Julian Assange

The Meaning of the Assange Wars, or, None Dare Call It Tyranny


Glenn Greenwald (get yer boos and hisses started!) with some reasons why loony koo-koo moonbats who you don't need to give a second thought to might sometimes think the U.S. government is actually a danger to liberty:

Just look at what the U.S. Government and its friends are willing to do and capable of doing to someone who challenges or defies them—all without any charges being filed or a shred of legal authority.  They've blocked access to their assets, tried to remove them from the Internet, bullied most everyone out of doing any business with them, froze the funds marked for Assange's legal defense at exactly the time that they prepare a strange international arrest warrant to be executed, repeatedly threatened him with murder, had their Australian vassals openly threaten to revoke his passport, and declared them "Terrorists" even though—unlike the authorities who are doing all of these things—neither Assange nor WikiLeaks ever engaged in violence, advocated violence, or caused the slaughter of civilians.

This is all grounded in the toxic mindset expressed yesterday on Meet the Press (without challenge, naturally) by GOP Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said of Assange:  "I think the man is a high-tech terrorist. He's done an enormous damage to our country, and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law."  As usual, when wielded by American authorities, the term "terrorist" means nothing more than: "those who impede or defy the will of the U.S. Government with any degree of efficacy."…

But that sort of legal scheming isn't even necessary.  The U.S. and its "friends" in the Western and business worlds are more than able and happy to severely punish anyone they want without the slightest basis in "law."  That's what the lawless, Wild Western World is:  political leaders punishing whomever they want without any limits, certainly without regard to bothersome concepts of "law."  Anyone who doubts that should just look at what has been done to Wikileaks and Assange over the last week….

People often have a hard time believing that the terms "authoritarian" and "tyranny" apply to their own government, but that's because those who meekly stay in line and remain unthreatening are never targeted by such forces.  The face of authoritarianism and tyranny reveals itself with how it responds to those who meaningfully dissent from and effectively challenge its authority:  do they act within the law or solely through the use of unconstrained force?

He hasn't just been murdered, yes. And if that's your standard, you are welcome to it, and imagine yourself or a loved one the target of what's been aimed at Assange.

NEXT: This Ford's for You, Charlie Brown!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Do people around here really dislike Glenn Greenwald or is there some joke I’m missing. I respect him more than 99.9% of the liberal journalists/bloggers/commenters out there.

    1. I must need more coffee… I can’t even use proper punctuation today.

    2. If modern liberals were all like Greenwald, I would like them a shit load more than I currently do. Imagine him having the audacity to question those in power when they are on his “team”.

      Which he has done, over and over.

      1. Greenwald seems to be more like the older anti-authoritarian liberals of the 60s.

        1. When young people were being ripped out of their homes, at gunpoint, and sent to country(s) to fight a war for a cause they didn’t believe in, or sent to prison.

        2. Exactly who were they?

          1. “Tune in, turn on, and drop out”, seems to ring a bell.

            1. Can’t get much more ‘right wing’ than Timothy Leary.

          2. I’d say the Chicago Seven (Eight) would classify as anti-authoritarian liberals, for starters.

            1. The wrong people were in charge.

    3. Conservatarians like John hate him, but that’s team light blue/team pink crap.

    4. Agreed. But the TEAM RED douchebags cannot give him any credit because he is technically TEAM BLUE, and that makes everything he says wrong, no matter how right it actually is.

      1. I’m still strongly recollecting the sock puppetry beclowning he inflicted on himself several years back. In my mind, it kinda renders him like an 80’s unibody car that had been in a wreck. Yeah, it runs, but kinda crabs down the road.

        1. That was pretty stupid of him, but no other leftist pundit is even remotely as intellectually consistent as he is. He will attack TEAM BLUE when they are bad on civil liberties, and that’s incredibly rare on both TEAM BLUE and TEAM RED.

          If people can’t give him credit for that, they’re being ridiculous. It’s like saying that Spielberg is a terrible director because of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and ignoring Raiders, Jaws, E.T., etc.

          1. I don’t know enough to judge GG, but by your comments I assume that he also attacks the left when they attack liberty. Examples? (Not saying they don’t exist, I just couldn’t find them.)

            1. I’m too busy to do your research for you, but if you just Google Greenwald and Guantanmo or Obama you will probably get the results you’re looking for.

              1. I have, and while it is nice to see a lefty willing to criticize the left, I have yet to find him standing in opposition to anything the left normally supports. Maybe he does, but…

                1. I have yet to find him standing in opposition to anything the left normally supports.

                  Of course not, since as a liberal he supports those things too. His value is as an attacker of hypocrisy on the left.

                  1. OK. I spend more time criticizing the GOP (for not being libertarian enough) myself so I understand.

            2. Steve,

              How often do you read his blog? He pretty much attacks dems on a daily basis.

              1. Also, he was very critical of Obama for supporting FISA, months before he was even elected president. Even since very early into the Hope/Change BS, he’s been a lot more principled than most liberals on Obama, most of whom are still Team Blue sycophants.

    5. To be honest I haven’t seen many “lefty” things about him. Unless you count questioning authority “lefty”, which I think is patently untrue. You can find out this is untrue by listening to your average left wing douchebag for about 30 microseconds.

    6. I had the same thought — Greenwald does get a little whiny about corporations sometimes, but he’s a much stronger civil libertarian than any other prominent liberal I can think of. His coverage of the Assange stuff has been pretty damn good, and he hasn’t shied away from calling out the supposedly liberal media for their blatant deference to authority.

  2. But yes, the approving citation of GG generally gets many knickers twisted round these comment threads.

    1. Brian,

      Greenwald’s hate for this country makes him blind and stupid. I’ll repost my comment from last week.

      It’s hard for me to read this as anything but sarcasm but since Greenwald is incapable of it I must admit that he is a total moron.

      Simply put, there are few countries in the world with citizenries and especially media outlets more devoted to serving, protecting and venerating government authorities than the U.S.

      OMG! So much insularity and American provincialism. If I didn’t know better I would have assumed that Greenwald hadn’t even had a passport. There are entire continents outside the US with more government abuses abetted by compliant media.

      1. Well, Doherty, this is why I and others don’t like GG. He says stupid shit. I appreciate him calling out his own side but he says too much stupid shit. America has problems but it isn’t a tyranny okay? Apply some perspective.

        1. It was what, two months ago, so many Randians and Republicans were pointing out the petty tyranny of the Obama administration forcing car companies to accept deals that favored the UAW in a virtual nationalization of the domestic industry, shutting down oil platforms, mandatory health insurance, and you were all vocaly calling it at your DC rallies what it was, the acts of a banana republic style tyrant. Did something happen to change that? Like, something on the first Tuesday of November, maybe?

        2. Tyranny is one of America’s problems. Daily, constant violation of the Constitution might be a helpful reminder for you. Just because it isn’t as bad as whatever barbaric shithole you have in mind doesn’t mean tyranny isn’t occurring.

        3. It’s worth keeping in mind that Greenwald himself has been directly affected by the ban on gay marriage, and spends the majority of his time in Brazil now so he can live with his partner. He had to choose between living in his own country and living with the person he loves. Not exactly surprising that he might get a little heated from time to time about tyrannical behavior from the US government.

  3. I sure do feel a lot more like I do now than when I first got here.
    -Bill Clinton

    Assange, not a sympathetic character but the gubmint sure is trying to make him one. My tin foil hat alter ego says he is an unwitting pawn in a grander dicslosure plan. All about controling the outputs.

  4. I’ll head over to GG’s article later, but for the moment, all I can remember is Visa screwing WL, Amazon screwing WL, Paypal screwing WL…i.e. corporations. One could argue that the Feds are pulling the strings or providng the motivation, but still, it’s the corps that stand out to me at the moment.

    1. Perhaps, but with the bullying that Lieberman has been putting around combined with the fact that every other mention of Assange in the main stream media is asking whether he should merely be arrested or executed for treason, I can see why they’re quick to distance themselves from him.

    2. Thank you for identifying yourself as an irrational hater of corporations and excuser of government.

      1. Government and corporations are one in the same. The “animosity” between them, is nothing but theater to amuse the masses.

  5. What do trannies have to do with all of this?

  6. Edel—Obviously that presumption, which I certainly presume, is built into this conmplaint—though the death threats and the bullshit trumped up arrests charges and the no-bail are purely governmental. Of course if you want to believe that’s all down to Sweden and Britain with no U.S. hand in it, you can think that as well. Seems unlikely to me, though.

    1. I’d guess that the corps are covering their asses, largely in response to the public signals they’ve perceived in the statements of government actors like Vinnie Joe and McConnell, and the prevailing world governmental panicky zeitgeist.

    2. I think it’s far more than just Sweden and the UK involved, but I guess we’ll have to wait until someone leaks the diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks to know for sure 😉

  7. The evils of tyranny are rarely seen but by him who resists it.
    John Hay
    On the (admittedly long) list of my favorite quotes. No complaining about linking to Glenn Greenwald from this quarter. Like those above, I respect what he has to say far more than any other “liberal” blogger who comes to mind.

    1. I suspect the post title is adapted from the famous couplet by Harrington:

      Treason doth never prosper,
      What’s the reason?
      For when it prosper,
      None dare call it Treason.

  8. Gun up, people.

  9. Now that they got Assange to surrender himself on a trumped up bullshit charge, they’ll hold him jail and hit him with the real charges. If they would have issued the real charges, initially, he probably would not have surrendered.

    1. Maybe he surrendered because he knows he hasn’t done anything.

      1. I’m not questioning his motives. I am pointing out a method used by law enforcement. Someone facing trumped up, bullshit charges is more likely to surrender than someone facing a charge where the penalty is death, like espionage. This is their mindset, not necessarily mine. Although, there is some truth to it.

    2. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that his “insurance” file is as explosive as he’s making it out to be

      1. Agreed. I hope he fucks half the politicians on this planet. I’d prefer 100% of them, but I think that’s optimistic.

  10. The great thing is that while everyone focuses on Assange, the documents continue to flow. Idiots like Mitch McConnell actually think he’s personally responsible for the spread of the leaks, which is great, because it takes the pressure off of the folks behind the scenes.

    I’m really looking forward to the ‘large American financial institution’ leaks that are due out next year. They’re already out there, and there isn’t a damn thing that anyone can do to keep them secret.

  11. But yes, the approving citation of GG generally gets many knickers twisted round these comment threads.

    I only have one knicker.

    And I have this thing where I think libertarian types binding themselves to Jewish-conspiracy nuts and other Nazi-related sorts?actual Nazis, for example?is bad.
    And I’m okay with that thing.

    1. Glenn Greenwald, the self-hating gay Jewish Nazi.

      Do I have you right

      1. Is there any other kind of gay Jewish Nazi?

  12. The bizarre thing about this is that Wikileaks hasn’t really been “effective criticism of government”. The recent stuff seems to be more about just pushing particular govt officials’ buttons and embarrassing them personally.

    Of course, he should still not be punished for doing it.

    1. That applies for the latest batch more than the earlier one, but yes it is odd.

  13. I’m pretty sure that whta Assange is doing is actually illegal, even if you think it shouldn’t be.

    The odd thing is that none of what Assange has revealed so far is really news to anyone who has been paying attention. And that includes the stuff about Pakistan and the Taliban last summer, and the Guantanamo stuff a few years back.

    1. How so?

      1. Well, there has been plenty of previous reports that they were using sleep deprivation and stress positions on Guantanamo prisoners, so what was in the Wikileak seemed comparatively tame.

        Similarly, there were lots of news reports prior to the wikileak that the Pakistani ISI was helping the Taliban. It wasn’t news to ME when the cables came out that the US military knew they were too. Who do you think were telling the news reporters this stuff?

        The only difference is that the mainstream media kept it’s sources hidden, and spoke in generalities, while Wikileaks realeased the actual documents.

        1. No – why is it illegal?

        2. Sorry, I should have been more clear. I was wondering why you think what Assange has done is illegal. Criminal law is not my area of expertise, but initially I don’t see how Assange’s actions differ from that of, say, the Times publishing the Pentagon Papers.

          1. On Freedom Watch last night, the Judge ruled that there was nothing illegal about what Assange did. Perhaps those that leaked the info committed a crime, and that makes the government look like that they are incapable of policing their own. Hmmm. Where have I heard that before? The government is scapegoating a private, foreign citizen, for the crimes of their own bureaucrats.

            1. Exactly. The only reason Assange seems to be in trouble is because he’s not attached to a mainstream media outlet. How is what he is doing not covered under freedom of the press?

          2. I’m still waiting for someone to explain how this illegal?

            1. That’s anachronistic thinking about the application of law. In the new and improved methodology the laws are written in such a way that the legality of action is dependent on prosecutor discretion.

              ‘Point to the man and I will show you his crime.’

    2. Yeah, spreading documents around from a country he’s not a citizen of that he received unsolicitied is clearly illegal. And if by some strange legal loophole it’s not, by god Mitch McConnell sure as shit better make sure it is, or the terrorists will win even more.

      1. Yes, some strange legal loophole like, the First Amendment.

    3. Yeah, spreading documents around from a country he’s not a citizen of that he received unsolicitied is clearly illegal. And if by some strange legal loophole it’s not, by god Mitch McConnell sure as shit better make sure it is, or the terrorists will win even more.

    4. It came as a complete shock to me to learn that Canadians have chips on the shoulders. If it weren’t for the leaked confidential communiques, I never would have had any way to know about that.

    5. Even if it is illegal, there’s the slight issue of how the US can plausibly claim jurisdiction over his activities. He is not a US citizen or resident, and his servers are not in US territory.

      Unless we’re willing to grant the People’s Republic of China the right to enforce its speech laws worldwide, we’d better tread carefully on the jurisdiction issue.

  14. I respect Greenwald more than any other liberal pundit. He puts principle over party, advocates ceaselessly for civil liberties, and thoroughly documents his arguments. Commenters who oppose him on H&R almost never tackle the post, and usually veer into personal attacks or other irrelevant history. I say keep linking to him as long as he is defending liberty.

    1. Since Obama’s victory, a lot of conservatives have come to the site. Movement conservatives really hate Greenwald.

      1. And Randian lunatics have a hate on for him as well. Except for an extra dose of sloppy neoplatonism, you can’t tell them apart from movement Republicans.

        1. If you think Rand’s philosophy has anything in common with Platonism or Neo-platonism, then you are the one suffering lunacy. That or you’ve never read either Plato or Rand – or you didn’t comprehend them. If Rand’s philosophy bears any similarity to any of the classical Greeks, it would be Aristotle.

  15. This episode of WikiLeaks is sponsored by Four Loko.

    1. …and Dolly Madison cakes…

    2. It’s certainly not sponsored by Amazon, PayPal, Visa, or Master Card…..or is it?

  16. Haters are going to hate. Greenwald is one of the best civil libertarians out there. Frankly, I sometimes wonder if he is a closet libertarian ( someone who won’t come out because of his progressive readership).

    1. Well, he’s already been identified as a Koch funded libertarian by Ames and Levine.


  17. His point about the word “terrorist” is all too true.

    It’s the new “enemy of the state.”

    1. I thought that was Robert Clayton Dean.

  18. What I find so hilarious is that the gubmint and the msm either don’t understand or refuse to understand that Assange is just a figurehead. Wikileaks is an organization of 800 to 1,00 people yet they continue to act like it’s him alone. Taking out Assange won’t do anything to Wikileaks at all.

    1. MSM likes simple stories more than anything else. As far as they’re concerned, recessions can only one cause, every organization has one leader, and every government plan will do what its framers intend it to do.

      1. It’s also one reason for their love of authoritarians of all stripes: it’s much easier to chronicle the activities of a governing elite than it is to chronicle the decentralized fluctuations of a free market.

    2. Ad hominem is so much easier than arguing from a defined set of principles

  19. Anytime someone or some org gets the the powers that be and their supplicants to throw fits for weeks on end has to be doing something right. I honestly haven’t seen power hungry politicians and journalists on the left and right this mad, this confused and this hysteric for so many days in a row in the age of the 30 second media cycle ever. Palin could take hostages in a failed bank robbery and not get this much attention.

    If nothing else just think about the news cycle and how boring blogs like hit and run sans the recent wikileaks would have been and continue to be until the new year or some time beyond.

    At the very least it’s Entertainment People! And mercifully longer than The Walking Dead Season 1 (six episodes – bloody crime!)

    1. And no more until next October.

  20. This is why I have trouble calling myself a Libertarian. I remember when I first read Ayn Rand I couldn’t understand Objectivist animosity towards capital L libertarians. Since 9/11, it’s become obvious. Libertarians do not value liberty as much as they hate government. Government is vital for liberty. Self defense is always justified. Assange is indeed a terrorist and should be treated as such.

    1. I see what you did there.

    2. Then maybe you are not really a libertarian. You obviously haven’t been paying attention. Many libertarian thinkers have disposed the need for government. Especially, a government that relies on the threat of, and the initiation of force to control the masses

    3. When did Objectivists start taking cues from the Republicans?

      OK, so how is supporting Assange anti-freedom? The only important question here is “did Assange coerce anyone?” The answer is no.

      1. Heller, internet objectivists are nothing more than hyper zionist, bellicose neocons.

        The post you’re responding to may be a spoof, but it’s hard to tell(that says something right there).

    4. Dude, calling him a “terrorist” is just plain factually wrong. Who has he attacked, what civilians has he murdered, etc? I guess “terrorist” has been redefined to mean anyone Rand-cultists, neocons, and the establishment doesn’t like.

      Rothbard saw through your silly cult and called a spade a spade. Ayn Rand wrote some good books, but her ideology and her ego went off the deep end.

      1. Too bad Rothbard spawned a silly cult of his own. These paleo-anarcho-whackjobs are far more intolerant (anyone who disagrees with their views is immediately labeled a “statist” and a “neocon”) and obsessed with ideological purity (and Abraham Lincoln!) than Objectivists – or any other political group I know of, come to think of it. Rothbard’s hate for America led him to go so far off the deep and into the fever swamps of fringe lunacy that Ayn Rand’s most extreme statements pale in comparison. We’re talking about a guy who eulogized Che Guevara (“His enemy was our enemy”) and cheered when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. Anti-imperialism my ass.

        Right-wing anarchists mask their anti-Americanism and anti-government paranoia (including conspiracy theories about September 11th and Israel, which continue to find far too much support in libertarian quarters) as principled opposition to imperialism and tyranny, when in reality, they’re just on the other side. It’s impossible for anyone who truly believes in libertarian principles to defend and sympathize with Islamic fundamentalists, Communist mass murderers, and the world’s most brutal, repressive regimes. Yet the Rothbard cultists regularly do just that; in fact, they consider the United States to be worse.

        1. as http://www.lewrockwell.com can sometimes go off on dumb tangents like why Abraham Lincoln is bad, is is really great. I am finding myself reading more lew rockwell these days than reason.

  21. Assange would be a much more sympathetic figure if he keep his own mouth shut. Every time he speaks it comes out “attention whore”.

    1. That’s his job, though he not know it. The board of directors of Wikileaks put him out there to draw all the heat while they work away in the background unseen and unknown. It’s kind of like one of those deep sea fish. They put out a lighted lure on the end of stick to attract the prey to the fang encrusted mouth hidden in the darkness.

  22. ClubMedSux|12.7.10 @ 5:02PM|#

    Do people around here really dislike Glenn Greenwald or is there some joke I’m missing. I respect him more than 99.9% of the liberal journalists/bloggers/commenters out there.

    Nope. Just one guy with a lot of free time on his hands.

  23. via the Sydney morning herald:

    Foreign minister Kevin Rudd today blamed the United States, not the WikiLeaks founder, for the unauthorised release of about 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables – some of which reflected badly on him.

    He said those who originally leaked the documents were legally liable.

    And, he added, the leaks raised questions over the “adequacy” of US security over the cables.

    “Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network,” Mr Rudd told Reuters in an interview.

    “The Americans are responsible for that,” he said.

    1. He’s right about that.

  24. Libertarians do not value liberty as much as they hate government. Government is vital for liberty.

    You are confusing libertarians with anarchists. Google “minarchist” and learn, grasshopper.

    Self defense is always justified.

    I suppose, but I don’t see what this has to do with going after Assange because somebody inside the government leaked a crapload of diplomatic cables.

    1. The problem is, the end result of libertarianism is anarchy. The only way that will change is if the mainstream libertarian movement ditches/distances itself from the anarchists, which I don’t see happening any time soon (or ever).

  25. As a Libertarian, I have not come across one article by Glenn Greenwald I haven’t been in total agreement with. Maybe I haven’t read everything he writes, but for the most part it is always brilliant anti-war commentary and civil liberties issues. He is stronger on Civil Liberties and foreign policy than anything I have read on Reason. It is interesting to hear that some people around here don’t like him.

  26. The biggest danger to the American government, the American constitution, the American people and indeed America itself; comes from within!
    Can you imagine what the countries not under “US control” are saying about “Democracy” and the rule of law?

  27. If a US senator can make a statement like this “I think the man is a high-tech terrorist. He’s done an enormous damage to our country, and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law.”!!!!!
    Then other countries could say; “If international law says we can’t have Nuclear weapons; then we’ll just simply change the law”! If the United states can do it, then so can we!

  28. While I am a little confused by the form of the article, my guess is that Brian approves of Greenwald’s comments. Many people of all political stripes are all over the place on this issue. There seems to be no consistencey.

    I do not approve of Greenwald’s comments. Brian, you shouldn’t either. While Libertarians are no friends to most of what government does, at least Libertarians should be in favor of law and stability. Assange is not a US citizen and as such is not entitled to full US rights AND if he commits an act almost tantamount to terrorism or war, then the US is within its right to retaliate without the niceties of due process.

    Also, Assange is not the person we want to have looking over our collective shoulders to decide which of our secrets to publish or not. That responsibility rightly belongs to Congress. If Congress is shirking its responsibility, then Congress needs to be replaced and the correct oversite of its created agencies reimposed.

      1. “Dumbass” is not an intelligent comment and I won’t lower myself to your level in retaliation and then lose the point I am trying to make. So, here we are moving from discussing an important point about international behavior to one of discussing disagreable personal behavior.

        You may disagree with my take on the situation, but calling me “Dumbass” is neither intelligent nor constructive. One thing I had hoped to find on this site was a more intellectual level of conversation and if the parties disagreed, they fought that disagreement out on the basis of reason, hopefully, point-counter point.

        Obviously, from my point of view I made a reasoned argument. This is the site of Reason Magazine. If you disagree with what I said, point out my errors and inconsistencies in a logical and reasoned manner and leave the invectives out of it.

        My most important point is not what should happen to Assange, but that as an American citizen I will not cede my birthright to another, especially non-citizen, about what happens in my own country and government. As long as my government is functioning, especially its electoral system, then I want to use that process of law to sort out the errors of my government.

        The most telling aspect of Assange was when he recently was angry about the “Guardian” newspaper publishing his police files. He was angry that someone would leak his personal information? What? He is angry about leaked information? This tells me a lot about his personal motivations and how he is not in favor of truly open source ifo, but ony sees himself as the determiner of what info is to be made public. He saw fit to publish secret American docs. The Guardian saw fit to publish his personal docs. Where does it end?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.