Julian Assange, the Unappealing Martyr

It would take but one simple sentence from the Obama Administration: “The United States will not extradite Julian Assange from the UK, Sweden, or anywhere else for any actions he’s taken in the past.”

Thus would end a multi-country international incident that seems to grow every day. Assange is hardly a journalist, in my view, and I’ve written before that his actions were likely to precipitate just the sort of fascistic activity that we’re apparently witnessing today. Yet he is already a martyr, metaphorically speaking, to the cause of free expression and what should be a universal right not to be harrassed. That fact that he seems to be a deeply uanappealing hero is irrelevant.

So here we are, in a 21st century that’s evolving into an all-seeing, global police state, all due to the unlikely combination of box cutters and digital cameras. When will it end, and what can we do to end it?

Perhaps Assange’s plight should be viewed as a First World Problem. After all, children are among those being murdered in Syria these past months, North Koreans remain enslaved, and there are uncountable incidents of mass violence occurring throughout the world, including the United States.

All that brotherhood/sisterhood stuff that we just saw at the London Olympics, personified by a photo of two wrestling opponents, one American and one Iranian, hugging each other, rings hollow as usual.

Julian Assange’s troubles, the troubles of of the unfortunately named female punk band in Russia, even the ongoing Occupy movement arrests in the US, can seem trivial by comparison.

But these latter incidents seem to be part of a pattern, one in which the highly developed nations of the West (and I include Russia here) are as likely to place an iron grip on those they dislike as are the dictatorships of the world.

Lest anyone be offended by the comparison of the US and UK governments being compared to that of Syria, one has to ask the difference between a missile fired on Aleppo versus one fired in Tripoli or a caravan in Yemen. I frankly don’t know.

The Kingdom of Sweden has not yet gone this far, as far as I know. Perhaps, though, Sweden will feel a moral pang and issue the “no extradtion” statement that I never expect to see from the United States. One wonders how long this long-neutral nation will be willing to be at the beck and call of the CIA’s waterboarders.

Does anyone have Carl XVI Gustaf on speed-dial? His email? Does he tweet? He has no concrete power, but a statement from the man who presents the Nobel Peace Prize would be a game changer.

As I wrote last week, the emerging unitary global sheriff is made possible only by advances in technology. It’s glib (and wrong) to say we’re all guilty. But how long shall we keep cranking out more powerful hardware, more industrious software, and more ingenious ways to connect them if we’re only serving to limit the freedom that allowed us to create in the first place?

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