Wednesday, February 06, 2013

How to best defend Assange?

By Marcello Ferrada de Noli

The problem has been euphemistically complicated, and successively, as to produce a huge political Gordian knot. Instead of consuming time and energy in trying to find a “legal” way to a labyrinth exit which does not exist, the only way of untying such puzzle and get rid of the deadlock is following the example of Alessandro – the son of Filippo di Macedonia: Taking a sharpest-edged political sword crushing in one swift the “juridical” paraphernalia in thousand absurd fragments.

The best defence of the cause of justice for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is to contribute to a political scenario in which political decisions could break the deadlock in the asylum process. I have said it for the first time and it will probably also do it for the last time: The problem is NOT juridical, the problem is NOT legal-paragraph bounded.

One of the highest effective of such political weapons is to be found in mass mobilizations, in political pressures to the governments involved, in contacting own elected representatives to parliament, and also in extra-parliament activities converging to the international knowledge and thus acceptance of the sovereign Ecuadorian decision on the issue of asylum. Extra parliament activities do not need to be illegal; as well as legal activities do not always need to be right. What was illegal yesterday it is democracy today. What will be democracy tomorrow depends also on how we handle the issue of free information VS corruption of the press, of the conspiracy of authorities against the will of their people. The WikiLeaks social base has to be converted in a political force, or perish. WikiLeaks cannot duel with MSM with the MSM weapons; it has to choose own field and own strategy. This strategy is to be found out of the box!

Neither the solution will ever be found in accepting a dichotomy between the “Assange case” and the “WikiLeaks case”. For that is a pure fallacy invented by the enemy's psyop to confound and to divide. The offensive against the person Julian Assange has no other aim than to crush WikiLeaks. Rationale for these contentions is stated in the articles by professorsblogg cited bellow.

Alessandro cutting the Gordian knot. Painting by Giovanni Paolo Panini 1691 - 1765- Originally at Don Marcello Massarenti Collection, Rome

* * *

In my previous post Trial by Media fortsätter” I summarized characterizations done by prominent Swedish politicians and MSM journalists on Julian Assange, which are contained in the letter-denounce of Senator Scott Ludlam to the Foreign Minister of Australia. These characterizations ad-hominem included for instance, Julian Assange is just a paranoid, an Australian pig, a querulous, loud-mouth, a big coward, a vile pig, a disgusting little creep without principles, a “white-haired fool creep of rectal value". In the part concerning Ludlam’s references to the Swedish press, I regarded his summary as an update of my 2011 testimony on the Trial by the Media submitted to the London Court, in its turn based in my research report “Does Sweden Inflict Trial by Media against Assange?

The Finnish Professor Tom Bäckström (currently at the University of Erlanger, Germany – se disclaimer down below in his post republished here) communicated to me per email he had written in his blog a comment on my “Trial by Media”. It is a very interesting comment because a) it takes up the issue of how to properly defend Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, an issue that I have taken up before and it has become of fully actuality during the last events - something we all have to re-analyse, the sooner the better; b) it suggests what, for my part, I would call idiosyncratic or cultural explanations on the behaviour of some Swedish professional circles or actors around the "case Assange".  This is a topic, such us the notion of "Swedish consensus", I anticipated in the Introduction of the series "Sweden versus Assange – Insider Analyses" and that it is left to be developed accordingly.

However, considering that I have expressly stated in these colums positions which agree with many of those put forward by
Bäckström, one fair conclusion would be that Bäckström is not that acquaintance with the texts in Professors blogg - as he claims himself in order to base his criticism. This convert his important comment in a form of extrapolated Straw man fallacy, where I am presented not only with positions I do not have, but where my actual uttered statements on the matter, for instance on how to deal with “Swedish journalists” attacking Assange (or  for that part, how to deal with Swedish officials, or Swedish "feminists" engaged in the case) are ignored in Bäckström's post. It is important to bear in mind that Bäckström expressly refers his critic to the writings in Professors blogg in general, or the tone in these writings, and not specifically on "Trial by Media fortsätter".

Besides my reply to Bäckström, I publish here his own text in complete form and also I will add soon a translation into English of the post (Swedish) in the Professor blogg which triggered Bäckström's comment.


Some misconceptions by Tom Bäckström about Professors blogg

 Professor Tom Bäckström

 * * *

BÄCKSTRÖM: "I have become increasingly disturbed by the "barking-at-the-forest" approach of de Noli, as a contrast to 1) trying to improve things and 2) trying to understanding the causes of the problems."

On 1) above: 

Well, if I am not trying to improve things for the cause of justice for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, what then I would have been doing with all these circa 300 articles and analyses, trying to make things worse? Bäckström’s elliptical asseveration, as we say in Sweden, ”faller av sin egen orimlighet” - the postulate falls due to its own absurdity. WikiLeaks have rewetted or linked, even in its Facebook page, most of the main analyses I have put forward on defence of the cause of justice for the WikiLeaks founder.

On 2) above: The contention that Professors blogg is NOT trying to understanding the causes of the problems." 

One thing would be to say that the explanations put forward in Professorsblogg’s analyses or in the author's publications in Newsmill or Second-Opinion in trying to understand the causes of the problems are wrong or mistaken, or that the reader does not agree with. Fair enough. But another completely different thing - and in fact incomprehensible from a reader of Professors blogg – is to say that those “trying to give explanation to the problems” are absent in the analyses of Professors blogg. Here below a small sample from the ca 300 articles or analyses, and which are specifically devoted to give explanatory causes, or explanatory hypotheses, on the Swedish VS Assange case. Several of these analyses have been linked and twittered by WikiLeaks official sites:

Fallet Assange är politiskt orsakat. Lösningen är endast politisk

Sweden versus Assange – Insider Analyses. Introduction and Part I: Duckpond in Swedish legal system

Sweden versus Assange – Insider Analyses. Part II: Exporting Sweden’s "gender" perspective model

This is why

‘Journalistic Jealousy’ Or Politics, Or Both?

Timing the processes

Analysis: Why Sweden revenge against Assange
The NATO factor. Extradition process initiated in Sweden against the WikiLeaks founder is to the uppermost extent POLITICAL

Professors Blogg And The Role Of Radical "Feminism" in Sweden’s case vs Assange

Swedish/U.S. Intelligence co-operation in the Bodström Society. Part IV of the series “Sweden VS Assange” – Insider Analyses

Shall Sweden’s politically appointed Judges decide the political case against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange?

The Media, The Man & The Misinformation: Swedish Media War Against Assange Intensifies

Assange and WikiLeaks have NOT caused the deterioration of Sweden’s international prestige. This is done by Swedes themselves

Sweden’s political decision on the extradition of Assange to the U.S.

In the history of Swedish extradition of political prisoners to foreign powers
* * *

BÄCKSTRÖM: "More specifically, I do not think that Swedish journalists, police and politicians that de Noli writes about are evil. To the eyes of an outside observer, yes, their actions do seem deplorable, incomprehensible and outright evil, but that is a difference in perspective. I am as sure as I can be of anything, that each and every one of the journalists, police and politicians de Noli writes about are doing whatever they can for the best of their country and themselves.

For one, I do not think that framing these people as madmen, will do any good."

First, let's clarify that I never have referred or framed as "madmen" any  "Swedish journalists, police and politicians". In this international forum it is a bold move to impute slander without a concrete quotation.

Otherwise, I fully agree with Bäckström on the nonsense of characterizing  all those named above (for instance journalists, prosecutors or enforcement officials as a whole or as profession collegium) as evil. Further, this is an item which I have taken up in critical terms in communications with some WikiLeaks supporters. For the explanations behind this campaigns are hardly personal. Further, they are not even "juridical" per se. The explanations are instead systemic and are to be found in the political or societal context of Sweden. And this is EXACTLY what I have tried to make clear in a number of posts both in the Professors blogg, in the Flashback forum, or in Newsmill. Here follows a couple of illustrations, about legl-system officials and journalists, respectively - which are the two professions named by Bäckström in the context:

In my post "The scape-goat hypothesis; an alternative scenario" (in Flashback here, in Swedish) I clearly criticized the attacks ad hominem on prosecutor Marianne Ny. I concretely said,

"When the all process is characterized as Marianne Ny's wrong doing or Ny's decison, etc., one risks taking away the attention from the actual causality, the underlying political factors; and above all, from the one and only thing  that it could take the case out from its seemingly fatalistic orbit, namely a political decision"

[så länge det hela är endast karakteriserade som ”Nys fel”, ”Nys beslut”, etc. man riskerar ta analysblickar ifrån den egentliga kausaliteten, de politiska krafter bakomliggande, och framförallt, den enda som kan köra ut fallet ifrån sitt nuvarande fatalistisk kursförlopp: Ett politiskt beslut, således.]

This I wrote in the Professors blogg post

Professors blogg is now closed

My main purpose in these articles is trying to persuade serious Swedish Assange allies of the necessity of enlarging the supportive social force for this cause, instead of further isolating in Sweden the cause of Assange through alienating important societal groups or individuals that may feel wrongly identified as hostile.

My conviction is still that the campaign in Sweden against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been initiated/implemented by a limited number of political officials, a limited number of journalists, or a limited number of opportunist feminist activists. Altogether they do not represent Sweden as a whole, their political parties as a whole, all Swedish feminists, or the total ranks in the journalist collegium. The main part have not yet express their opinion and as the happenings approach they will most certain feel ethically obliged to declare their stand, about what is truth, what is justice, and what is history.

Above all, the singular instigators of the nasty campaign against Assange do not represent the noble Swedish people at large; a Nation that - as I have repeatedly characterized in the Professors blogg - is for the most part amiable and sincere, hard working and honest.

Clearly, Tom Bäckström is very wrong when depicting me as portraying Swedish journalists as "evil". In a quite recent post of 21 December 2012  - from which I transcribed the quoted text  below - I specifically pointed out to my observation that most of Swedish journalists act professional and with good quality in reporting events, and paradoxically not all would act with objectivity in referring to cases that would compromise the Swedish prestige internationally.  This post was (narrow-minded) interpreted by some as if I was being condescend to the attacks of the Swedish press on Assange, which is absolutely untrue - and also offensive.

For my part, those among WikiLeaks supporters - either with own agendas or simply out of naivety - which consider all Swedish journalists, all Swedish feminists, and all Swedish politicians as evil and anti-Assange per default are performing not only an oversimplification but also a gross strategic mistake. Because that obtuse position further alienate vital sectors which should instead be gained for the cause of justice for WikiLeaks and Assange. In this regard I completely agree with Tom Bäckström.

From On Torture. The Swedish-media paradox and the case against Assange

Posted on December 21, 2012

. . . An intrinsic paradox, an apparently inbuilt bias present in almost the entire Swedish media. This is one side of the paradox:

A number of the DN articles or reportages are social-minded, or humanistic minded, and some really scrutinize in what it would be considered truly journalistic fashion. Like inquiring into some government democratic flaws or wrongdoings – controlling those in power . . .

On the other hand, when it is the opportunity to analyse issues related to the international prestige of Sweden, DN – as well nearly every media in Sweden – loses the professional-journalist stature that otherwise would characterize the paper. In those items of Sweden’s international behaviour or the international criticism that such behaviour would entail, those in power are not controlled – the professional journalist is converted in the political establishment’s megaphone. That is the other side of the Swedish publicist paradox.

And I exemplify  DN for being the “dean” of the Swedish press, but this paradoxical behaviour can be observed in most of the media in Sweden – including the national TV (SvT) or Radio that from time to time also exposes isolated scandalous abuses of power or political corruption. In those regards, Professors blogg often uses as source good journalistic in Expressen, and also Aftonbladet or Svd. But when it comes to issues questioning Swedish institutions which may entail questioning of the international prestige of Sweden, or the system, most of Swedish MSM drop objectivity as per default.

And here is where the Assange case comes into context. DN has been no exception in the Swedish media crusade in the biased presenting of the “legal process” against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, or in the demonizing portrait of Assange.  For deeply in reality the issues around WikiLeaks are all issues which compromise Sweden’s foreign policy, as the issues around the “legal process” compromise the prestige of Sweden and the potential of exporting a unique juridical culture and specific legislation.

It is here where the apparently kamikaze or reckless campaigns such as Prataomdet – where DN and other media repeated in every article the same anti-Assange introductory text-mantra – find its political puzzle box.

And here is where the Swedish culture of consensus, the monolithic, rock-solid uncritical that all the political parties, all the MSM and the state-owned media have demonstrated on and on when it comes to maters of “national interest” [See chapter III - Background B:Sweden is not neutral and above all, Swedish media traditionally covers Swedish international disputes by plainly repeating the official line without further question it in “Does Sweden Inflict Trial by Media against Assange?"].

 * * *

BÄCKSTRÖM: "What I am trying to say is that it is not the people who we should blame and it is not an organized mafia that we should blame. The problem is systemic."

Well, this is exactly what I have said and arguing for, all along. Most recent in:

Fallet Assange är politiskt orsakat. Lösningen är endast politisk


RE: Trial by Media

by  Tom Bäckström

Iajatusvirtaa Satunnaisia ajatuksia /
Random thoughts.maanantaina, helmikuuta 04, 2013
Re: Trial by Media In response to "Trial by Media" on Professors Blog.
As a background, I have been reading de Noli’s blog for quite some time with great interest and I both sympathize with Julian Assange and support the cause of Wikileaks. However, I have become increasingly disturbed by the “barking-at-the-forest” approach of de Noli, as a contrast to 1) trying to improve things and 2) trying to understanding the causes of the problems.

In general, I do not think any one person is evil, save for some extremely rare criminally insane individuals. No, I think all people try their best to do what ever they perceive as best for themselves and best for their community. More specifically, I do not think that Swedish journalists, police and politicians that de Noli writes about are evil. To the eyes of an outside observer, yes, their actions do seem deplorable, incomprehensible and outright evil, but that is a difference in perspective. I am as sure as I can be of anything, that each and every one of the journalists, police and politicians de Noli writes about are doing whatever they can for the best of their country and themselves.

For one, I do not think that framing these people as madmen, will do any good. When people are subjected to an outburst, when they are called idiots or when they are screamed at, usually they either respond the same way with an outburst, calling you the idiot or scream at you, or then they completely ignore you. I think I have observed both responses in conjunction to Professors Blogg and quite frequently at that. What I have not observed so frequently, are calm and objective arguments. I do however appreciate de Noli’s efforts towards objectivity.

More importantly, how can it then be that these inherently good people act in ways that seem like idiocy or pure evil to us? That is the real question! How is it possible that these good people do things that seem abominable?

What I call for is to look at the thing from the perspective of your opponent. There must be some reason that makes the good people act in a way that looks bad to us. My first suggestion would be their frame of reference. Think of a journalist who has done his job conscientiously for the past 30 years. He has dug stories, he has written articles and he has learned to know a lot of people. It is not a conspiracy, nor an organized mafia, it is his friends and colleagues, the people he has known for all those years. He is the god-father of some of their children and after his good friend had died, he walked his daughter to the altar in his place. They live in Sweden, the doll-house of Europe, where everything is a bit prettier and nicer than anywhere else. They know that and they are kind of proud of that, even if they lull themselves into a bit of an illusion. Every system degenerates over time, so did Rome, so did the Inca, ancient Egypt and USA, and so did also Sweden.

When you are in that system, it is hard to see that you are in the system. Because of such a long time of stability, all your friends and colleagues think more or less the same way as you. It is not that they would try to make consensus, or to force unity. It is just that if there are no immediate big problems, then the easiest way is to not rock the boat and just follow the stream.

Enter Assange. You cannot but admit, initially, there were some legitimate concerns both with regard to Wikileaks as also with regard to his personal affairs. As far as I know, the personal affair concerns turned out to be widely exaggerated, but with regard to Wikileaks some legitimate ethical questions remain that deserve to be discussed. It is not necessarily that Wikileaks would be bad, but questions such as “What responsibilities should the media take for their publications?” are important questions. The media itself does not seem to be capable of asking that question, perhaps because it is not a good way to sell ads, but someone should be asking those questions.

In any case, these initial, legitimate concerns rocked the Swedish boat. As Wikileaks did not fit any existing category on any level, it was easier to either ignore it or dismiss it by pointing out the potential problems with it. It was then that Julian, by either an ill-timed accident, or due to overly protective US foreign services (according to who you want to believe), ran into his personal troubles and the whole case escalated.

I have to repeat, I do not think that any party operated with conscious evil intentions. Even if you choose to believe that CIA organized Julian’s predicament, I do think that their intentions are highly patriotic and that the operatives themselves think they have done nothing wrong. Likewise, I think that the Swedish government did what they saw best. Their first reaction was not to get involved, since they trust the Swedish police. In the beginning, it was not an act of submission towards USA, because they honestly (still) believe that the Swedish system works. As time went by, the political cost of changing positions grew. Acting for Wikileaks would naturally be an action against USA, and since the politicians have long good relations with their US allies, that would be difficult not only a political level, but on a personal level. Much worse, changing positions now would break the illusion that Sweden is somehow better than others, an illusion in which the politicians and journalists still live. Say, if Marianne Ny would suddenly drop her efforts against Assange, then she would be the one who is rocking the boat in Sweden. She would be the one who says, “Yes, we shouldn’t have done that.”. She is in a catch-22 situation. She can’t win whatever she does - either she has to admit failure or enters a fight she cannot win - so she does the lesser evil, “do what we’ve always done”.

What I am trying to say is that it is not the people who we should blame and it is not an organized mafia that we should blame. The problem is systemic. The people are caught in a self-supporting and self-reinforcing system, which limits their perspective and causes them to act in ways that we cannot comprehend. Attacking the individuals in the system forces them on their defense and makes them cling on to the system more desperately. Our attacks thus reinforce the system - exactly the opposite of our intention!

The question remains, what is the most efficient way to solve the problem? Name calling obviously will not help, since people become defensive or they ignore you. Framing somebody as an evil person also does not help, if you would ever again want the help of that person. What goes around comes around. You call that journalist an idiot today, she’ll call you an idiot tomorrow, with the only difference that she has a larger audience.

My first suggestion is to give “the bad guys” an easy way out. It is not often possible, but when you can give someone the option of disappearing from the scene without loosing his or her face, let them disappear. It could be, for example, that the Swedish police suddenly “discovers” a rule which causes any open cases regarding Assange to expire. That would give Marianne Ny a way out. She would not have to admit error. She would, while lamenting the outcome, be “forced” to drop the case.

The second approach, which is close to what de Noli has been trying to do, is to report facts consistently and passionately. Professors blogg does not lack in either, but where I have to disagree, is the tone. Pointing out absurdities does not require framing people as evil persons. Passion does not equal or warrant emotional reactions to attacks. I am afraid it is a very Swedish attitude, but I would call for a “lagom” (well-proportioned) intensity approach. Our objective, if we are to succeed, must be to understand our opponent. Only by understanding the people in the system, can we help them understand. Our objective should not be to win, because that requires that someone loses, but to find steps which improve upon the current.

Finally, I must admit that I have not done my homework by far as well as de Noli does. My comments do not reflect any specific incident or writing on Professors Blogg, but rather the general tone and impression I have.

I hope this helps us forward.
·      Tom Bäckström

The writer is professor at University of Erlangen, Germany, but does not claim any academic expertise in any area related to this text. This text also does not in any way reflect the opinions of his current, former or future employers, but only his personal opinions. You are free to redistribute the text as-is, without modification, as long as reference to the original and this disclaimer are retained.

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