As was debated a few days ago at Liberal Conspiracy, it is very difficult to know what to think about the Swedish allegations against Julian Assange. In such situations one can only hope that the evidence against him is presented in a timely fashion. Then he can be either charged and tried, or released, as the available facts dictate. We will know what to think in due course, there is no need to pre-empt a due process which so far seems to be progressing as it should.
But let us assert one thing right now: the personal exploits of Julian Assange tell us nothing about the morality of the Wikileaks project and it’s recent #Cablegate actions.
If Assange is convicted, watch out for those who use it to cast doubt on the idea and mission of the Wikileaks project. Such arguments will merely be an ad hominem that will add nothing new to the debate around Freedom of Information that the site has brought into sharp focus.
In the arts, many critics take the biographical approach when they analyse artists’ work. The classic questions: Is ‘The Wasteland’ reduced if T.S. Eliot was an anti-semite? Was Paul Gauguin a worse artist because he abandoned his wife and children? We might ask the same questions of political philosophies too: are we to abandon the American experiment because the Founding Fathers were slave owners? I don’t see how (especially when the principles which ultimately guaranteed the freedom from slavery were written by those same men in the Bill of Rights). Likewise, should we abandon the philosophy of Wikileaks if Julian Assange turns out to be a rapist? I think not.
Indeed, the very name of the website argues against this. It would be a very poor sort of Wiki that was vulnerable to a ‘decapitation’ strategy. Surely the whole point of a site worthy of the prefix is that it depends on a community, not an individual. Those who try to propagate the ‘Assange ⇔ Wikileaks’ meme in the next few weeks should be reminded of this.