I am starting to wonder if there is a bit of realignment going on in the world order. In the sense that, instead of the old dichotomy between the political left and the political right, a more important distinction is emerging between those who want openness of information and debate, and those who want to close it down.
And curiously, it is tending to emerge that, by and large, it is those from the traditional left who are keenest to close down open debate, and to have government police, not just our streets, but our newspapers, our internet access and (if they can manage it) our very thought processes.
Examples abound. Here are just a few:
It is hard not to start with Assange, who may well be a bit of an attention-seeking lounge lizard, but who is indubitably among the vanguard of those who promote openness of information, and a very clever fellow to boot. My own support for him has grown in direct measure with the absurd and ill-fated attempts of governments around the world to gag him. Not least the present Labor government of Australia.
Australia has a new Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, who used to be Governor of New South Wales. A well-read, articulate and likeable man who complete incompetence in government (he left office with his state – previously the richest in the nation, well-nigh bust) was masked by his great charm, and ability to deal effectively with the press. An ideal sort of a fellow, you might think, for foreign affairs. He supports, of course, the Australian government’s attempts to help the United States get Assange into a very small and isolated prison cell. For while there is no evidence that Wikileaks’ activities have jeopardised a single life, they have plainly made a lot of politicians look very silly indeed. Including members of the present Labor government in Australia.
Thus Bob Carr has repeatedly said that he has no information to suggest that the United States intends to extradite Assange. Now that is just not true. As we now can be sure of, because of the diplomatic cables. According to The Age:
The Australian embassy in Washington has been tracking a US espionage investigation targeting the WikiLeaks publisher for more than 18 months.
The declassified diplomatic cables, released under freedom of information laws, show Australia’s diplomatic service takes seriously the likelihood that Assange will eventually be extradited to the US on charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining leaked US military and diplomatic documents.
Furthermore, Carr has said that it would be easier for the United States to extradite Assange from England than from Sweden. But Carr is well-read. And he will plainly thus know full well of the Swedish track record in this regard, which includes the Swedish police grabbing innocent people, who have not been charged with anything, handing them over to the CIA at a remote airfield in Sweden, watching whilst the CIA strip them naked and shove drug-laced suppositories up their arses and fly them off to Egypt to be tortured. This seems extraordinary, but it is indubitably so; see my earlier blog on the topic.
Neither do the Swedes seem to be particularly apologetic about it. According to Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Committee decision has stated that Sweden “has not shown that the diplomatic assurances procured were in fact sufficient in the present case to eliminate the risk of ill-treatment to a level consistent” with the ban on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
But here is the interesting question: what is it about this affair that causes Bob Carr to publically utter such palpable porkies?
Perhaps surprisingly, it is Julie Bishop, from the Australian slightly-to-the-right Liberal Party who is calling the socialist Minister Bob Carr to account to misleading parliament on the topic.
Mitt Romney is hardly looking like a paragon of open virtue, but the present presidential incumbent Barack Obama has hardly proved to be a friend of free speech. Despite his warm-fuzzy pre-election pledges, he has not closed down Guantanamo Bay, and, according to Wikileaks itself (which keeps count)
the world expected that this administration would return the United States to the rule of law. Instead, while Hillary Clinton praises transparency abroad, she undermines the First Amendment and the free flow of information at home. The Obama Administration has charged more whistleblowers than all other previous administrations combined.
Certainly, the conditions in which Bradley Manning have been kept look very much like torture. The Defense Motion alleging this paints a pretty appalling picture of abuse. And what is it with the American military repeatedly requiring their prisoners to take their clothes off?
Curiously, it is those from areas more associated with the right that we see resistance to this sort of totalitarianism. For example, Chalmers Johnson (who died recently, sadly) was a CIA man turned academic – and fiercely critical of the CIA’s repressive activities. And PJ Crowley public diplomat and (until recently) spokesman of the department of state, who was recently required to resign for remarking that the treatment of Bradley Manning was “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”. Obama was furious. Manning himself must be approaching despair. The military court before which he stands accused has just ruled that evidence that his leaks have caused no danger to anyone is inadmissible. The severity with which he must be punished is not to be diminished by the absence of any harm done.
Back in Blighty, the public service is firmly in the grip of a left-leaning orthodoxy, and the Cameron government has not proved willing – or perhaps able – to achieve any sort of culture change equivalent that that of Margaret Thatcher.
Again, it is figures from the right – like Lord Lawson and James Delingpole – who are those who stand out most publicly against sweeping the facts under the carpet for the sake of government policy. Less publicly, one guess that many members of anonymous (which has recently been launching cyber attacks on the Government for its treatment of Assange might well be from the far-left. These times make strange bedfellows.
Personally, I cannot help feeling that a bit more good-natured anarchy in the mix may be no bad thing.