by Dack Rouleau
Countless lies are told of Julian Assange, but none more perplexing or infuriating than the lie told by his defenders alone: “He is imprisoned because he revealed American war crimes!” It’s a lovely lie, a graceful lie, a lie that seduced me into writing it today! This lie ensnares us because it stands much too close to the truth and persuades us with its good company. Alas, it is time we collected ourselves and recognized Assange’s bluest blasphemy. It was not the release of Collateral Murder: if that footage had been broadcast as soon as it was filmed, when the Democrats could have played it to their advantage; or, if WikiLeaks had published nothing after that, then the empire would have already quit its chase and Assange would be a pundit on MSNBC.
Assange committed one unforgivable offense, and it was indisputably the gravest transgression in our nation’s political history: he disproved the theory of American democracy. Many intellectuals before him had written to discredit this absurd theory, but none achieved complete falsification. It wasn’t until Assange, who wrote nothing, proffered proof of the Democratic National Committee’s intraparty campaign against Bernie Sanders that we had the long sought-after formula. Where all of his predecessors had been mere critics, Assange emerged as the philosopher.
The difference between the two approaches is conceptual: does one write about the failures of the system or the system itself? Critics, including some of the most respectable writers you could ever read, focus on the malfunctioning of the system; philosophers, like Assange, understand the system is to blame, and respect their responsibility, and our responsibility, to create anew. The DNC leaks debunked the enduring superstition of democratic patriotism—namely, that democracy could yield meaningful change, if only enough citizens were to participate in the electoral process. We already knew, thanks to the critics’ research, that unchecked financial power posed incredible obstacles to effective participation, but only when Assange demonstrated Hillary Clinton’s choice to hijack her party’s nomination, beyond her ability to do so, that the malignant fiction of American democracy was finally confirmed.
Nor does here the confirmation cease: in negating the theory of American democracy, he negated the theory of America itself. Like a depressive drunk, America never tires of telling us her stories of glorious success, her most satisfying being the establishment of a democratic system. No matter that her narcissistic reminiscences only distract her from her present dysfunction, dysfunction that will doom her—if it hasn’t already. Like Tralala before her, America can’t help but open herself up to the grubbiest lowlife in her vicinity, and to all the abuse he will visit upon her. She has been sick for a very long time, ravaged by every scoundrel around her, bruised and gashed and rent in the soul. Assange is guiltless in this defiling, but he did make the indecency known when he stood in the midst of this squalor and said, “The lady is gone. The lady has died.”
Suddenly, the cheerful entertainment ended, and if only for an instant, the grotesque reality of the ritual became undeniable. What happened after that instant elapsed would define the fragmentated psychological character of the Trumpish Age, as only three responses were possible: the shameless persistence of the Trumpeters, the indignant denial of the Good Democrats, and the heartbroken herald of those who were awakened, those who were stirred. The people belonging to the first two groups have been arguing moral semantics ever since, while we the lattermost are the quietest of the three—but that doesn’t mean we make the least noise.
On the contrary, there is nothing more disruptive than the acknowledgement of horror where there is thought to be beauty. To interrupt the reverie of the poor deluded, to inform them that the stream into which they stare adoringly is made of flowing sewage; this inflames every kind of distemper, inspiring doubt, embarrassment, and fear—all of which, incidentally, are deleterious to pride, and when pride is wounded, we compensate with wrath. This irrational response is equally predictable in the human beast and in the monstrosity of state, and both will defend their fragile egos fiercely—against those who see the horror and the man who opened their eyes.
The horror to which he opened our eyes is neither the horror of war nor the horror of war crimes—the latter being a comically redundant term. What kind of madman looks upon war and expects to see beauty, but is shocked and repulsed to see horror instead? The Empire couldn’t pursue Assange across the Atlantic because he exposed these “war crimes”, as you call them; how could he expose that which does not and cannot exist? The Empire chased him, cornered him, and finally purchased him because he exposed the American system, the system that promotes a beautiful democracy so it never has to wage horrible wars. In revealing this system as its antithesis, as an antidemocracy predicted uponmachtgelüst, Assange negated the American myth. He negated America.
In the aftermath of this great negation, there are those who wish to punish him for profaning their god and those who would reward him as the liberator. The outcome of the battle between the two factions shall depend on the relative strength of the anti- and democratic forces. If “we the people” do not rise up to defend Assange, then his enemies will kill him, and he will be proven right. If we exercise our democratic powers, then we will save him, and he will be proven wrong.
Let us contradict.
Dack Rouleau is an independent journalist living in New Hampshire. He previously wrote for The Citizen of Laconia. To date, he has asked eleven presidential candidates to declare their stance on Julian Assange. You can read his work at overwritten.org.