Posts tagged with “Sweden”

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Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism. I fell into a hornets' nest of revolutionary feminism.

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Common Misconceptions of the Assange Case

In the interests of following up my last entry about Assange, which I'm aware took a really hard line against him, I'm going to link to this factsheet, which taught me a few things I hadn't known before.

I stand by my previous characterisation of Assange as an arrogant tosser with a penchant for violent sex, and I still think he's disgusting and on a personal level I really don't like him. But the fact that he's a really gross human being doesn't mean he deserves extradition, and as I did say last time, there's no way Swedish prosecutors would even be bothering if he wasn't associated with Wikileaks. Still, I kind of hedged my bets last time on whether I thought he should be extradited or not, and now I'm going to come down firmly on the side of "not", due (in part) to this:

Mr. Assange has offered himself to be questioned via telephone or video link from London, which are perfectly legal methods under Swedish law, despite Prosecutor Ny falsely stating otherwise. All offers by Mr. Assange have been rejected.

If the man can be questioned by phone or video link or whatever, and this is legally admissible, this is just what should fucking happen. It is absolutely unnecessary to extradite Assange, then. If only in-person interviews counted, you could argue, "Well sure, sexual assault is rarely investigated properly, and this one only is for political reasons, but that doesn't mean you can oppose this specific instance..." But no, they can actually investigate to their heart's content with Assange not in Sweden, and they could have left the extradition to if/when they lay charges. They didn't, and we all know why.

Secondly, there is this:

The allegation is that, after complainant SW and Mr. Assange had consensual sexual intercourse several times through the night and early morning, Mr. Assange again initiated intercourse with SW while she was either "drowsy" or "asleep" ("drowsy" ("halvsov") according to text messages from SW, "asleep" according to the police report). SW expressed concern about continuing without a condom, but agreed to continue without one.

It should also be noted that SW's interview is not even approved by her, as she was upset after hearing Mr. Assange was being sought by the police and would not sign off on the document.

This was the account that was the basis of me calling Assange a rapist, in case you don't remember my entry in that much detail. To be very clear, if the account is true then he's still a rapist, regardless of SW's feelings about it. Nonetheless, I still think it's really important to take into consideration her feelings and what she wants, and I don't mean the wishy-washy "taking into consideration" that governments always pledge to do before they completely ignore whoever's wishes they're meant to be taking into consideration... I mean it's quite central.

I honestly don't feel that the law and the prison system are particularly good ways to fight rape. I don't think they would be even if police and prosecutors actually gave a shit about prosecuting people they didn't already have a vendetta against for some other reason, either. It is actually true that this legal drama has disrupted Assange's political work, and indeed put his entire life on hold, as a year and a half under house arrest is wont to do. I certainly have much less sympathy for him than I do for his victims, but this is probably a factor playing on their minds. I'm sure this woman knows about his political work (and even if she didn't at the time I'm sure she does now), and it's very likely that she has no desire to ruin all of that, ruin his entire life, for something that was unacceptable but not catastrophic in the grand scheme of things.

I think it's impossible to have any kind of blanket rule about this because all kinds of people can rape, and all kinds of situations can constitute rape, and there are some people who I would be overjoyed to see locked up in prison for ever and ever for their abusive ways (ahem, Dominique Strauss-Kahn). But it's very context-dependent, and ultimately the key thing you want is that the rapist stops raping, rather than specifically that they go to jail. So it's messy – so much so that I thought about addressing this in my last entry, then dismissed it as "too hard" – but I sympathise.

Anyway, moving on to the last thing I got out of this article – this:

If Julian Assange is extradited to Sweden he will be immediately placed in prison, in solitary confinement, and incommunicado. There is no bail system in Sweden, nor is there a time limit to detention, so Mr. Assange would likely spend up to a year in prison . And again, this is without having being charged of any crime.

Seriously, I don't know how I can stress this enough: there is no bail system in Sweden?!?!?

I don't really know how this factsheet can so authoritatively declare that he will be placed in solitary confinement, because it seems a bit bizarre to me that the Swedish legal system would mandate solitary confinement... I guess they're just speculating, based on how he's been treated so far. Nonetheless, the apparent lack of any bail system at all seems ominous.

So in summary, Assange is still gross, but not only is this extradition politically motivated, it's also being done instead of something much easier (ringing him up to question him!) and – seemingly – against the wishes of at least one of his victims. It's important I think not to defend Assange on a personal level too much; the man is far from a hero, and we never should treat him as one. But even so, I think there are good reasons to oppose his extradition.

(After all of that though, I have to say I'd really like to read these women have to say, unfiltered by journalists or lawyers or advocacy groups or ANYTHING AT ALL. It's possible that what I argued in this entry is still wrong, and I'd change my mind if I knew more. Unfortunately, it seems so hard to get at any of the facts without it being filtered and interpreted and finely sifted through before publication. It's a nuisance.)

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On Julian Assange

This post could alternatively be titled, "Why I really have trouble feeling any sympathy whatsoever for Julian Assange, in spite of the way he's being hounded for his involvement in Wikileaks."

Of course, regardless of the fact that he's being extradited to Sweden to be questioned over rape, the reason he's being pursued over these rapes is Wikileaks. That's obvious. We all know that rape and sexual assault are notoriously under-prosecuted, victims routinely demonised and undermined, and perpetrators excused on such dubious bases as "boys will be boys" and "well he probably did have consent, and that woman just had regrets afterwards and wanted to ruin his life – what an exploitative bitch." Look at what happens every time a footballer rapes someone. And you could compare the case of Assange with that of another high-profile rapist, Dominique Strauss-Kahn – in spite of the overwhelming evidence against him, including actual injuries he inflicted, his victim was branded part of a "honeytrap" plot, only out to blackmail him, and other appalling rubbish. And in the end, of course, he got away scot-free and had the audacity to sue her for daring to accuse him. Justice at work.

If Julian Assange were not associated with Wikileaks, if he were just some random arrogant tosser with a penchant for violent sex who did no political work at all, there would not be any of this fuss. That's true. But that doesn't change that he is an arrogant tosser with a penchant for violent sex, and it's perfectly legitimate that he should face some fucking questions over it.

I am fine with those who express cynicism over the workings of the international justice system – obviously I share that cynicism. But I am not even remotely fine with this hero-worship of Assange, the cult of personality that has built up around him. Just because the guy has done some good work exposing war crimes and government secrets through Wikileaks (and I agree, he has) doesn't make him a hero. It doesn't mean he must necessarily be perfect. It doesn't even make him good. It means he did a good thing. Fun fact: he's done lots of bad things too.

Almost a year ago, the Guardian did a liveblog of an extradition appeal hearing of his, from which I'd just like to pull a couple of quotes to demonstrate this. These are are the accusations levelled against Assange by the women he assaulted, read out to the court by his own lawyer, who might, y'know, be expected to try to cast the best possible light on the situation. The lawyer didn't deny the accuracy of these accounts; his entire strategy was just to deny that the accounts as they were even constituted rape. So, here's one of the incidents he's wanted for questioning over:

The appellant [Assange]'s physical advances were initially welcomed but then it felt awkward since he was "rough and impatient" … They lay down in bed. AA was lying on her back and Assange was on top of her … AA felt that Assange wanted to insert his penis into her vagina directly, which she did not want since he was not wearing a condom … She did not articulate this. Instead she therefore tried to turn her hips and squeeze her legs together in order to avoid a penetration … AA tried several times to reach for a condom, which Assange had stopped her from doing by holding her arms and bending her legs open and trying to penetrate her with his penis without using a condom. AA says that she felt about to cry since she was held down and could not reach a condom and felt this could end badly.

Assange's lawyer seemed to admit that this is all true. However, he says that since Assange eventually stopped trying to penetrate her against her will, asked her what was wrong, and put on a condom before actually having sex with her, this doesn't count as rape.

Arguable, I suppose. That doesn't stop it being attempted rape, and the fact that his victim was physically strong enough to keep him at bay long enough for him to have a moment of self-doubt, does not mean it was not disgusting, abusive behaviour.

Then secondly, there is this:

They fell asleep and she woke up by his penetrating her. She immediately asked if he was wearing anything. He answered: "You." She said: "You better not have HIV." He said: "Of course not." She may have been upset, but she clearly consented to its [the sexual encounter's] continuation and that is a central consideration.

Just what the fuck is that entire last sentence, really. If she's "upset" about it, probably the "consent" she offered you isn't worth very much. Secondly, one of the key things about consent is that it's really supposed to be given BEFORE anything sexual happens. Not afterwards. The entire idea that you can consent to an encounter retrospectively is just really bullshit. What's then to stop someone raping someone else and then saying, "But I thought it'd be fine though, because I thought they'd consent afterwards"? Oh wait, nothing! And in fact, that is Assange's entire defence! "I DID IT EVEN THOUGH SHE DIDN'T WANT ME TO AND IT UPSET HER, BECAUSE I THOUGHT SHE'D CONSENT AFTERWARDS."

And this is why I stand by calling him a rapist in my second paragraph; on the assumption that "retrospective consent" is a bullshit notion, he simply is.

Attack the hypocrisy of the international justice system, if you like; defend his work with Wikileaks, acknowledge that the prosecution is politically motivated. But do not do this by denigrating victims of sexual abuse, casting them as liars for daring to sully your mental image of your whistle-blowing hero. Assange is no hero, and his victims don't deserve that.


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