what is Hakim's excuse? Dateline failed to mention that no one was ever charged with revealing Plame's CIA employment. Nor did she acknowledge that the person who first let on about Plame's occupation was former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, who was not an enthusiast for invading Iraq.

Journalist Judith Miller, the only person to go to jail as a result of the Plame case, has described Fair Game as a "gross distortion". Miller was imprisoned for failing to reveal a source. She was not mentioned in the film or on Dateline. Nor was Armitage. To do so would have diminished the film's anti-Bush line.

Regrettably some journalists who admire Assange and distrust the White House - no matter what party is in office - themselves fail the full disclosure test.

Gerard Henderson is executive director of the Sydney Institute.

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119 comments

  • No one should be above the law, unfortunately many in effect are. Should Mr. Assange face a Swedish court he can at least take comfort in the fact that it's legal system is open and honest. Unlike the system Stern Hu (another Australian) faced.

    Commenter
    SteveH.
    Date and time
    February 15, 2011, 6:09AM
    • Chris Patten the former british governor of Hong Kong once said..."If America didn't exist, we'd have to invent it: upon what other convenient scapegoat could we so conveniently load our sins and dump our garbage? Where else would we find such a place to whitewash the crimes of the planet, since anything that goes wrong on earth, from global warming to terrorism, can be laid at America's door? It's a stroke of good luck for a dictatorship or a criminal gang finally to be chased down and singled out by the United States. It gains them immediate sympathy, the goodwill of all for whom, in Chris Patten's words, "the only authorized racism in the modern world is anti-Americanism." We don't doubt it for a moment: if the June 1944 landings were happening today, Uncle Adolf would enjoy the sympathy of innumerable patriots and radicals of the extreme left with the excuse that Uncle Sam was aiming to crush them.

      Commenter
      kman
      Date and time
      February 15, 2011, 6:28AM
      • Blind, or not-so-blind freddy knows that the US wants Assange out of circulation. It doesn't take a paranoid mindset or any conspiracy theory to link Sweden's attempt to get him in the courts on charges that would not normally be viable.
        The US admin is the problem, not Assange. Good on him for exposing that fact. I'd like to see Assange back on Oz soil & the egg on Gillards face when pressured to do something with him..

        Commenter
        Scott W
        Date and time
        February 15, 2011, 6:29AM
        • Could someone please translate this column into English?

          I'd be grateful

          Commenter
          David
          Location
          Leongatha
          Date and time
          February 15, 2011, 6:32AM
          • Gerard Henderson's disingenuous remark that Mark Arbib was doing nothing more than talking "to an ally about national Australian politics," and asking tendentiously "What's wrong with that?" fails to acknowledge that Arbib had no business to be talking to US embassy staff, that he was fulfilling no formal obligations and was seeing them in no formal capacity. Rather he, and other politicians from both the ALP and the Liberal party, have been providing secret briefings about matters of no apparent concern to an ally - such as the internal workings of an Australian political party - that have then been fed into US diplomatic traffic for purposes that the Australian population is being deliberately kept in the dark about. As a result of Wikileaks, we can now see that Australia can be described as a "strong US ally" because the US Embassy has agents of influence in every major Australian party. The question of what the flag should look like pales into insignificance compared to that frightening and barely commented on truth.

            Commenter
            Stephen Sewell
            Location
            Parramatta
            Date and time
            February 15, 2011, 6:38AM
            • Gerard, could you please answer the following:

              - how is attending a "left wing" party relevant?
              - why should Assange have been aware of stringent sexual assault laws?
              - when did it become the right of governments to decide who to protect?
              - what is left of "centre" about Obama and Gillard? Where exactly is the centre? Gerard Henderson?
              - is the failure to charge anyone over the disclosure of Plame's employment the same as saying nobody should be charged with the disclosure?
              - Is calling something a conspiracy enough to discredit it as a theory?

              Please reply

              Commenter
              Rupert Pupkin
              Date and time
              February 15, 2011, 6:40AM
              • G.H. Please get a life. To you everyone in this world is stupid and senseless. This article have all the hallmark of your nagative attitude towards and during the saga of David Hicks. Thanks be to God, you are not the only historian and writer in Austrlaia If that was the case, death would have come knocking on our doors. "If men were God". Nonsense!!

                Commenter
                Nonsense
                Date and time
                February 15, 2011, 6:54AM
                • Gerard, Gerard . . . Gerard.
                  More criticisms of the left as your sponsors would expect!
                  Every man is entitled to his opionion but NOT his own facts old fella.
                  To date there is no evidence of any harm to any person as a result of Wikileaks information released which effectively eliminates the arguments pand quietly acknowledged by US officials criticising Assange's media organisation.
                  Instead of accepting and understanding how technology has facilitated the release of information for the public good, the usual suspects bleakly attack the messenger.
                  How about looking at the facts released, therein lies the 'real' story.
                  I agree with Assange that Abib should have gone (he has never denied the allegations), so should any other elected representative of the Australian people, if there is sufficient evidence that they have colluded with US diplomats or those of any other country, covertly.
                  This can only facilitate improper actions!
                  If it has to be secret Gerard, the public should know why!

                  Commenter
                  Danger Ranger
                  Date and time
                  February 15, 2011, 6:57AM
                  • "There is no evidence that the US government has influenced these proceedings and no evidence that Assange would be more likely to stop a possible extradition to the US if he remains in Britain rather than is compelled to go to Sweden."

                    This might be read as: "It is inconceivable that the US government has influenced these proceedings or that Assange would be more likely to stop a possible extradition to the US if he remains in Britain rather than is compelled to go to Sweden."

                    But that could not possibly be Henderson's intention, any more than any of the Swedish and American politicians involved could be working to get Assange into any convenient slammer, and for a long time.

                    But then again, Assange's popularity has come through his exposures of the duplicity of politicians.

                    It is all so confusing.

                    Commenter
                    Charlie
                    Location
                    Dubbo NSW
                    Date and time
                    February 15, 2011, 7:05AM
                    • Gerard Henderson should be working for the American Fox News. He is so pro American and loves Bush's warmongering rabble that he would be better of ranting there.

                      Commenter
                      wummi
                      Location
                      Varsity Lakes
                      Date and time
                      February 15, 2011, 7:14AM

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