Julian Assange: We Open Governments

I just want to start off this blog by stating that this is in no way a journalistic piece.  I will do my best to lay down facts as I know them best, but really, this is an opinion rant piece on Julian Assange.  A really abstract opinion piece.  Actually, more of a personal piece.  A personal story on what Assange means to me in my life.  I promise it’s not as creepy as I just made it sound right now.  It’s a little odd to write about someone you don’t personally know, especially when their name is so well known it becomes an entity in itself.  But let’s remember:  Julian Assange is still a person.

I have been planning to write this post for a while now, and originally planned on posting it tomorrow, which is the 2-year anniversary of when Assange took asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.  However, I woke up to seeing this on Twitter:

 

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So, I decided today was a good day to write about Assange.  So settle in, get a comfy chair because I have a lot to say and a pot of tea.

But first, background!

I first heard about WikiLeaks shortly after they started publishing documents online.  I was just starting college, and I think it was when I started getting interested in computers.  I would really like to say that when I learned about WikiLeaks, it drove me to be a passionate champion toward activism, but I would be telling the biggest lie ever.  I was, to put it mildly, terrified.  They shook the ground.  Growing up in my household, I was taught to not trust the government.  I heard stories of people disappearing in the 60s.  Men in black showing up in the middle of the night to take you somewhere and no one would ever hear from you again.  You vanished.

And all of sudden, the stories became current.  I was hearing of people getting harassed for merely looking at WikiLeaks.  I became paranoid of online spying, long before it became known to the world, thanks to Edward Snowden.  I manically guarded my online activity, for fear of becoming known.  I became obsessed with internet security (and spying).  Not to mention, around this same time, an ex-boyfriend of mine hacked all my accounts, killed my computer, and sent really awful emails to all my friends through my account, and some others that were made up.  Needless to say, I was having a sort of rocky start to adulthood.

OK, enough background.

Let’s cut to the chase.  Most people who hear Assange’s name already have their minds made up about him.  He’s either a hero, or a villain.  Personally, to me, he’s kind of both, yet neither at the same time.  I don’t really like hero worship, and I’m also not quick to label someone a villain.  I’ve found that the world is so much more complex than that.  So much more interesting.

Yes, Assange shook the world.  But the world needed to be shaken.  There were parts that needed to be broken.  He made a huge sacrifice to his own life to advance the progress of others.  His work may be controversial, but he started a conversation that needed to happen.  Oh god, did it need to happen.

I wasn’t afraid because WikiLeaks was created.  I was afraid for WikiLeaks, and the people running it.  That says a lot.  Generationally, fear has been passed down so subtly, that I barely realized I lived in a constant state of fear.  Assange was the first person to open my eyes to that.  In a world where ideology is so polarized, he showed me the awful details in between.

Keep quiet.

Keep secrets.

This is how governments win wars.

No, this is how corruption happens.  We need to change how we do things.  Secrets and silence don’t work anymore (I’m not sure they ever have).  We are running an endless loop because nothing is open.

Do I think Julian Assange is a criminal?

Absolutely not.  I think he represents a new version of journalism that we need.  I think his incarceration at the embassy is illegal and completely politically motivated.  Sweden is under the US’s thumb and holds no grounds for the personal investigations against him (because there are no charges – read my source HERE).  I think it’s quite strange (and offensive) that someone not even accused of rape is being trapped and threatened for it.  Seriously, only the police and certain politicians are accusing him of rape.  It’s gotten so out of hand in the media that no one even knows what’s true.

I do not think Assange has broken any laws, but I definitely know multiple governments have broken multiple international laws.  And people seem to be fine with that.  That upsets me.  If it doesn’t upset you, then you clearly have a much more comfortable, trusting relationship with your government and leaders than I could ever imagine.

For those of you that think him a villain: fine.  He’s a villain.  If someone is a hero they also have to be a villain.  But he’s not a criminal, and that’s where the big difference is.  You can’t shoot someone just for calling you out on your shit.  Own up to your shit.  You created it.

So, dear Assange – I hope this year was your last in the embassy.  Thank you for not backing down, and for shaking the world.  To think you’ve given up so much of yourself for a world that screams “traitor!” makes you, at the very least, someone special.

For those that want more info, click the picture below.

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