The strange case of Julian Assange has regrettably – but inevitably – brought out the deluded legions of conspiracy obsessed half-thinkers. They are everywhere, spreading their message, polluting the internet with illogical theories. Crudely put, there is a widely-held belief that the rape charges brought against Assange in Sweden are bogus. That the Swedish government have (through pressure from – you guessed it – the United States) manufactured a criminal charge as a flimsy pretext to “bring him in”. The charges are politically motivated and “convenient”. Nudge, nudge, etc.
Absurd, of course. There is a great column by David Aaronovitch in The Times today (subscription required, unfortunately) which shreds the conspiracy “arguments” like a fork through a crispy aromatic duck. David deploys some old fashioned techniques: reason and logic. Of course the message won’t get across to those that need to hear it – they’ve already made up their minds. Don’t trouble them any further with anything ridiculous like facts.
I had the same conversation half a dozen times yesterday in different forms and on different media. Wasn’t there something strangely “convenient” about the legal process under way to investigate sexual allegations against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks?
What this must mean, if anything, is this: is there some kind of plot whereby Mr Assange’s enemies have somehow procured these charges to silence him? In other words the Yanks have secretly (ha!) leant on the Swedes, the Swedes have silently manipulated two women, and there we are, halfway to the fourth Stieg Larsson novel, The Girl with the Badly Constructed Condom.
That clunk noise you hear is the sound of the head of a nail being firmly hit. The contradiction that lies at the epicentre of the conspiracist version of events is this: we are expected to believe that the United States government can pull levers to manufacture criminal allegations against the citizen of another sovereign government without encountering a single problem. Yet at the same time we already know that this all powerful and manipulative behemoth is unable to properly secure its own sensitive information. It is all powerful and controlling…. except for those times when it isn’t.
This is what makes all conspiracy theories so ridiculous, be they concerned with the Kennedy assassination, the moon landings, 9/11, etc: they ask us to imagine a world where shady governments pull strings to deceive us poor deluded simpletons, that they are able to keep everyone complicit to remain forever silent, to leave no trail, no clues, no evidence. However, what the Cablegate leaks have demonstrated to us very clearly – as if we even needed reminding – is that governments are fallible, careless, clumsy and unorganised. Just like the people that run them, in fact.
Julian Assange is being celebrated by people who should know better as a hero, a warrior for truth. Yet his targets are nearly always the more open societies of the west. If WikiLeaks were serious about exposing the malevolent practices of governments they would be targeting China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Burma, North Korea. I suspect that wouldn’t appeal to someone like Assange, who seems to prefer soft targets. Leaking against truly sinister governments probably wouldn’t interest him.