Assange debate has nothing to do with feminist men selling out – it’s a different compulsion

I’ve read just about everything you could want on Julian Assange now – and I’ve reached my own conclusion. But first we should break down other opinions on the blogosphere. On 21 August of this year Dave Allen Green on his Jack of Kent blog cleared up one or two things when he said “we must be careful not to jump to the conclusion that it must be a smear.” Of course for the unthinking conspiratorial minded among us, this has to be a smear. Assange, after all, is undercutting US hegemony, utilising internet tools and creating bottom up power. Politicians talk about civic empowerment, and deliberative/participatory democracy, but when it actually happens they get nervous – was Assange simply on the receiving end of this?

As Andy Newman at Socialist Unity blog has said perhaps Assange has been caught up in a CIA honeytrap – which has got under the skin of Louise, who rightly points out that “We don’t know the full story. Wait for the full story, wait to see the evidence tested in court.” This brings us back to Green’s point; due process dictates this: one is innocent until proven guilty. Newman’s honeytrap represents precisely the compulsion to seek perfect narratives where such narratives are absent. But perhaps this is not his fault; after all it looks dodgy – but I’m on the side of Louise and Green, lets leave the theories at home, and await results from the trial.

In the mean time another debate has taken place between Cath Elliot and Sunny Hundal relating to a rubbish article written by John Band (Cath actually has a full account of her debate with Sunny on twitter, which I have now read, and immediately agreed with the last statement: “Now can we all please move on.”). This seems to relate to the terms of the debate of rape. Elliot worries that men on the left – so-called feminists – are too quick jumping at the conclusion that women are wrong when it comes to calling on rape. This is perhaps a simplified way to summarise the debate, but in any case it misses one, aforementioned, point; the left wing, feminist men are probably consumed by the timing of the allegation, with prior knowledge of CIA attempts to try and silence critics and dissenters, rather than trying to downplay the serious allegations made against Assange.

No male feminist I have ever met has ever tried to question what counts as rape in a way unpalatable – but the cynic in me thinks the problem here is men trying to define rape at all, which sticks in the throat of some feminists. Perhaps this is justified, but I fail to see how. Some of the comments on a blog entry by Dawn Foster, for the F for Philistine blog, call into question use of the word rape (this is what stung Andy Newman and John Band). See for example this comment by Soeren Passer:

Well described post and content.

But I disagree with you wholeheartedly – how can you justify that having sex willingly with someone, going on record that it was consensual and then still charge him with rape because you regretted your own actions? Sexual misconduct if you must press the issue of unprotected sex – consensual unprotected sex – and now that is being considered rape?

If a woman has the right to change her mind AFTER sex, then the man should have the option of deciding whether an accidental pregnancy should be aborted without input from the woman…. ponder that for a second.

I know that is an extreme and completely irrational example but so is being able to charge someone with rape because the woman regretted having consensual sex days after it happened. Remember that both women are on official police record stating that all the sex was consensual.

The reason people are so busy acquitting him for rape is because THERE WAS NO RAPE. To state otherwise is basically admitting stupidity.

Also one of the women has a blog and on this blog she posted a guide who to use the Swedish laws to charge someone with fake rape. That is just facts and from the “horse’s own mouth” so to say.

Let me be clear – I think real rape is unforgiving and I cannot imagine the horrors rape victims go through – but to call what happened between Julian Assange and the two women rape is belittling the real victims of rape.

This is the point at which leftist men might “sell out”. While trying to say this is a smear from the US, they feel almost obliged to call into question the rape allegations, in order to fit the narrative. Not necessarily in a way that questions “female accounts” – we’re not in a Saudi court here – but in a way that wonders whether there has been US intimidation involved, or something similar.

My own conclusion is as follows: it is bad timing, all true, but due process is so very important. Perhaps it’s not below the US to do something like this, perhaps the women filing an allegation are telling porkies or have changed their mind, perhaps Swedish law has some homework to do. Perhaps. We simply do not know. Making these facile little narratives add up to each other is a task not worth falling out with each other about. For reasons I have mentioned, I don’t think feminist men eventually sell out women in the end, this could be geared towards other compulsions we have, and not just feminist men, everyone, and that is desiring a narrative that fits. Lets all keep our hair on, and not fall out about this. Really.


15 Responses to Assange debate has nothing to do with feminist men selling out – it’s a different compulsion

  1. Dave Weeden says:

    Now that’s what I call a fair post (apart from calling John Band’s effort “rubbish” of course).

    I really don’t buy the “team men (aka misogynists)” vs “team feminist (speaking for all women)” thing. I think those are silly battle lines. What we knew of the accusations before yesterday were that the two women concerned had sent each other text messages discussing their separate encounters with Julian Assange (and this, to me, should have had the case thrown out as clearly a set up and a conspiracy – had they been serious, they should have contacted the police who in turn would have told them that such behaviour was not allowed) and that one of the rapes involved a split condom. I’m prepared to accept that ‘rape’ does not require physical coercion or threats, but I find it much harder to believe that someone can commit rape as the result of an accident and without malice. That sort of ruling could make rapists of us all.

    As for casting doubt on the women, there were reports (from Assange’s lawyer, IIRC) that both had been seen with him after the alleged assaults and apparently been on good terms with him. In casting doubts on their stories, and on their evidence, I’m not necessarily slurring them as women, but as people got at by the spooks. I think that’s a gender-neutral accusation.

    If the prosecution fails in Sweden and it turns out that Anna Ardin was merely being vengeful (she herself wrote a blog post on revenge), I shall be unable to contain my delight when reading feminist blogs.

    • Carl Packman says:

      In my opinion, by already deciding the two accusers are right is a dangerous tactic by certain feminists, it certainly isn’t dutybound for a feminist to side with a fellow woman come what may. Equally, it is a dangerous tactic to say the accusers are dead wrong, it’s a CIA honeytrap; both of these strong positions mean that when we do know, one side is going to be terribly embarrassed. I’m sitting out of this one, I’ll wait until the verdict then make my mind up.

    • Carl Gardner says:

      We don’t know it was “an accident and without malice”. We’d have to see all the evidence before we could say those are the facts here. I often find myself arguing, when many people are baying about the injustice of a rape case being thrown out, that most of the outraged have not heard the evidence and have no basis for judgment. The same goes here.

      What you say about the women sending each other text messages reflects expectations about the behaviour of victims of sexual offences that many people would say are unreasonable, and it reflects expectations about police behaviour that may not be thought reasonable in Sweden. We should not be so quick to condemn Swedish justice. It may have flaws, it may not. It’s not an obvious Saudi-style scandal.

      As for what people will feel if he’s ultimately acquitted, I think most people would be satisfied that justice had been done. I’ve not read any feminist arguing that he is definitely guilty. That would be wrong, since we need to presume him innocent. The feminist argument is simply that the suspicions of the Swedish prosecutor should not simply be dismissed in the way you have done.

  2. harpymarx says:

    Carl, very good article 🙂

    What pisses me off, and have seen it in the blogosphere on many occasions is when some hero of the left is accused of sexual assault/rape there’s an automatic response that the guy must be innocent and therefore the women are lying. I have seen this and it’s galling. We already live in a society that disbelieves women when it comes to physical/sexual violence. And the Left aren’t immune to this ideology, I have to say that on this debate majority (emphasis on majority which does not mean all) of Assange supporters are men on the issue of these allegations, certainly on my Twitter feed majority were women who just want to see these women get due process (again, I will emphasise that there Lefty men who agreed with that as well). I think that is what Cath Elliott when she said about being let-down by Lefty men, I know only too well what that means as solidarity and support kinda disappears when it comes to “heroes” of the Left who get accused of serious allegations against women. And the misogyny crawls out of the woodwork as well.

    And have to say, the name calling was hideously sexist too (I know, sticks and stones) but I was described by a bloke as being an “unbalanced radical feminist”… when I argued that we should wait for the evidence and all parties should have due process, including Assange. I don’t know whether Assange is guilty or not, wait for the evidence but what I do know smearing, denigrating and dismissing these two women is an injustice.

    Oh, and btw that’s the first time I have ever agreed with Jack of Kent….

    • Carl Packman says:

      “Smearing, denigrating and dismissing these two women is an injustice” – totally correct, I fail to see how the dividing lines have been drawn this way, no one should be dismissing the claims against Assange, and we should be ready to let go of “heroes” at a moment’s notice. On the other hand, lets wait it out.

      • Dean says:

        I find it hard to maintain any presumption of innocence with men who display such twisted attitudes that they can not address the claim, and instead address the character of the claimant. A weirdo Dr Dylan Evans did exactly the same in the Sunday Times, attacking the wimmin for some global plot that resulted in his conviction for sexual harassment –

        Nothing to do with his behaviour towards women, of course.

    • andy newman says:

      It is a bit rich for Louise to complain about “name calling”, when she herself liberally describes people as misogynist.

      • Carl Packman says:

        Of course I won’t speak for anyone here with the pretence of full knowledge, but I’m sure it’s not a general dislike of “name calling” but a dislike of the particular name calling. In other words, it’s not hypocrisy if I’m not a liberal!

  3. Pingback: Few words on Julian Assange « Harpymarx

  4. Pingback: Innocent until proven guilty – Assange deserves our (conditional) support | Left Futures

  5. Sunny H says:

    Good piece 🙂

  6. solsamba22 says:

    There is no such thing as a feminist man. A feminist man is like a white person without any racism – impossible.

  7. Leon says:

    Demonstrably sane and liberal men who have voiced their concern that the allegations against Julian Assange may be politically motivated have been derided the length and breadth of the feminist blogosphere and labelled as misogynists, their fears and concerns over the obvious political ramifications of the case, the inconsistencies in evidence and process thus far and the rapidly diminishing probability of a fair trial swept to one side under the banner of ‘whatever’ by feminist writers who rather naively seem to want to see the trial go ahead and then comment about miscarriages of justice ipso facto rather than logically tackle the thorny questions that have already been raised.

    These writers seem wedded to the presumption that the old rationale and methodology will suffice in what is clearly a novel set of circumstances where a new mindset is required. What is most abhorrent about their casual attitude to the intellectual interrogation of this new set of circumstances in this case is that these writers have singularly failed to learn (often to even investigate) the very lessons that the most recent batch of Wikileaks have taught us. The predominant lesson being that the structures of power and influence that the U.S.A. bring to bear are extremely adept at embedding themselves deeply in the government machinery of the host country and using the advantage that it bestows to leverage the preferred outcome of the USA, irreverent to the impact on the host country.

    Once that lesson has been absorbed, the potential outcomes of the case can be analysed in a realistic light and I am afraid that the spread of positive probable outcomes is poor and clearly favours a miscarriage of justice. Men who may only had that ‘gut feeling’ that this guy, who might otherwise be seen as a hero, is ‘on a hiding to nothing’ are justified in their deep visceral outrage. While given a fair trial Assange may have a ‘fair’ chance of a deserved outcome, given a 50/50 chance that the U.S.A brings pressure to bear that probability of a positive outcome (for him) sinks to approx. 25 % and given a 100% probability of the U.S.A’s malign influence the corresponding probability of a positive outcome for Assange is of course zero.

    The suggestion that the U.S. will intervene is reasonable and is backed by a considerable amount of evidence that this ‘beacon of liberty’ has sullied its hands in significantly less important cases to protect it’s self interest and even that of it’s corporations. In fact, given the weight of the evidence, the burden of proof should lie with those who believe the U.S.A. will be able to resist the desire to bring its considerable power, influence and reach to bear to prove that they have actually done so before in any similar case. The U.S.A’s long term track record as exposed by Wikileaks and the recent conduct of some of their most senior politicians demonstrates that the exact opposite is true and that the U.S.A. will use every opportunity possible to exert every possible pressure on the most sensitive pressure points in this case while using every device at their disposal to appear to maintain a proper diplomatic distance.

    It almost goes without saying that this case is almost made to measure for a miscarriage of justice, in that it provides a plethora of sensitive pressure points, creating opportunities to sway the outcome of the case. Is there any evidence that there is any judiciary in the world that is up to the task of properly policing all of those possible pressure points in this case in the face of such an experienced and powerful opponent as the USA to ensure a fair and just outcome, let alone the Swedish system that is already creaking under the strain or even the U.K.’s system given Judge Riddle’s (you couldn’t make this up) questionable performance over bail.

    The bitter irony is that many of these feminists are not acting in their own enlightened self interest by unwittingly acting as tools of the ‘old, male and pale’ power structure that they profess to be striving to change, and further that they are acting against one of the very men who has done so much and is risking so much to change it and who are virtually guaranteeing that there will be a long wait for the next man who is brave enough to put his head above the parapet.

    It is time for those feminists (and other incumbents in the fifth estate) who are arguing that the trial should go ahead as though this were ‘business as usual’ recognised that this is a new situation and that new rules will have to be applied if justice is to prevail. This is based on a realistic assessment of the circus surrounding the case (rather than the case itself) and cannot simply derided as a misogynistic conspiracy theory.

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