Opinion: Is The Zeitgeist Finally Shifting In Favor Of Julian Assange?
Although the phrase Zeitgeist refers to the spirit of an age, it seems appropriate to use it to describe the shift in consciousness that can take place in a moment.
As the sixth anniversary of Julian Assange’s asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy approaches, public awareness is rapidly shifting in Assange’s favor. The ongoing isolation of Julian Assange by the Ecuadorian government appears to have bolstered sympathy for the Wikileaks Editor-In-Chief worldwide, instead of relegating him to the detritus of a fast-moving news cycle.
— #FreeAssange! (tweets by campaign)⌛ (@JulianAssange) May 21, 2018
Disobedient Media recently reported on last week’s Unity4J online vigil, which ran over 24 hours in an effort to raise awareness and to bring an end to Julian Assange’s isolation. As this writer noted during the vigil itself, attending and viewing such events are far from the only way to make a tangible difference in support of Assange.
Readers and viewers must understand that efforts to help do not end at the period finishing the last sentence of this article, or the last guest at a vigil. Rather, readers and viewers must take up their own actions, because it is truly up to the public to fight for Assange, when a unified but unelected power structure is set on destroying him and the work of the organization he leads.
As Ciaron O’Reilly puts it: “He is fighting for us in there, so we have to fight for him out here.” And that fight does not necessarily have to take the form of physical or online vigils, writing, or speaking. There are a multitude of equally powerful actions that supporters can take to act for Julian Assange’s very real benefit.
Despite recent escalations in public demonstrations of support for Julian Assange and the revelation that many of WikiLeaks’ Twitter detractors may largely come from Twitter botnets, the question for some remains: “How can I help Julian Assange and Wikileaks at this critical time?”
The answer to this question is manifold, and includes writing letters and postcards to Julian Assange (more on that later), signing online petitions, donating to Wikileaks, contributing to Julian Assange’s legal defense fund, and buying from the Wikileaks shop. Absolutely anyone and everyone can also sign the open letter addressed to US President Donald Trump, calling on him to “… Immediately close the Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks and drop any charges against Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks staff members which the Department of Justice is planning.”
The following additional thoughts on this subject are not intended to represent the view of WikiLeaks or anyone besides myself and are not meant to be viewed as comprehensive or final!
In my opinion, the biggest stumbling block on this front isn’t a lack of tools, abilities, or talents: It is a lack of imagination or self-confidence in terms of recognizing our innate gifts and re-engineering them for the Reconnect Julian effort.
Due to the extremely fast-paced news cycle, it is easy to lose sight of the incredible amount of support that has been shown for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange by people across the political and ideological spectrum. This post intends to encourage people to take their own action, in part by reminding the public of just how many individuals have already spoken up. If you have an audience – whether readers, viewers or listeners – make content focusing on efforts to Reconnect Julian. A few examples of this type of effort (far from comprehensive!) are listed below.
Again: The following sentiments are my own and should not be confused with an official guide endorsed by anyone except myself.
Shortly after the Unity4J vigil, actress-turned-activist and close friend of Assange Pamela Anderson spoke with Tucker Carlson on Fox News about Julian Assange, calling him “a great testament to the human spirit.” Meanwhile, renowned Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges expressed strong support for Assange via Twitter, writing:
.@JulianAssange‘s life is in danger. In violation of his fundamental
human rights, the Ecuadoran government has transformed his asylum in its
London embassy into a form of brutal incarceration.
— Chris Hedges (@ChrisLynnHedges) June 7, 2018
“Julian Assange’s life is in danger. In violation of his fundamental human rights, the Ecuadoran government has transformed his asylum in its London embassy into a form of brutal incarceration… “
“It has cut off his access to the Internet, thus depriving Julian of the ability to communicate with his supporters or even follow world events. The transparent aim of this inhuman treatment is to force Julian to leave the Ecuadoran embassy, so that he can be seized by London police, thrown into a British jail, and endure deportation proceedings which will be rigged to ensure a predetermined outcome.”
“Julian Assange will be turned over to the United States and delivered into the hands of Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, James Bolton and the CIA’s expert torturer-in-chief Gina Haspel. Julian Assange is a courageous journalist. He has been victimized because he exposed the real crimes of imperialism. The conspiracy against Julian must be stopped. His defense is the cutting edge of the fight against gov. suppression of the most fundamental democratic rights.”
“I therefore support the June 17 demonstration in Sydney, called by the Australian Socialist Equality Party (@SEP_Australia), which is demanding that the Australian government afford Julian the protection to which he is entitled as a citizen of Australia. The Turnbull government must take action to stop Julian’s illegal persecution by the British, American and Ecuadoran governments, and secure his safe return to Australia.”
It’s not just celebrities and respected journalists speaking out on his behalf, but also ordinary people across the globe: most recently, the World Socialist Website reported that rallies will be held in Sri Lanka on June 19th calling for the freedom of Julian Assange on the anniversary of the day he entered the embassy in 2012.
In Australia, artists like ‘Yarraspot’ took to the streets of Melbourne to express support for Julian Assange in the form of vibrant street art. What was particularly wonderful about Yarraspot’s art event was that she encouraged passers-by to join in and add their own messages in support of Unity4J. The finished display was also tweeted by WikiLeaks Art Force:
‘WikiLeaks was formed as an act of love’–Patti Smith.
Street art project supporting Julian Assange & WikiLeaks, in Melbourne with @yarraspot, inviting passers-by to join in. #FreeAssange #Unity4J pic.twitter.com/BJYRxYwiEN
— WikiLeaks Art ⌛ (@WLArtForce) June 2, 2018
The World Socialist Website also recently reported that Australian workers and youth had demonstrated in solidarity with Assange, writing that: “The sentiments of ordinary people stand in stark contrast to the venomous hostility to Assange on the part of governments and the corporate media. On Sunday, the Socialist Equality Party held a successful public meeting in Brisbane, concluding a national series titled “Organise Resistance to Internet Censorship, Free Julian Assange.” The Brisbane meeting, like previous events in Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle, was attended by workers, retirees, students and WikiLeaks supporters.”
Cassandra Fairbanks has also done a fantastic job getting the message out there with short, to-the-point-videos. Pamela Anderson spoke with the press about the fact that the current situation constitutes torture and recently called on Kanye West to support Julian, while members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) signed a petition calling for Julian’s communications to be restored.
Meanwhile, Randy Credico voiced his support for Assange at the Washington Correspondent’s dinner (and was thrown out of the event as a result), journalists like Glenn Greenwald have covered the issue, HA Goodman wrote an article in support of Julian Assange, Suzie Dawson published a masterful history of the true WikiLeaks story (disproving years of mainstream media smears of both Julian and WikiLeaks in the process) shortly before his communications were cut and instigated a groundbreaking online vigil with Kim Dotcom and many others in response to Julian’s isolation, and I was honored to speak with Jamarl Thomas of the Progressive Soapbox and Graham Elwood of the Political Vigilante about the current situation.
Taking all of these efforts into account, it becomes clear that support for Julian Assange encompasses the breadth of the political and geographical landscape.
So, if you have a voice, use it!
Absolutely everyone is encouraged to write directly to Julian Assange and also to their own political representatives at federal, state and local levels, by letter, call or email. Demand that your representatives express support for Julian Assange and take immediate action on his behalf.
This is just one example of what @ElizabethleaVos was saying – do what you can, no matter how small. Over 3,000 cars pass by our street each day. On days I’m home, I’ll just hang the sign. If only one person sees it and does something, that would be great. pic.twitter.com/GXMq32mOER
— LET (@Took415) June 5, 2018
Recently, Assange’s legal representatives put out a call to action, for the public to write letters to NGOs and humanitarian organizations, demanding they issue a statement calling on the UK to make a formal guarantee it will not extradite Julian to the US and to bring an end to his arbitrary detention. A template letter is provided below from JusticeForAssange.com, and is reproduced here with permission from Assange’s legal team. Please visit the site itself for more information and follow the instructions provided, and ask other supporters to do the same!
[Name of the highest representative of the NGO] [NGO Name] [NGO Address]
Dear [Name of the highest representative of the NGO],
I am writing to urge [NGO name] to call on the UK to publicly and formally guarantee that it will not extradite Julian Assange to the United States in connection with WikiLeaks.
[NGO name] has been silent on this issue for too long. Julian Assange’s fate is not just the fate of one man. The clear intent of the United States administrations, past and present, is to imprison him for many years for his publishing work. This is of grave concern to all who truly defend the freedom of the press and the right of the public to access information. These are rights and freedoms that [NGO name] has staked out as its own founding principles.
Calling on the UK to prevent Assange’s extradition is not a controversial position. There is already consensus among leading voices of the human rights community that US attempts to prosecute Assange amount to persecution, and that an extradition to the United States would weaken press freedoms at home and abroad.
Amnesty International in 2012 called for the governments concerned to “issue assurances” that Julian Assange “will not be extradited to the USA in connection with Wikileaks”.
ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero stated “it’s clear that any criminal charges against Mr. Assange in connection with Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional. Indeed, even the prolonged criminal investigation of Wikileaks itself has had a profound chilling effect. The Justice Department should end that investigation”. Ben Wizner, also at ACLU, stated that “Any prosecution of WikiLeaks for publishing government secrets would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organizations.”
James Goodall, formal legal counsel to the New York Times, put it best: “What started off as a putative prosecution of Assange has turned into a persecution.”
The political persecution of Assange, if permitted to continue its course, will irreversibly undermine press freedoms in the West and has already been used to justify crackdowns against publishers and journalists in other countries.
The human rights community must stand united and defend its principles. As during the Apartheid era, this issue is not just a matter of principle, it is a struggle that defines the true nature and scope of our freedoms and those who stand ready to defend them.
[NGO name] must take a clear stand on the key issue of the publisher’s right to publish without threat of imprisonment. A public statement calling for the UK to issue a formal guarantee that it will not extradite Julian Assange to the US in connection with WikiLeaks publications will be a solid first step.
If you are great at Photoshop or graphic design, then consider creating “Reconnect Julian” themed images/memes to spread on social media. Are you a cook, or a baker? No joke, have a bake sale with the proceeds to Julian Assange’s legal defense fund or WikiLeaks. This may sound silly to some, but it shows how any creative skillset can be put to good use, even if you aren’t a politician, actress, journalist, or if you don’t use social media – there are still an infinite variety of ways you can help.
It is also very important at this time that the public writes letters of support, solidarity and encouragement to Julian Assange himself. The impact – and pressing need – of this particular action was discussed by both CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou and long-time human rights activist Ciaron O’Reilly during the Unity4J vigil, with both men speaking to the positive effect of receiving letters during their own experience of confinement and imprisonment. O’Reilly and Kiriakou both referred to the letters they received as representing an unbroken thread tying them to the rest of humanity, at least somewhat reducing the pain of isolation.
c/o Ecuadorian Embassy,
Flat 3b, 3 Hans Crescent,
London, SW1X OLS
The campaign also has postcards for you to send to the British Medical Association, calling for it to intervene on the grounds of the detrimental effects on Julian Assange’s physical and mental health of such prolonged confinement and isolation.
The public can also support Assange on social media, by using hashtags #ReconnectJulian, #Unity4J, #1TweetADay4JA and the like. Sharing accurate and supportive information about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is vitally important because the establishment is working so hard to smear and silence them, as evidenced by Assange’s current isolation. Do not underestimate the power of your retweet, Facebook share, conversation with friends, or blog post.
If you are a member of a political party, use your voice! This type of action was exemplified by Clare Daly recently in Ireland, as highlighted by Wikileaks Task Force:
— WikiLeaks Task Force (@WLTaskForce) April 17, 2018
During the Unity4J vigil Kevin Zeese spoke about how to ensure that activism is impactful. Zeese is a long-time activist and lawyer, is a member of the Board of the Courage Foundation, and co-director of PopularResistance.org. Zeese explained to viewers that: “I don’t think we’ve understood, yet, the potential of our power… People want to know what they can do to be successful, and impactful, as activists… There is research that shows that if 3.5% of the population gets mobilized on issues where there is a national consensus, the movement always wins. Always. For the last one hundred years – 3.5 % active, with a national consensus, the movement has always won, in a dictatorship or a democracy, it doesn’t matter what kind of government. People have won in those situations.”
Other options could include pasting stickers in public, putting up posters and leaflets on public notice boards, and passing out leaflets/information in support of reconnecting and freeing Assange, as Quinn Petersen has already begun to do:
Are you musical? Make a song or album dedicated to Julian Assange or WikiLeaks! Some amazing souls have already begun blazing this trail. An album, Beat The Blockade, was produced in 2012 and “Donated by a range of artists and make a creative, enjoyable way for people to Beat the[financial] Blockade”. More musical contributions like this could do a lot to raise awareness and support now for an immediate end to Julian Assange’s isolation. Any musicians who do a bit of street busking from time to time could do so with a Free Assange/Reconnect Julian poster and donate the proceeds of that day’s donations to WikiLeaks. Musician Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, recently used his platform to raise awareness and support for Julian Assange:
19 June will be 6 years since Julian Assange took refuge in London’s Ecuadorean embassy. Today, he has never been more isolated & his health is failing. Show your support at vigils & rallies on 17/19 June with Roger Waters, Julian Burnside QC & Terry Hicks https://t.co/U70Yvzt5RK pic.twitter.com/lFv4A6vL9p
— John Pilger (@johnpilger) June 3, 2018
Artists working in any medium – painting, sculpting, etc – can create pieces inspired by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks or donate the proceeds of specific works/events to the effort. Those with the resources and tools available can hold a gallery event or other type of exhibition in support of #ReconnectJulian. Well-known examples of this type of advocacy include fashion icon Vivienne Westwood, a long-time supporter of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. If you do create an artwork in support of WikiLeaks and Julian, consider tagging Wikileaks Art Force in the image on Twitter so that they see it.
As previously mentioned, the incredible Yarraspot did exactly that and her artwork reached thousands more people, via Wikileaks ArtForce, than would otherwise have seen it. It is shown here with permission.
Are you a great social networker? Organize an online or on-the-ground vigil or demonstration. There are established events of this kind in Australia, and more like them need to be initiated around the world. The Twitter account to follow for information on solidarity events in Australia is available here. If you live in a place where there are no scheduled events, start one! On June 19th there will also be a demonstration in front of the British consulate in Melbourne, as tweeted by Caitlin Johnstone.
If you are already part of a social network that meets regularly – such as a church or a book club or any activism-oriented group – suggest that your group does an activity to show support for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.
If you are in London or traveling to the UK, consider joining the incredible, long-running on-the-ground vigils being held outside the Ecuadorian Embassy by a small group who have been holding solidarity vigils there since Julian Assange entered the building in 2012 (some of the regulars have been supporting him even before that time). Ciaron O’Reilly and Emmy Butlin are two of these core solidarity organizers, and readers should look to their social media accounts as well as JA_Defence on Twitter for more details on vigils held at the embassy.
According to WiseupAction, a very important vigil will be held on June 19th, the anniversary of Julian entering the embassy. A callout for that event is available here with more information if you’d like to attend. Additional information on global events recognizing this important anniversary in Assange’s arbitrary detention can also be found here.
If you can’t make it to the embassy in person, you can always participate in online efforts or start your own event where you live!
More ideas include: Hosting a potluck, with proceeds donated to WikiLeaks. Throw a raffle! Host a watch party, or any other type of gathering where guests can contribute to the cause. If you have clutter lying around that you’d intended to get rid of by holding a garage sale, send the proceeds to WikiLeaks and advertise support for Julian Assange at the sale itself. Events like this can be just as much about raising awareness and circumventing legacy press censorship as they are about raising funds. The possibilities and potential variations are endless – let your creative imagination run wild!
Most importantly, speak with your family and friends in person about the exponential impact of the work WikiLeaks has done for the public’s right to know what goverments really do in our name, and the appalling treatment of Julian Assange as a politically imprisoned journalist who is suffering now – without ever being charged, much less convicted of any crime – because he dared to expose the crimes of the powerful.
Explain the invaluable tool WikiLeaks has put into the hands of the public to reveal the harms perpetrated against them by their governments. WikiLeaks’ publications have allowed those in independent media to ground their critique of corrupt powers in evidence. To give some idea of the extent of that impact, WikiLeaks documents have been cited in academic papers and court cases, more than 43,000 times at the time of writing.
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) June 8, 2018
At the time of writing, Julian Assange has been cut off from communication with the outside world, apart from counsel with his lawyers, for 74 days. The Nelson Mandela Rules apply “torture” to just 15 days spent in isolation. Julian Assange is fast approaching five times the limit of consecutive days in isolation that is classified as torture under these rules.
All this is happening when the world’s top legal authority on unlawful detention, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, already determined more than two years ago that the UK has arbitrarily detained the WikiLeaks Editor-In-Chief, and that he should be released and compensated immediately. The establishment’s viciousness towards Julian Assange has been demonstrated repeatedly by calls from figures within the plutocratic class (or those cheerleading for them) for Assange to be murdered, and by then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s comparison of WikiLeaks with terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda.
When the most militaristic and corrupt powers on the planet repeatedly flout international law in their pursuit of exacting sadistic revenge for being ‘found out’, it is up to all of us – the public who WikiLeaks has served – to fight for our own rights and freedoms and for those who through their fearless publishing protect them. In doing so, we must unanimously fight for the restoration of the rights of Julian Assange.
Post Script: I have cited my previous work in this article where appropriate due to the unfortunate lack of coverage of many of the issues surrounding Julian Assange’s horrendous suffering at the hands of the establishment, in particular the death threats leveled at him.