Here’s what I’ve learned so far from the furor over the rape allegations against Julian Assange: when it comes to rape, the left still doesn’t get it. The problem is not that many WikiLeaks supporters question the zeal with which Swedish authorities are pursuing Assange. Maybe it’s true that an ordinary guy, faced with similar accusations, would have been allowed to slip away quietly once he left Sweden rather than become the subject of an Interpol red notice. (Maybe not, though. The eleven Swedes on Interpol’s public red list include people wanted for fraud and other non-spectacular crimes. Much has been made of the fact that only one of these, an alleged child molester, is charged with a sex crime. But the vast majority of wanted people are privately listed, so actually there’s no way of knowing if Assange’s case is exceptional.) Given that US politicians, from Joe Biden to Sarah Palin, have called for Assange’s head, it isn’t paranoid to suspect that he is being singled out in order to extradite him to the United States. But it could also be that Sweden is following up because prosecutors get mad when world-class celebrities flee the country and then thumb their noses at them—cf. Roman Polanski.
What’s disturbing is the way some WikiLeaks admirers have misrepresented the allegations, attacked the women and made light of date rape. It’s been known for some time that Assange was accused of using his body weight to force sex on one woman, ignoring her demand that he use a condom, and penetrating the other woman while she slept, also without a condom despite her wishes; but writer after writer has treated the whole thing as a big joke. It was "sex by surprise"—some arcane Swedish thing—wrote Dave Lindorff on Truthout. Plus, Assange didn’t tell the second woman about the first and didn’t return her phone call. Hell hath no fury like a groupie scorned. Appearing on Keith Olbermann’s show after he put up $20,000 to help bail Assange out of a British jail, Swedish rape law expert Michael Moore called the case "a bunch of hooey": "the condom broke during consensual sex." Olbermann made matters worse when he retweeted Bianca Jagger’s tweet linking to a post on Mark Crispin Miller’s blog claiming that Assange accuser "Miss A" had "interacted" in Cuba with an anti-Castro women’s group supported by terrorist and former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles, and had published anti-Castro "diatribes" in a Swedish magazine. You would think the left would be more sensitive to charges of guilt by association—since when did marching in a demonstration mean you sign on to everything its supporters support? By those lights, everyone who went to an ANSWER-sponsored march against the Iraq War thinks North Korea is a Marxist paradise.
And everyone who believes and promotes the "information" that "Miss A" is a CIA "honeytrap" is an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier. Because the original source for that story is one Israel Shamir, writing in Counterpunch and vigorously defended by Counterpunch editor and Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn, who also belittles the accusations as "unsafe sex and failure to phone his date the following day." I spent a few hours on www.israelshamir.net and learned that: "the Jews" foisted capitalism, advertising and consumerism on harmonious and modest Christian Europe; were behind Stalin’s famine in Ukraine; control the banks, the media and many governments; and that "Palestine is not the ultimate goal of the Jews; the world is." There are numerous guest articles by Holocaust deniers, aka "historical revisionists." We have now produced on the left an echo chamber like that on the far right, where the scurrilous charges of marginal fanatics are disseminated through electronic media and end up, cleansed of their original associations, as respectable opinion.