Does Righteousness Recuse One From A Rape Investigation? A Re-Post.
Note: This post is a re-post of the post I made yesterday, with changes I think make my point a little clearer: I have not convicted Assange in the “court of public opinion”, but I worry some have done the opposite. As before, this post uses strong language and opinions-if you don’t like one of those two things, then stop reading now….
I love Wikileaks. Watching governments scramble to spin information that was never supposed to be fodder for water cooler conversation fuels my two greatest loves, politics and Schadenfreude. I enjoy feeling like I am doing my part in “sticking it to the man” every time I come across an embarrassing revelation that diplomats are far from diplomatic, that the arrogant and power drunk world Governments are powerless to being brought down a notch by the changing dynamics of the information age. We all love a good David and Goliath story. I am heartened to know that the web of conspiracy I regularly envision going on in the smokey backrooms of government is real and my tin foil hat just became a little more fashionable.
These leaked memos are not what I want to talk about though. Nor do I want to talk about the apparent Shakespearean flaw that allows Governments to condemn Wikileaks for disseminating information that was apparently easier to access than a Twelfth Grade Math class pop quiz. Those subjects are better described by other media sources and bloggers.
I want to talk instead about the sexual assault allegations being levelled at Julian Assange, the public face of Wikileaks and the current poster boy for martyrdom in the cult of personality. If you want to read some background on these allegations as well as a leveled insight into the facts at hand, I suggest these two posts by my friends Stephanie and Jason. I won’t be quite as diplomatic as them, but I think that my analysis is fair and accurate none the less.
We Report: You Decide……The Jump To A Conclusion
Rape is a serious allegation. Stephanie has done a really good job of explaining what constitutes sexual assault, and I think it bears repeating:
It doesn’t matter whether a woman consented to have sex with you. If she tells you to stop, and you don’t stop, that is still sexual assault. I don’t care how frustrating it is or whether you hate her for the rest of your life for it. Sex you have with someone without their permission is rape.
Let’s say that again: Sex you have with someone without their permission is rape.
One more time just for clarity: Sex you have with someone without their permission is rape.
Consent in a sexual setting is always conditional. If your partner is doing everything right you might be in bliss one second, but you still have the right to draw a line in the sand with your own body. You may love the blowjob you are getting but draw the line at the finger she’s slipping up your asshole. You may like being tied to the bed but have your ornithophobia kick in when she pulls out a feather. Hell, you may just love everything that’s happening until her dirty talk reminds you of your perverted Uncle Louie. Consent is conditional- end of story. As a man, I am in the enviable position of being in the ultimate position of power in most of my sexual encounters- so this conversation gets layered with even more complications when the consent is withdrawn by the non-dominant partner.
Every single person has the fundamental right to withdraw consent, to have ultimate control over their bodies. Every single person. Whether it is me, my wife, some girl in a tight dress and a chip on her shoulder I picked up at the bar, or a five hundred dollar prostitute; every human being has a right to conditional consent. Get that through your thick skull because it is important.
Does saying yes to a condom but no to bareback make your consent partial? Read the above paragraph. Does a nasty little post you once wrote about getting back at your ex make your ability to consent questionable? O.K., read my lips…..re-read-the-above-paragraph. Does a prior relationship with a shady government agent mean that there is no grounds to investigate a rape-consent case?? Say it all together now- Re-read the above paragraph.
Does the controversy surrounding Wikileaks and Assange mean that he is immune from both an investigation into rape allegations and a serious look at the potential fallibility of a man who has done a great public service?
Assange may be a modern-day martyr for the public’s right to know. Guess what? Bill Clinton was the best president in recent memory. He was also a shitty husband who abused a position of power to get his flute cleaned. Martin Luther King was the driving force behind the inalienable right of my sister-in-law being able to sit at the same table as me in Georgia. He also stuck his dick in anything that wore a skirt in his hotel room. People can be great leaders, great innovators, visionaries, martyrs, and heroes and at the same time be pricks. I would go so far as to claim that those things that made them capable of greatness also made them capable of shittyness. Bill Clinton was a charismatic, arrogant, brilliant, never-say-die, charmer who had an almost savant-like capacity to deliver empathy. That is what made him a great president, but also a fantastic philanderer and sexual predator. MLK was likewise a charismatic man, one who must have had a slight case of antisocial personality disorder when it came to conforming to societal pressures and expectations. Those things made him an enviable crusader, and also a world-class adulterer.
Hell, I like to think I am a pretty good person. My friends probably think so. Have I done some pretty shitty things in my lifetime? Sure. Can I attribute many of my greatest achievements as well as my most elegant ass-hattery to the same root personality? I think so. I am only human, even if I don’t always appear to be a good one.
What I am getting at here is that no-one seems to be talking about the fact that the head of an organization on a kamikaze mission to destroy the curtain between the All-Powerful Oz and an awestruck and frightened audience is also likely to be an arrogant, never-say-die, crusader with a lack of concern for the consequences of his actions. That is also a pretty good description of a sexual predator. I’m not saying he is guilty, but I don’t believe for a second he lacks the capacity to victimize a woman.
This whole case may be a footnote in his obituary, like MLK, or an all-encompassing reason to consider his legacy tainted and worthless, like Clinton. What was the difference between the two? Emotional investment of the public conciousness. MLK is the father of civil rights, and even if you wear bedsheats on the weekend and maintain Tyler Perry movies are as much a civil rights violation as assigned bus seating, you don’t get to say those things in polite company. Civil rights, or the appearance of it, is a cornerstone of the New American Zeitgeist. MLKs is the legacy of a hero. Bill Clinton has the distinction of being a great Democratic President. Those last two words should have given it away. He will always have Republicans to remind us that he made bad choices. He is also a President, and therefor, a politician. Even the greatest (No, let me change that, Especially the greatest) politicians must learn the fine art of compromise. Compromise, when done right, ensures no one is truly happy. Idealism is the pitchfork of the revolutionary and the filter of the representative. To stubbornly refuse ground in politics is how progress begets revolution, or how to win a Republican Presidential nomination. The emotional investment of the public will determine the heads-or-tails narrative of whether someone is a Hero or a Bum. Based on this, whether cleared of the charges or convicted of them, Assange will likely still be canonized as the Patron Saint of the Public Interest.
All this is beside the point. We have bestowed upon Wikileaks, and by association Assange, a mythological narrative that we don’t wish to taint with the cumbersome clothes of reality. Reality is not a question of martyr or monster, good or evil. Reality is about having all the facts and understanding that the world exists in shades of gray. We don’t have all the facts. Assange may be a great man, but that doesn’t mean he is infallible. In the real world we collect all the evidence available and come to an informed, not emotional, opinion. This is what those who refuse to believe the allegations are true are missing. They are making an emotional judgment based on a selective mythology. It is tempting. It is wrong.
In the same way, his accuser may have done some shady things in her life , as has been alleged. With most of our understanding of her being fed to us by Assange’s lawyer and a sympathetic media, it is not surprising that is all we know about her. Imagine for one moment if you will, that I am about to introduce you to an audience of millions. Now imagine that I choose your five dirtiest little secrets, the ones that even you yourself try to imagine never happened, and rhyme them off before saying “Without further Ado…”. That is what you are seeing about the victim right now. Maybe she volunteers at a soup kitchen. Maybe she helped to draft human rights legislation.
What you are witnessing right now is not “We Report-You Decide”, it is “We Decide What You Need To Know So That You Can Arrive At The Same Decision We Have” ; that is media. It always has been and it always will be. It is up to you to rise above it. There is a lot more to this case than black and white. Nothing is black or white, except Hitler. He sent his Black and Shades Of Gray to a concentration camp for the sole purpose of giving Glenn Beck someone to compare liberals to.
Dichotomies make for a good news cycle, but the real news lies somewhere in the middle.