Assange May Be A Deadshit Pest, But His Indictment Is Not Good News

It’s very likely that Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder and perpetual shit-stirrer, is not a great dude. He has faced accusations of rape, is widely derided for his role in the Hillary Clinton email leaks, and is – to be polite – a dickhead online.

Many consider him a player in moving the needle towards Trump’s election in 2016, including –once upon a time – the president himself.

Some criticise his tactics around leaking classified materials, calling them dangerous or harmful – and those people might have a pretty strong case.

You can dislike him for those reasons and you can feel fine about that too, but you should also know – and constantly remind yourself – that he and the materials leaked to him by Chelsea Manning represent a monumental moment in history. What’s more, his arrest overnight by British authorities and his indictment by the US Department of Justice will be discussed and picked apart for years to come.

There are important things we know only because of Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

It’s the visual evidence exposed by Wikileaks that showed US helicopters wounding children and killing journalists. It’s the footage from the Pentagon, depicting the deaths of a dozen people and those two Reuters journalists, all while US air crew are heard laughing. It’s the exposure of systematic abuse which continued even after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal that we now know about.

All of this showed the world the face of modern war, and the face of what the US has demonstrably done. Assange has played a lead role in facilitating this.

The Australian now sits in a British jail cell, facing charges of computer hacking conspiracy. He is accused of engaging in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning to commit computer intrusion and to crack a password stored on US Department of Defence computers. Manning, for her part, is already back in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Wikileaks.

Shortly after he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy, a British court found Assange guilty of breaching bail conditions surrounding the sexual assault allegations he faced in Sweden. The lawyer behind the initial rape investigation in 2017 says she will push to have the probe reopened. Anna Ardin, one of the women who have accused Assange of sexual assault, took to Twitter to express that she would be surprised and troubled if he would be extradited to the Unites States.

The Obama administration concluded years ago that indicting Assange would encroach on core press freedoms and, as the Freedom of the Press Foundation points out, any effort by the Trump administration to indict Assange could result in the criminalisation of many journalist/source interactions.

The American Civil Liberties Union says prosecuting Assange for his publishing operations would be unconstitutional and “would open to door to criminal investigations of other news organisations.”

It’s worth considering the current climate we are in: one where attacks on the media have never been more brazen and the battle cry of “fake news” has less and less merit with each passing day. We live in a time where the so-called leader of the free world regularly and unabashedly lies to the public and to the press. We live in a time where social media is obliterating the distinction between rumour and news every single day. The timing of this indictment could not be more fitting.

As he faces the possibility of being indicted to the US, and as he faces punishment for uncovering and leaking evidence of US war crimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the thick of it. Julian Assange and the Pamela Anderson sideshow, Julian Assange and the Hillary Clinton emails, Julian Assange just being a regular ol’ dickhead on social media, Julian Assange and Trump, Julian Assange facing very credible allegations of rape and sexual assault.

You should feel completely justified in hating Assange for one or all of those reasons. But you should not celebrate his indictment.