For the army of smug liberals, many of them leading columnists in newspapers such as the Guardian, that noise they hear right now is the death rattle of their collective moral conscience.
Ecuador terminated Assange’s asylum, allowing the Metropolitan Police to enter its embassy in London to effect the arrest and removal of the Australian whistleblower, bringing an end to seven long, soul-destroying years of confinement in one small room of the tiny embassy. This has now brought into view the grim prospect of his extradition to the US and his disappearance into the void of the American prison system, which is notoriously cruel and callous.
For the army of smug liberals, many of them leading columnists in newspapers such as the Guardian in the UK, which exploited Assange when he first came to prominence before ruthlessly turning on and abandoning him, that noise they hear right now is the death rattle of their collective moral conscience. For such people, ideological footsoldiers of a machine that wears the cloak of democracy while practicing tyranny, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden are agents of truth in a time of untruth.
Their courage and fidelity stands out in bold belief in a lilliputian mainstream media landscape, populated by moral and ethical midgets more concerned with making it to their next hot yoga class or shopping in Knightsbridge in London, location of the Ecuadorian Embassy, than agitating and protesting the cause of someone who’s done more to reveal the war crimes, high crimes and base savagery carried out in the name not of Western democracy but Western hegemony than any of them ever have, or would.
If their collective plight teaches us anything, it is that there exists a considerable gulf between ‘believing’ you live in a free and democratic society and ‘behaving’ as if you do. Assange, Manning, and Snowden dared to behave as if they lived in such a society, and in so doing crossed the invisible, but nonetheless rigid, parameters of acceptable challenge to the powers that be.
If speaking the truth to power comes at a cost, remaining silent in the face of the crimes committed in the name of power is akin to the annihilation of the human spirit. The difference between following the path of courage or cowardice when forced to make the choice is encapsulated powerfully in the timeless words of William Shakespeare: “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.”
Only the most wretched opportunist and example of the former could possibly argue that Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden do not conform to the latter in Shakespeare’s formulation.
The importance of Assange in particular, a man whose demonization stretched to being hit with concocted allegations of sexual assault by the Swedish authorities, subsequently dropped in 2017, cannot be overstated. And neither can the fact that without WikiLeaks the public mind, particularly in the West, would today still be wallowing in the infantile illusion that a world fashioned on the basis of ‘might is right’ really is the best of all possible worlds, rather than a perverse distortion of the human condition, antithetical to our collective dignity and intelligence.
Moreover, in the US, millions would still be laboring under the erroneous belief that Hillary Clinton is a beacon of hope and progress, the answer to America’s ills, instead of the epitome of liberal exceptionalism and unprinciple, both of which have been responsible for upending more countries and lives at home and across the world than any number of natural disasters ever could.
So what now for Julian Assange?
It was the American novelist, Thomas Wolfe, who coined the phrase ‘God’s Lonely Man’, the title of an essay he wrote in which he argues that loneliness is the universal yet unspoken fate of all in society. Wolfe wrote: “The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.”
The theme of the isolation and the loneliness of the individual in society is one that has been explored time and again.
In literature Albert Camus’ seminal work The Stranger, also titled The Outsider (1942), describes the alienation of the novel’s protagonist Meursault before, during and after he kills a man in self-defense. In first person narrative, the reader is introduced to Meursault being notified of his mother’s death. He attends the wake but refuses to view the body when offered the chance. Later he attends the funeral but does so absent of any of the conventional emotions associated with bereavement. When standing trial for killing the man in self-defense, he likewise betrays no emotion, as if passively accepting his fate.
Meursault’s crime in the eyes of society isn’t so much that he killed a man, but that he demonstrated no emotion or remorse either in the aftermath or before when attending to his mother’s death. This lack of emotion bespeaks a refusal to conform, an abnormality, thus marking him out as a threat to the system and its moral verities.
Taken in context then, Julian Assange has provided the world with a glimpse of an empire and political order in decline. More, he has provided it with a warning of the grim consequences if, like Camus’s Meursault, it remains passive in the face of the crimes and atrocities it commits on a daily basis in a desperate and cynical attempt to maintain its fading hegemony.
This is why at this moment, sitting in a police station somewhere in central London contemplating his fate, Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, is indeed God’s Lonely Man.
May God help him.