The allegations of rape levelled against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange were published in full in the Guardian. Make no mistake about it, they are serious and could be potentially devastating for Assange if he is prosecuted.
The allegations are detailed and reveal a complex picture of what happened between Assange and his two alleged victims. While my immediate inclination is that this is a high level smear job (the timing is too convenient and accusations of sexual crimes are a traditional misdirection tactic), it is not for anyone other than the courts to decide his innocence. There are far too many people leaping forward to protest Assange’s incarceration without looking at the facts, and they do a great disservice to the victims of sexual crimes. Regardless of the surrounding hoopla, there should be no political games played when there are allegations of rape.
However, while Julian Assange founded WikiLeaks, the project is now far bigger than the person and will live on in some form forever.
The notion that there is a safe haven for anyone in the world to leak classified information is a paradigm shifting event for the news media and will have everlasting ramifications. The technology to self publish was the internets greatest gift to the world, and WikiLeaks is perhaps the greatest expression of that new found power. There are of course consequences to leaking classified information – there are risks that people will die as a result of leaked intelligence, and delicate relationships between states and corporations irreparably damaged. But commitment to truth and transparency trumps all in journalism, and WikiLeaks should be welcomed with open arms.
Julian Assange does not seem like the kind of guy you’d like to invite round for dinner. He may be guilty of some form of sexual aggression against women. But WikiLeaks was never about Assange, and we should resist temptations to equate anything he does in his personal life with the extraordinarily important organization he has founded.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.