Dec 8, 2010
Ceci n'est pas une post about Wikileaks
I just want to make something super clear from the start - this is not a blog post about whether or not Julian Assange is guilty of rape, or about whether or not wikileaks is a good thing. In fact if this post is about anything to do with Wikileaks at all, then it's about how those two hypotheses do not exist in opposition to each other. Look at the name of this blog. Now look at me. Now back to the name. Now back to me. Assange's personal behaviour doesn't change anything about the inherent value of Wikileaks, and Wikileaks itself does not imbue Assange with any saintly or devilish characteristics. In a non-zero sum universe, both, either or neither can be good, bad or indifferent. I am ambivalent about wikileaks in exactly the same way as Clay Shirky is, but since he expressed it much better than I could, why don't you read his blog and leave me alone on the subject.
No, what this is about, as Cath Elliott wrote on Lib Con a few days back, is how quickly all pretensions to feminist sympathies give way to a "bros before hos" attitude among men on the left once one of their own is in the dock (though in fairness she expressed it with more class). It's easy enough to march at the back, mumbling feminist slogans out of time because you don't quite know the words, when it's some sleazy capitalist or smarmy Republican in the firing line; statistically, it's more likely to be one of those guys in some jacuzzi showgirl snorting scenario, anyway.
But one of ours? Julian Assange, fearless defier of the Keystone Cops wannabes that are US officials trying to wipe the egg of their faces? Courageous snook cocker at misspeaking power-drunk bank functionaries? Heroic exposer of all that is ignoble and slightly ridiculous about contemporary diplomatic statecraft? Impossible! It's a conspiracy! A politically motivated witch hunt! A miscarriage of justice! A honey trap! Fame seeking! Misuse of Interpol resources!
I think I've read, heard or extrapolated almost every one of the above theories about this whole sorry business but one: that the two complainants are telling the truth and that there is a case to be answered.
And you know why that pisses me off? No, not because people trivialise rape and assume that, when it comes to sex, women are all lying bitches out to bring a good man down. People assume that every day, so yawn, basically. Actually I'm delighted that the Swedish authorities are taking sexual assault charges seriously enough to put the wind up a bunch of windbags who are bricking it at the realisation that sexually criminal behaviour is not something that is easily shrugged of, in some places.
No, what's pissing me off about this is that once again, the feminist section of the liberal blogosphere is stuck explaining rape theory 101 (it's not nice, mmkay?) to a bunch of privilege denying dude wannabes, instead of getting our heads down to do some analysis and maybe add, you know, our own thoughts and ideas to the whole Wikileaks conversation. While everybody else is off cheerfully bloviating about the ins and outs of information libertarianism, we're stuck firmly back in the ghetto of "all that feminist stuff", as someone recently said to me, cleaning up the collateral damage left behind by people who just have to make villains, liars, and sluts out of two women who, at best, have had a very bad experience and are still having a really tought time.
I've always been a bit Twisty Faster about the whole "feminist allies" business: basically, men mostly hate you and will throw you under the bus as soon as it fits their psychological or political needs, whatever lip service they pay to liberal values as they relate to women. But sometimes, being an actual thinking person who is open to information about the world, I've doubted my own cynicism, you know? People say you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar and all that, and it's true that in everyday life it pays to be polite and reasonable with people.
Stuff like this, though, makes me wonder if maybe I'm not cynical enough.