Julian Assange Believes Western Free Speech is Illusory
The WikiLeaks editor took questions at The Guardian and his response to a question of free speech was spot on.
Americans hold free speech dearly. Most Americans love the freedom of speech as intensely as certain Americans love their guns, and rightly so. There is nothing quite so frightening to any establishment as an individual speaking their mind. And while Americans surely do speak their minds–some better than others–one must wonder at some point that perhaps the reason the machinery of power hasn’t already crushed free speech like the Chinese lies in the fact that Americans are lost in a haze of distortion and therefore largely incapable of upsetting the established order.
Julian Assange seems to think so:
“The west has fiscalised its basic power relationships through a web of contracts, loans, shareholdings, bank holdings and so on. In such an environment it is easy for speech to be “free” because a change in political will rarely leads to any change in these basic instruments. Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free. In states like China, there is pervasive censorship, because speech still has power and power is scared of it. We should always look at censorship as an economic signal that reveals the potential power of speech in that jurisdiction. The attacks against us by the US point to a great hope, speech powerful enough to break the fiscal blockade.”
This is the critical point which I’ve been discussing in recent articles on voting, the artifice of power and the influence of government over the free press: the institution of power absorbs, or neuters, the true power of the populace by concentrating it on a magic show masquerading as elections.
To highlight one of Assange’s phrases from above: “Western speech… rarely has any effect on power.”
If free speech were truly dangerous–a threat to power structures–it would be made illegal. This is manifested in the American and international outrage and condemnation of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange as its figurehead. He is a genuine threat to the established order, both here and abroad, and therefore WikiLeaks must be silenced. There is no other choice for the institutions of power.
In the above quote, Assange is contrasting speech in China with that in America for the simple reason that in China, if the population were truly able to speak their minds against the prevailing order, the artifice would crumble. In America, speech is such that it cannot crumble anything, only cause a temporarily fracture or breach, with the government putting in place legislation that will prevent a repetition. No one in government wants a repeat of the Pentagon Papers, for instance.
The truth is that even the government is cynical when it comes to free speech, for it has—over a very long time—equated immense amounts of money spent in elections with free speech, now legal after Citizens United vs. FEC. Elected officials have also allowed access to their offices, thus allowing lobbyists (paid handsomely by businesses) to influence officials with ‘studies’ and ‘research’ or, in fact, write pieces of legislation (as we saw with the healthcare bill).
And if they can’t influence them, they eliminate them—as was the case with Senator Russ Feingold.
Assange thinks people should view “censorship as an economic signal that reveals the potential power of speech in that jurisdiction.” What exactly does he mean by this statement? That, above all else, free speech is a threat to markets and the greatest beneficiaries therein, and that any suggestion of censorship is merely a signal to that effect. The government may want to signal that WikiLeaks is a threat to diplomacy and American national security with their condemnations of Assange, but the true signal is hidden, and economic and financial matters are at the signal’s core.
Assange ends with this sentence: “The attacks against us by the US point to a great hope, speech powerful enough to break the fiscal blockade.”
If our press raised the same amount of trouble as WikiLeaks, there would no longer be free speech.
Think about that for a moment.