The persecution of Julian Assange is a window into the collapse of the rule of law, the rise of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of inverted totalitarianism.
A society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice.
Tyrannies invert the rule of law. They turn the law into an instrument of injustice. They cloak their crimes in a faux legality. They use the decorum of the courts and trials, to mask their criminality. Those, such as Julian Assange, who expose that criminality to the public are dangerous, for without the pretext of legitimacy the tyranny loses credibility and has nothing left in its arsenal but fear, coercion and violence.
The long campaign against Julian and WikiLeaks is a window into the collapse of the rule of law, the rise of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of inverted totalitarianism, a form of totalitarianism that maintains the fictions of the old capitalist democracy, including its institutions, iconography, patriotic symbols and rhetoric, but internally has surrendered total control to the dictates of global corporations.
I was in the London courtroom when Julian was being tried by Judge Vanessa Baraitser, an updated version of the Queen of Hearts in Alice-in Wonderland demanding the sentence before pronouncing the verdict. It was judicial farce. There was no legal basis to hold Julian in prison. There was no legal basis to try him, an Australian citizen, under the U.S. Espionage Act. The CIA spied on Julian in the embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security. This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Julian and his lawyers as they discussed his defense. This fact alone invalidated the trial. Julian is being held in a high security prison so the state can, as Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, has testified, continue the degrading abuse and torture it hopes will lead to his psychological if not physical disintegration.
The U.S. government directed the London prosecutor James Lewis. Lewis presented these directives to Baraitser. Baraitser adopted them as her legal decision. It was judicial pantomime. Lewis and the judge insisted they were not attempting to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press while they busily set up the legal framework to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press. And that is why the court worked so hard to mask the proceedings from the public, limiting access to the courtroom to a handful of observers and making it hard and at times impossible for us to access the trial online. It was a tawdry show trial, not an example of the best of English jurisprudence but the Lubyanka.
It is imperative that those of us who care about a free press and the persecution of an innocent man, for Julian has not committed a crime, make our presence felt in the streets. I will be in Washington on October 8 with, I hope, thousands of others to ring the capital to call for Julians’ release, an act that will be replicated by protesters surrounding the British parliament the same day. Joining me from Mexico, where Mexican president Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has defended Julian’s innocence and offered asylum to the WikiLeaks founder, is Julians’s father John Shipton.
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