Lots and lots of talk in the past two weeks about the rape charges against Wikileaks frontman Julian Assange. Here is a representative roundup of links to some of the big-name blogs' commentary on the reaction to the charges. Some of the media coverage has been nothing short of embarrassing; note the many examples of stories that noted that the accuser was wearing clothing that was tight (and pink, the color of rape. Apparently.) In short, this situation is not telling us anything about prevailing attitudes in our society and in the media that we did not already know based on previous high-profile rape cases.

That said, I think there is an important distinction that needs to be made. As is often the case with emotionally charged issues, the concept of skepticism toward the charges has been painted with a very broad brush. In reality we are dealing with two separate issues: skepticism toward the accusation and skepticism toward the charges. Regarding the former, it does not make a difference if he's charged with pinching someone's ass in a bar or forcible rape; it's inappropriate to assume that the charges are made up, to openly speculate about the possibility, or to assume that the accused is guilty. Speculation is not only indicative of a lot of the worst aspects of reactionary thinking in our society – look, even Naomi Wolf jumped on the "she's lying" bandwagon – but it's also utterly pointless. Having established that the accused and accuser had intercourse under some disputed set of circumstances, how in the hell do you or I know what actually happened? Maybe she's lying. Maybe she isn't. Gee, that was productive.

Regarding the second issue – skepticism toward the charges and the authorities in Sweden – I'll argue until I'm out of oxygen that it's an entirely legitimate target. This is no a question of people accusing the accuser of fabricating the charges. It is a question of why the Swedish government suddenly decided that the accuser's charges, which were filed months ago, needed to be upgraded to Most Wanted "Scour the globe for this guy, he is an extraordinarily dangerous criminal" status a few hours after the accused squatted over the U.S. State Department and took an enormous Cleveland Steamer on its chest. These accusations are not new and yet the Swedish authorities did not file charges until August of 2010, conveniently on the tail of a summer of information disclosures by Wikileaks. The charges lingered for a few months and yet suddenly in early December Assange becomes the target of an international manhunt. I welcome anyone who provides me with contradictory statistics here, but I will go ahead and assume that there are very few international manhunts for accused date rapists originating out of Sweden. Or anywhere else for that matter.

So I'll register my own complaint here. Many others have already done a good job of pointing out the sad treatment to which the accuser has been subjected in the media, and I'll concur with that. On the other hand, why is there not more outrage directed at the Swedish prosecuting authorities who are obviously using the accuser, about whom they care little except as a means of targeting Assange, and her charges, which did not seem to be an urgent matter a few months ago and about which there has been no new evidence uncovered? It seems to me that an excellent way to motivate skepticism of rape charges in a society heavily predisposed toward skepticism on that issue is to ignore the accusations until it is politically desirable as a means to punish the accused for unrelated matters.

Of course, lacking the complex thinking skills necessary to separate these issues (i.e. a functioning brain) most people will just continue to heap their skepticism about the political motivation on the accuser herself. Because it's easier and, like, she was wearing a lot of pink or something.

28 thoughts on “SUSPICION”

  • It sort of reminds me of the S&L fiasco and the Clarence Thomas furphy. I was more concerned with what one of the Bush boys had done with ppl's money, everyone was interested if he'd shown her his.

    One of the ladies I was working with (lovely, but not a deep thinker) summed it up like this. It's easier for her to get her head around the Bryant-Thomas affair as it was something she was familiar with. Trying to understand accounting/financial stuff of that magnitude was outside her scope of comprehension.

    So there you are, did he pinch her bum or didn't he? Is easier to understand than the illuminati ran your dog over and poisoned your goldfish. Therefore that's the important stuff. So they distract us w herrings and rob us blind with the help of the media.

  • Clearly he is guilty. By all accounts, Julian Assange is a man WITH A PENIS. All men with penises rape women. Case closed.

    The bigger question is, why didn't Sweden do this sooner? Unless Sweden is secretly promoting RAPE CULTURE!

    (There, hopefully I got all the crazy rape culture dialogue out of the way so we can have an intelligent conversation about this).

  • So you're upset because people are skeptical about the alleged victim(s)? Who, the one that published a revenge guide for exes? The "victim" that tweeted about having a grand time with Assange? Yes, I understand you try hard to be feminist, but anyone with a functioning brain can see there is a large chance these charges were encouraged by politics. There is something in it for everyone, namely revenge.

  • Turok: Victim-blaming makes me nervous. There are plenty of women who are raped who aren't believed already that I'd have to urge caution on this. I agree it sounds fishy, but that's really not the internet's call – it would be the call of the woman involved and the jury, if there is sufficient evidence for charges to be preferred.

  • Wolf would have been more effective had she gone into detail about what the women had said. Every bullshit alarm in Sweden is sounding, don't shy away from the most logical conclusion in the name of feminism.

  • Ah, Turok: "logical conclusion"? Though I am a big fan of Occam's Razor, it is wrong to assume that what you think most likely is actually what happened, for legal purposes. (This is one reason why being tried in the press is pointless: rather than the facts speaking for themselves, we have people who watch "CSI: Titillating Rapes Unit" deciding what the most likely chain of events would have been, if real crimes were locked room mysteries.)

    In case you failed to click Rene's link, Naomi Wolf points out that rapes with overwhelming evidentiary support don't get prosecuted, but a fine-line accusation against a whistle-blower merits a full-court press. It's not that rape accusations shouldn't be taken seriously; it's that they so rarely are…and why are they, in this case, given the nebulous facts? Silvio Dante might ask: Does the mind not rebel? — and I would ask: cui bono?

  • No, the point is that well behaved people rarely change the world and changing the world is more important than behaving well. But I guess that's the internet – we used to believe in freedom, but then feminism sold banner ads.

  • Aslan Maskhadov says:

    Gee, maybe the fact that Sweden had previously dismissed the charges due to lack of evidence, only to re-file them after the Wikileaks scandal, has something to do with the skepticism we are hearing.

    It is sad though, because these laws which could help many women are being abused. Sweden has, for example, one of the best laws against women trafficking, and as a result the traffickers realized that Sweden was bad for business and left.

  • displaced Capitalist says:

    Typo in the third paragraph, second sentence: "This is no a question of people accusing the accuser of fabricating the charges. "

  • The most similar case I could think of is Roman Polanski, but he wasn't accused of leaking government secrets so it took about 25 years for something & nothing to happen.
    Per Wikipedia: In 1977, after a photo shoot in Los Angeles, Polanski was arrested for the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl. He was charged with rape but pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor. To avoid sentencing, Polanski fled to his home in London, and then moved on to France the following day. In September 2009, Polanski was arrested by Swiss police, at the request of U.S. authorities, when he traveled to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival. In October 2009, the U.S. requested his extradition; however, on July 12, 2010, the Swiss rejected that request and instead declared him a "free man" after releasing him from custody.

  • Coppertop, do you really believe feminism took away your freedom? What exact liberties did you lose? If you're crying because demands for equal pay for equal work, no sexual harassment or discrimination on the job, and other attempts to limit ass-grabbing are unconsitutional, comfort yourself with the memory that the ERA was not passed. Feel better?

  • Exactly, Ed. If this conversation were framed in a way that solely focused on Sweden's questionable motives and actions, I'd be all for it. Getting off course with attacks and ill will toward the accuser is bullshit and completely unnecessary. I think we all know that Sweden's timing is on some real Illuminati-type shit and there are accounts floating around that Assange is a total dickwad with the ladies. We get that part, so let's talk about obfuscation and conspiracies and leave the lady-bashing and hero worship of accused celebrity rapists for "regular" rape cases.

  • Choada777: When the "press" routinely calls the government to ask if it's OK to publish things, and cares more about access than accountability, and is more concerned about holding apart ads than filing good copy, rankings like "freedom of the press" are only relative.

  • And none of these genii realise that they are feeding a fire lit to distract us from THE CONTENTS OF THE FUCKING LEAKS!

    "Hey! Stupid people! Look over here! He's a rapist! No, he's not, just incredibly creepy! This is rape, this isn't! Boys vs Girls, go! Ooh, it's all so salacious! PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE REAL ISSUE BEHIND THE CURTAIN!"

  • @eau

    What is really scary for you – your position is almost exactly congruent with – wait for it – Glenn Beck's!


  • Damn. I was already concerned that my comments of late… well… sucked a bit. This revelation really puts it over the edge.

    No comments from me for a while.

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