CO032 Rebecca Lemke on Purity Culture, Part 2

There are show notes from my interview with Rebecca Lemke with Part 1 of this interview.


I don’t like Julian Assange. I don’t know Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, and I probably shouldn’t make a judgment on him as a person based on what I see of him through the media, but my impression is that I wouldn’t like him as a person.

I get the impression that he is too self-important, too convinced of his own centrality to the story; I feel like he would be the sort of person who just talk about himself all the time. I don’t have any evidence for that, I suppose I’m the sort of person a defense lawyer should exclude from a jury for not coming with an open mind.

I shouldn’t have that impression, I shouldn’t have any impression given that you can never know  somebody through their media persona, so I’m probably wrong to feel it, I’m probably wrong to feel anything, however I don’t feel like I like Julian Assange. That’s just it.

But. I really like the idea of Julian Assange. I like the way that he has exposed so many people’s hypocrisy.

If you remember back when he first became prominent, he was publishing anything that seemed like it was relevant to shining a light where democracy needed it. In 2007 – a decade ago, now – Wikileaks published a huge archive of evidence of corruption in Kenya, where the government was stealing billions from the people of that poor African country. The result was major political change there. Sunshine really was disinfectant.

Then Wikileaks published first the collateral murder video, and later the Afghan and Iraqi War logs, Diplomatic cables, Guantanamo Bay files and more, that we now know was passed on by Chelsea, then Bradley Manning. Anti-war people were delighted.

Conservatives, not so much. People who thought they loved freedom of speech suddenly weren’t so concerned with constitutional rights. Time magazine writer Michael Grunwald tweeted “I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange

Sarah Palin called Assange “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands“, which was of course nothing to do with her illegal use of a Yahoo mail account, the contents of which Assange published when it inevitably got hacked.

Then, in mysterious circumstances, Assange was put under investigation for an alleged rape in Sweden. He wasn’t charged or even formally accused, but Swedish authorities wanted to question him; he was already back in Britain, and despite offering to submit to questioning by the UK police, or even by Swedish police at the Swedish embassy in London, both the Swedish police and the British courts have insisted that he should be extradited to Sweden; just to be questioned, not even to be charged.

Assange said that this was a ruse to get him somewhere from where he could be extradited to the US. Neither the UK nor the Swedish governments would specifically deny this. And then there was the question of the strange way in which he was supposed to have raped the women. The rape consisted of not wearing a condom when he had agreed to do so, rather than having sex without consent, and there seemed to be evidence that the alleged victims were happy to socialize with Assange after the incident.

Men’s rights advocates forcefully made the point that Sweden defines and categorizes and counts rape in a very way different to most countries, this is down to pressure from feminists. The Assange case, they say, proves that innocent men are being accused of rapes that didn’t happen.

But that was way back in 2012. How times have changed.

Last year, somebody hacked the DNC email servers and somebody – somebody whose name begins with P and ends with utin – gave all that information, or as much of it as suited him, to Assange who published it on Wikileaks.

This did the Clinton campaign no end of harm, and all of a sudden the right in the US thought that publishing hacked emails was a fine thing to do. No more talk of drone strikes, Sarah Palin even publicly apologized to Assange and praised him for doing to Hillary Clinton what she had called for him to be murdered for when he did it to her, to Palin.

And the left is now curiously silent about their former hero, they’re not nearly such enthusiastic supporters now that it seems that Assange played a part in putting Trump in the White House.

But the biggest hypocrites of all are the Men’s Rights advocates who five years ago raged against the Swedish justice system. Five years later Europe has had the refugee crisis, and it has become an article of faith amongst the MRA, which has morphed into the alt-right, that refugees are responsible for a hugely disproportionate number of rapes and sexual assaults, and that because Sweden accepted a relatively large number of refugees, that must be causing an epidemic of rape there.

First, there is clear evidence that that’s untrue. But secondly, I just love how they’ve flipped from saying that Sweden enforces rapes laws far too strictly, to saying that they are far too lax.

So that’s the Julian Assange that I like. Not the person Julian Assange. The Julian Assange who exposes the hypocrisy of so many people right across the political spectrum.