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The lure of conspiracy theories

The lure of conspiracy theories
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First Published: Tue, Dec 07 2010. 09 02 PM IST
Updated: Tue, Dec 07 2010. 09 02 PM IST
Given the various persecutions of WikiLeaks since the start of CableGate, it feels easy to assume that Julian Assange’s arrest by the British police is a part of that strategy of harassment. For days, the American and British governments have hollered assiduously for Assange’s blood. PostFinance, a Swiss bank, has suddenly found reason to shut down one of Assange’s accounts.
Two companies—Amazon and PayPal—have severed their commercial ties with WikiLeaks, citing reasons that seem sufficiently specious to suspect applications of pressure from the US government. Amazon flatly refused to continue hosting WikiLeaks’ materials on its servers. PayPal. com has stated that WikiLeaks’ account violated its policies by being used for “illegal activity”, although no clarity has emerged on the legality of WikiLeaks’ actions in publishing its stash of cables. In August, prosecutors in Sweden dropped charges of sexual misconduct against Assange, but they were revived a few weeks ago, leading to this arrest. The timings of these events overlap cleanly enough with CableGate to make conspiracy theorists out of us all.
But we should be wary about assuming, even in this context, that the charges against Assange are trumped up; one may, after all, be a leading activist and yet commit a sexual crime. If there were dubious aspects to the stories of the two women charging Assange, there were also unclear parts in the sequence of events as put forward by Assange’s lawyers.
Assange’s contention that governments are hounding him for “trivial” charges is best countered by what Larry King told him a couple of weeks ago: “Rape is not trivial.” Assange can validly insist that the charges are false, and it is for the due process of law to discover that falsity. At least in these allegations of sexual misconduct, while Assange’s lawyers have surmised that they are driven by malignant motivations, nobody has pointed to an actual breakdown in the judicial process thus far. Assange himself once said: “It is not our goal to achieve a more transparent society; it’s our goal to achieve a more just society.” In which case, he can hardly have any argument with following processes that seek to establish justice. If the process is indeed subverted to bully Assange, then, as WikiLeaks has shown so well, the truth will out.
s Assange’s arrest politically motivated? Tell us at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Dec 07 2010. 09 02 PM IST