Character Assassination (?)

There’s a good update here on the Assange affair.

He’s an odd bloke, alright, with his pale face, white hair and unconventional life-style. His enemies – who include most of the governments he’s offended – have exploited his peculiarities, and then built on them, in order to undermine any radical support there might be for him. They’ve done a great job here. Most of the accounts I read of him in the press characterise him as a sex offender and a coward, who jumped bail in Britain in order to avoid being extradited to Sweden on ‘rape’ charges. They also hint that he has problems with his ‘personal hygiene’ – never washes, and therefore (one infers) stinks. One report had him smearing excrement on his shower-room wall.

That’s the general picture of him, which would be pretty off-putting if it were true. If it’s not, then it’s a brilliant piece of character assassination, such as you might expect from Tory newspapers, conservative (and other) governments, and secret services. (It also has the advantage of getting the feminists on side.) The 99% of people who only know about Assange from the media will probably have been taken in by it. The judge who arraigned him after his exit from the Ecuadorian Embassy certainly was. (See, at the end.) Whether or not it prejudices any trial he may face in the future is hard to know at this stage, but it must have alienated some of the people who otherwise might have been expected to support him.

To repeat what I’ve written before on the ‘rape’ point: this is not strictly speaking the accusation he faces in Sweden. In any case the charge is a very dodgy one, as I explained three years ago (see; and posts from around that time on this site); and was emphatically not the reason why he was unwilling to be extradited to Sweden. Rather, he was seeking to avoid re-extradition to the USA, which the Swedish authorities refused to rule out, and the possibility of which was pooh-poohed by some people, but which the American government’s latest extradition demand shows was a reasonable fear. On the ‘personal hygiene’ thing, of course I can’t know the truth, but there are plenty of his acquaintances and visitors who deny it. And it’s the sort of smear that you would imagine that amoral ministers, spooks and newspapers – and we have plenty of them – would  spread, about any dangerous fellah they wanted to pull down.

We’re still waiting to see whether the Swedish authorities will help the British government out by reviving their application for his extradition. The British Home Office appears to be keen for them to have first pick. (Extradition to Trump’s USA would be far more controversial.) So are the feminists. I’ve already suggested reasons why the Swedes might not be too keen to have him (see If they do manage to put him on trial there, the advantage for the public of both countries will be the evidence that comes up at his trial, which might give a more reliable account of him and his alleged misdeeds than the hostile rumours that most of us are dependent on now.

The Swedes appear not to have come to a decision yet. I’ll look into this when I return to Stockholm at the end of next week.

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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