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Free Assange Even If You Don't Like Him

Free Assange Even If You Don't Like Him

by agent x51 on

This podcast episode does a good job of reflecting on Julian Assange. With Assange back in the headlines now that extradition is coming, it's important to understand that you often have the separate the person from the act, much the same way you might separate the author from the work. Warren Ellis is a douchebag, but much of his comic book work in his prime is gold. Should we discount Transmetropolitan and Planetary as works of art because Ellis is an asshole? I've had this debate with artist friends of mine and they tell me that I shouldn't.

The sexual assault charges against Assange were always a little bit suspect, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if they were true. If they do turn out to be true, he should be prosecuted for them.

What he shouldn't be prosecuted for is any of the work he did for WikiLeaks as a journalist—yes, a journalist. Let's not pretend he was anything else in his capacity at WikiLeaks.

I'm not a fan of Julian Assange. He comes across as arrogant and he certainly is a lot less careful with the information he obtains than many other journalists. But you can't praise Assange for his work during the Bush administration and then condemn him for his work perceived as "against" Hillary Clinton. A leak is a leak, and any skeleton in the closet is fair game during a presidential election. Clinton was a flawed candidate, and lest we let our emotions get the best of us, let's be honest, the average voting citizen likely paid little attention to those leaked emails—unless they were Fox News viewers just looking for blood in the water. How many voters did those emails really get to shift from Clinton to Trump?

I dislike that Assange decided to dedicate so much time to pressing Clinton. I certainly would have preferred a Clinton presidency over a Trump one (mostly for environmental reasons). But you can't fault Assange for showing you what a terrible candidate Clinton was, or how the DNC was certainly doing shady things. You should value the truth over your own politics. Sometimes shitty people get in office because the other candidate is even shittier—even if that other candidate shares some of your policy positions.

What's missing from this argument is consistency and we rarely reason about things like freedom of the press with consistency when we read actual anecdotes. We let our emotions get the best of us, come to our conclusions first, and then reason backwards.

No matter what you think of Assange, prosecuting him for his journalism opens up a can of worms that will allow any administration to go after any journalist, newspaper, or media empire when something is published or aired that they don't like. It would also set a dangerous precedent for press freedoms overseas.

Free Assange.

End of line.