The feedback I’ve gotten while putting together this article indicates that this is the one Assange defenders struggle with most, and understandably so: it’s a complex situation involving multiple governments, a foreign language, a foreign legal system, lots of legal jargon, many different people, some emotionally triggering subject matter, and copious amounts of information. These layers of complexity are what smearers rely upon when circulating this smear; most people don’t understand the dynamics, so it’s not evident that they’re ingesting disinfo.
But just because the nature of the allegation is complex doesn’t mean the argument is.
The strongest, simplest and most obvious argument against the “rapist” smear is that it’s an unproven allegation which Assange has always denied, and you’d have to be out of your mind to believe a completely unproven allegation about a known target of US intelligence agencies. It’s just as stupid as believing unproven claims about governments targeted for US regime change, like believing Saddam had WMD. The fact of the matter is that if you go up against America’s opaque and unaccountable government agencies, they have “six ways from Sunday of getting back at you,” to quote from the Gospel of Schumer.
I know we’ve all been told that we have to unquestioningly believe all women who say they’ve been raped, and as a general practice it’s a good idea to tear away our society’s patriarchal habit of dismissing anyone who says they’ve been raped. But as soon as you make that into a hard, rigid rule that can’t have any room for questioning the agendas of the powerful, you can be one hundred percent certain that the powerful will begin using that rule to manipulate us.
The people aggressively promoting the “rapist” narrative and saying “You have to believe women!” do not care about rape victims, any more than all the Hillary supporters saying “Bernie says you have to behave!” after the 2016 convention cared about Bernie. Earlier this month I had my Twitter privileges suspended when I went off on a virulent Assange hater who said I was lying about having survived multiple rapes myself, while continuing to bleat his “believe all women” schtick. The political/media class of the western empire, which never hesitates to support the violent toppling of sovereign governments and all the death, destruction, chaos, terrorism, suffering, and, yes, rape which necessarily comes along with those actions, does not care about rape victims in Sweden.
You could spend days combing through all the articles that have been written about the details of the Swedish preliminary investigation, but let me try to sum it up as concisely as possible:
Laws about consent and rape are significantly different in Sweden from most other societies. Assange had consensual sex with two women, “SW” and “AA” in Sweden in August 2010. SW and AA were acquainted with each other and texted about their encounters and, after learning about some uncomfortable sexual experiences SW said she’d had with Assange, AA convinced SW to go to the police together to compel Assange to take an AIDS test. AA took her to see her friend and political ally who was also a police officer. SW said one of the times Assange had initiated sex with her happened while she was “half-asleep” (legally and literally very different from asleep) and without a condom, and AA said Assange had deliberately damaged his condom before using it. SW freaked out when she learned the police wanted to charge Assange with rape for the half-asleep incident, and refused to sign any legal documents saying that he had raped her. She sent a text that she “did not want to put any charges against JA but the police wanted to get a grip on him,” and said she had been “railroaded by police and others around her.” AA went along with the process.
To gain a basic understanding of the events through 2012, I highly recommend taking ten minutes to watch this animated video:
All the many, many, many gaping plot holes in this narrative have been compiled in this excellent PDF by UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with it if you’re in any way curious about this aspect of Assange’s plight.
- This all occurred just months after Assange enraged the US war machine with the release of the Collateral Murder video, and he was already known to have had US feds hunting for him.
- It’s obvious that there were some extreme government manipulations happening behind the scenes of the entire ordeal. More on that in subsequent bullet points.
- The condom AA produced as evidence that Assange had used a damaged condom had no DNA on it, hers or Assange’s.
- Assange has consistently denied all allegations.
- Neither accuser alleged rape. AA’s accusation wasn’t an accusation of rape and SW repeatedly refused to sign off on a rape accusation.
- AA once authored an article on how to get revenge on men who “dump” you.
- Sweden has strict laws protecting the confidentiality of the accused during preliminary investigations of alleged sexual offenses, but some convenient leaks circumvented this law and allowed Assange to be smeared as a rapist ever since. Assange learned he’d been accused from the headlines of the local tabloid Expressen, where AA happens to have interned.
- After an arrest warrant was issued a senior prosecutor named Eva Finne pulled rank and canceled it, dropping the matter completely on August 25th saying the evidence “disclosed no crime at all.”
- Out of the blue it was restarted again on the 29th, this time by another prosecutor named Marianne Ny.
- On the 30th, Assange voluntarily went to the police to make a statement. In the statement, he told the officer he feared that it would end up in the Expressen. How do I know that? The full statement was leaked to the Expressen.
- Assange stayed in Sweden for five weeks waiting to be questioned, then went to the UK after a prosecutor told him he’s not wanted for questioning.
- After leaving, InterPol bizarrely issued a Red Notice for Assange, typically reserved for terrorists and dangerous criminals, not alleged first-time rapists. This exceedingly disproportionate response immediately raised a red flag with Assange’s legal team that this was not just about rape accusations, and they decided to fight his extradition to Sweden fearing that he was being set up to be extradited to the United States, a country who WikiLeaks had recently embarrassed with extremely damaging leaks about war crimes.
- In December 2010 Assange went to a UK police station by appointment and was arrested. He spends ten days in solitary confinement and was released on bail, then spent 550 days under house arrest with an electronic ankle bracelet.
- We now know that a grand jury had been set up in East Virginia already at this time to try and find a crime to hang him for, or at least put him away til the end of his life. Assange’s lawyers were aware of this.
- The UK Supreme Court decided Assange should be extradited to Sweden, the Swedes refused to give any assurances that he would not be extradited on to the US, and the US refused to give any assurances that they would not seek his extradition and prosecution. If either country had provided such an assurance as urged by Amnesty International, Assange would have traveled to Sweden and the ordeal would have been resolved.
- This was never resolved because this was never about rape or justice. It was about extraditing Assange to the United States for his publications.
- As the window til extradition to Sweden closed, in 2012 Assange sought and won asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy as a journalist who risked unfair prosecution.
- A few days ago we learned that the FBI affidavit supporting Assange’s arrest at the embassy asserts that “Instead of appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, in June 2012, Assange fled to the embassy.” But according to Assange, Marianne Ny had actually worked to cancel his window to apply to appeal the matter at the European Court of Human Rights, reducing it from 14 days to zero days and thereby shutting that door in his face.
- In 2013 Sweden attempted to drop extradition proceedings but was dissuaded from doing so by UK prosecutors, a fact we wouldn’t learn until 2018.
- In 2017 we learned that the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service had dissuaded the Swedes from questioning Assange in London in 2010 or 2011, which could have prevented the entire embassy standoff in the first place, and that the CPS had destroyed crucial emails pertaining to Assange.
- We also learned that Marianne Ny had deleted an email she’d received from the FBI, claiming it could not be recovered.
- In May 2017 Marianne Ny closed her investigation, strangely on the very day she was due to appear in Stockholm court to face questions on why she had barred Assange’s defense lawyer and other irregularities during his questioning in the embassy the previous November, and rescinded the extradition arrest warrant.
- Assange was never charged, despite having been thoroughly interviewed at the embassy by Swedish prosecutors before the investigation was closed. Some smearers claim that this is due to a technicality of Swedish law which made the government unable to charge him in absentia, but Sweden can and has charged people in absentia. They did not do so with Assange, preferring to keep insisting that he come to Sweden without any assurances against onward extradition to the US instead, for some strange reason.
- Shortly after Assange’s embassy arrest The Intercept’s Charles Glass reported that “Sources in Swedish intelligence told me at the time that they believed the U.S. had encouraged Sweden to pursue the case.”
- It cannot be denied that governments around the world have an extensive and well-documented history of using sex to advance strategic agendas in various ways, and there’s no valid reason to rule this out as a possibility on any level.
- Sometimes smearers will try to falsely claim that Assange or his lawyers admitted that Assange committed rape or pushed its boundaries during the legal proceedings, citing mass media reports on a strategy employed by Assange’s legal team of arguing that what Assange was accused of wouldn’t constitute rape even if true. This conventional legal strategy was employed as a means of avoiding extradition and in no way constituted an admission that events happened in the way alleged, yet mass media reports like this one deliberately twisted it to appear that way. Neither Assange nor his lawyers have ever made any such admission.
For more information on the details of the rape accusation, check out the following resources:
- This 2012 4 Corners segment titled “Sex, Lies, and Julian Assange”
- This 2016 Observer article titled “Exclusive New Docs Throw Doubt on Julian Assange Rape Charges in Stockholm”
- This John Pilger article titled “Getting Julian Assange: The Untold Story”
- This Justice Integrity Report article titled “Assange Rape Defense Underscores Shameful Swedish, U.S. Tactics”
- The aforementioned ten minute Youtube video.
- The aforementioned document by Nils Melzer.
For some feminist essays on the infuriating hypocrisy of the entire patriarchal empire suddenly caring so, so deeply about the possibility that a man might have initiated sex in an inappropriate way, check out:
- This Naomi Wolf essay titled “J’Accuse: Sweden, Britain, and Interpol Insult Rape Victims Worldwide”
- This Guardian article by Women Against Rape titled “We are Women Against Rape but we do not want Julian Assange extradited — For decades we have campaigned to get rapists caught, charged and convicted. But the pursuit of Assange is political”
I see a lot of well-meaning Assange defenders using some very weak and unhelpful arguments against this smear, suggesting for example that having unprotected sex without the woman’s permission shouldn’t qualify as sexual assault or that if AA had been assaulted she would necessarily have conducted herself differently afterward. Any line of argumentation like that is going to look very cringey to people like myself who believe rape culture is a ubiquitous societal illness that needs to be rolled back far beyond the conventional understanding of rape as a stranger in a dark alley forcibly penetrating some man’s wife or daughter at knifepoint. Don’t try to justify what Assange is accused of having done, just point out that there’s no actual evidence that he is guilty and that very powerful people have clearly been pulling some strings behind the scenes of this narrative.
Finally, the fact remains that even if Assange were somehow to be proven guilty of rape, the argument “he’s a rapist” is not a legitimate reason to support a US extradition and prosecution which would set a precedent that poses a threat to press freedoms everywhere. “He’s a rapist” and “It’s okay that the western legal system is funneling him into the Eastern District of Virginia for his publishing activities” are two completely different thoughts that have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, so anyone attempting to associate the two in any way has made a bad argument and should feel bad.
This is an excerpt from the mega-article “Debunking All The Assange Smears”.