I have always felt the one of a fundamental aspects of taking part in public debates has been to judge each issue on its merits. In this way, as a public commentator drawing on a long tradition of theoretical and intellectual tradition, I try not to be captured by any single ideology.
In this way, I see myself as an environmentalist, but refuse to accept the simple equation that population growth is the problem because it targets poor nations and creates a lifeboat mentality. Likewise, I have strong socialist leanings and believe in the communist ideals of solidarity, but also see a place for the free market in efficient distribution of certain resources. I have also been involved with social movements, and written in support of these (including Occupy and GetUp), but also see their limitations and problems.
Each time I write something like that, I am flooded with tweets, facebook and blog comments as well as emails in both support and criticism (and sometimes abuse). I have been called everything from a communist and socialist, extremist, neoliberal, naive, conservative, radical, a sell-out and so on.
Many of the people who write the abuse or dismiss what I have written rarely engage with the arguments, they simply throw labels they seem not to understand at me (read up on neliberalism and communism people). I sometimes feel that they have not even properly read the article.
Nothing has surprise me more, however, than the reaction to the article I wrote for New Matilda about the the rape allegations regarding Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.
For the record, I am a strong supporter of Wikileaks. In addition, I have always liked the mystery that Assange has managed to build around himself. Both he and the organisation he founded, have done a great service to democracy by releasing much of the information they have.
The most recent article I wrote was concerned with the way Assange and Wikileaks supporters have responded to the rape allegations. The article says nothing about his guilt or innocence. It also says nothing about the case. The article is focused on the reaction of many which is to attack the women. (I would like to note that others have written excellent articles on this issue: both the work of Michael Brull and Kate Harding from ABC’s the Drum are worth reading.)
In fact, the reaction by many to the article, accusing me and my co-writer of ignorance and attacking us personally for being anti-Wikileaks, seems to simply add weight to what we are saying: that ideology is getting in the way of judgement.
We have been told to check the FACTS… Here they are:
- Someone is accused of sexual assault and he is presumed innocent until proven not to be (nothing in the article indicates otherwise).
- His accusers deserve their privacy respected and should not be told to harden up, victimised, abused or told to get over it because these are serious accusations (the thrust of the article).
- The courts, while not perfect, should need to investigate such matters.
- Research we quote extensively in the article shows that sex crimes are rarely persecuted, and even in Sweden – which many have painted as having quirky laws – there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.
You can believe in Assange’s innocence: but why is it necessary to draw on old tropes such as calling them ‘lying slags’ that many (both women and men) have worked for decades to overcome?
Taking this position simply reflects a position that he must be guilty because of his politics.
And such a position is outrageous…