'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, December 03, 2010

Julian Assange, Anarchist? (Part 1) 

An excerpt from a thoughtful post by Nihilo Zero:

Most people could probably not name very many anarchists -- historical, contemporary, or even fictional. A few might cite artists like George Orwell or Leo Tolstoy, and fewer still will be aware of prominent historical anarchists like Emma Goldman or Peter Kropotkin. The historical impact of anarchist practice has largely been glossed over in the curriculum of government run, and compulsory, public schools. People generally aren't aware of anarchists fighting for the first labor rights in America or giving the first public talks on birth control. People are unaware that it was the anarchists who brought about the Russian revolution which was subsequently derailed by the Bolsheviks. People are largely unaware of historical anarchist movements in Spain, the Ukraine, and elsewhere. As for contemporaries... most people might only be able to name Noam Chomsky as an anarchist (and that is probably something of a misnomer).

But now... in the headlines of all the world's newspapers, on the lips of all the television pundits, all over the internet, and in the running for Time magazine's Person of the Year, we have Julian Assange. One may argue about whether or not he precisely fits into the definition of what an anarchist is, and some dyed-in-the-wool anarchists will perhaps turn up their noses at the suggestion, but Julian Assange is engaged in anarchist acts and has presented governments around the world with damning attacks against their credibility and legitimacy.

He is one of the founders, and the public face, of wikileaks (which publicly leaks damning internal documents from governments and corporations from around the world). With that tool he has thereby presented one of the biggest contemporary challenges to the continuation of state power. In theory, by the nature and design of the wikileaks project, no national authorities with any degree of power are safe from exposure and subsequent public scrutiny. If that isn't a threat to corporatism and centralized governing power... nothing is. And while that alone isn't enough to make Assange an anarchist, the wikileaks organization is intentionally designed to exist outside, and in spite of, the control of all nation states. Furthermore, in his own words, leaking is basically an anarchist act. His organization, and his personal actions, are overtly in support of anarchist acts! At the very least... his tireless devotion to freedom of speech, and his intense scrutiny of governing bodies, is anarchistic at its core -- because most modern governments and major corporations could arguably not exist if people were fully aware of what the leaders of those institutions were actually doing.

I have been thinking along similar lines, but not with the sophistication of Nihilo Zero, and I recommend that you read his post in its entirety. Certainly, the US and French responses lend credence to his perspective. Furthermore, it is widely believed that Amazon removed wikileaks from its server in response to a demand from Senator Joseph Lieberman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Doing Obama's dirty work, yet again?

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