Podcast "Deconstructed" Skewed in Assessment of Recent Assange Extradition Trial Hearing
Updated: Feb 2
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By Eric A.S. Harvey, JD
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Photo Credit: Observer.com
I was touched by Freedom of the Press Foundation Co-Founder Trevor Timm’s testimony at a recent Assange extradition trial hearing. However, The Intercept, one of the news organizations that covered Timm’s testimony, offered a weak interpretation of the arguments that Timm made at The Old Bailey Courthouse in London.
In a recent edition of “Deconstructed,” a podcast associated with The Intercept, host Ryan Grim and Shadowproof journalist Kevin Gosztola mentioned that during the hearing Timm had referred to 17 different organizations that have done just what Wikileaks has done in regard to the release of highly sensitive and classified documents.
Grim and Gosztola characterized this as powerful insofar as it “de-stigmatizes” what Wikileaks does and has done. But I feel that the issue of “de-stigmatization” is incidental. It is the connotation of “de-stigmatization” that makes this incidental.
Dealing in how the U.S. and English governments may characterize Wikileaks as deviant, in the way that the term “de-stigmatization” implies, is rhetoric embedded in culture. As such, it is not as relevant to legality.
“De-stigmatization” is a term that necessarily refers to one’s relationship with one’s culture. It is contingent upon the assessment of someone against normative cultural frameworks, by which that person is rendered into a pariah.
“De-stigmatization” is not based in any form of legal framework, I argue. And it is only by leveraging well-founded precepts within the legal systems that are abusing Assange that any champion of the Aussie may actually make a positive difference for the Wikileaks-founder and former Editor-In-Chief.
A more powerful argument in regard to relieving Assange of the charges against him would be to underscore how arbitrarily the U.S. is enforcing laws around espionage and sedition.
In other words, if the U.S. is pursuing Wikileaks, why isn’t it pursuing these other organizations?
Asserting arbitrary enforcement of law may carry more weight in an effective argument against Assange’s persecution.
The American and English judiciaries, if they were to be willing to admit to arbitrary enforcement of law, would likely be more receptive to a legal argument than a cultural one.
Of course, I will not ignore that the American and English governments have exhibited a complete disregard for so many sanctioned legal practices that could benefit Assange. But I don’t know that stigmatization appeals to what these legal systems are at least supposed to be all about.
In other words, as a culturally relative argument, stigmatization is not one that deals most potently with what our government and that of the monarchy across the pond claim to celebrate.
These judiciaries pride themselves on consistency with precedent. They are supposed to be common-law systems, after all. It is obvious, however, that our administration and that of Prime Minister Boris Johnson are not observing the historically protected nature of the press right now. But I feel it would be more compelling to point to the internal inconsistencies and hypocrisy of the Trump and Johnson Administrations in regard to their non-observance of what makes common-law systems common-law systems.
Law and culture may exist in symbiosis. Nevertheless, I am more inclined to say that these legal systems, ostensibly symbols of justice independent of cultural biases, are more receptive to case law and black-letter-law arguments.
It is a shame that The Intercept, one of the more liberal bastions of hope in the news media community, would fail to underscore the need for legally relevant arguments in regard to Assange. Although many social movements throughout history have pushed for and realized true justice, I don’t feel that cultural arguments will save Assange; these social movements have almost always ultimately engaged legal systems to realize goals.