There are a number of reasons I haven't written about the whole Wikileaks/Assange mess. One of them is that jurassicpork is doing such a whiz-bang-up job of it, another is that I am again in work-seven-days-a-week-to-meet-a-deadline mode, and a third is that it requires more attention than I'm able to give it.
What grieves me about the blogtopia (™ Skippy) response to the arrest of Julian Assange on sex chatges in Sweden is that for a bunch of supposedly intelligent people, we sure are incapable of holding two conflicting ideas in our heads.
Isn't it just possible that Julian Assange is both a crusader for truth AND an incorrigible douchebag where women are concerned? Do we have to ignore the service that Wikileaks may be doing in getting truths out to a public from which all too much is hidden because Assange is an asshole? And conversely, do we have to automatically brand Assange innocent of sex charges just because we may value what he's done with Wikileaks?
Now, I'm on record many times as stating that I think the tendency among much of the feminist blogosphere to brand every kind of unwanted sexual attention as "rape" not only minimizes the horror of rape, but it creates a culture of victimology that makes it impossible to live a normal life. I'm not claiming to tell anyone how to respond to rape, but I fail to understand how it's empowering to call yourself a "survivor of rape" and then have every possible stimulus in the culture be a trigger for a hyperemotional response. I understand about sexism in the culture. I understand about the objectification of women. I also know first-hand what it's like to be with a guy in a fraternity house and be told that your choice is to have sex with him or have your chothes torn from you by force and thrown out the window. I went on after that to a) make a point of staying out of fraternity bedrooms; and b) live a normal life that includes a happy 24-year marriage.
Whenever we have a high-profile rape case in the news, the issue of "at what point can you withdraw consent" comes up. In an ideal world, you can withdraw consent at any time. In a real world where you're not having sex with an arrogant asshole who fancies himself an adventurer, you can withdraw consent at any time. You SHOULD be able to withdraw consent at any time. If Julian Assange is guilty of continuing to have sex after consent is withdrawn, it's definitely a type of sexual assault.
What I question is whether this particular case of sexual assault would become an international one, with involvement by Interpol, if Assange weren't pissing off some Very Powerful People. It's not all that much different from Republicans having the vapors over Paula Jones' claim of sexual harassment by Bill Clinton when many of them are doing the same thing. No one would have given a shit about what may have happened in that Arkansas room if Clinton hadn't been a Democratic president with high approval ratings. But he was pissing off some Very Powerful People. Former chief UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who was vocal about there being no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, was also pissing off some Very Powerful People. Ritter still awaits trial from a January 2010 child endangerment charge resulting from an internet sex sting. It's the second time he's been caught in a similar sting after charges in a 2001 case were dismissed.
The question is not whether Assange is a creep or Ritter is a child predator. It certainly appears that Assange IS a creep and Ritter IS a child predator. The question is whether sex charges are being pursued not to protect women (in the case of Assange) or children (in the case of Ritter), but instead for political reasons. Given the overall misogyny in the culture surrounding women and sex, and the snickering and leering that otherwise normal men do about sexy-looking teenaged girls, I question whether sex charges in cases like these would be pursued with the same vigor if there were not strong political points to be made by prosecuting such people.
If Scott Ritter is a guy who can't control himself around teenaged girls, that would make him a sex criminal. It would NOT make him wrong about Iraq. If Julian Assange has a pattern of sexual misbehavior, it makes him a shithead that women should avoid. It doesn't mean that what Wikileaks reveals is not true.
It shouldn't be that difficult for us to keep these two ideas in our heads at the same time.