So the Guardian has started to again push the narrative that Julian Assange is a delusional, predatory creep who deserves his comeuppance (in spite of the rape case against him being dropped by the Swedish prosecutor’s office, due to a lack of progress and evidence after years of stalling).
As a result, the Guardian has set one of it’s most regularly acerbic liberal commentators onto the task, Marina Hyde. She has form regarding Assange, with no less than 5 separate articles critical of him since 2013, alongside numerous tweets. I’d argue that this article is fairly typical as an anti-Assange comment piece in the current media climate, as a kind of general indicator of liberal/mainstream contempt for both Assange and the situation.
Humour for distraction
It starts off with some snide and sarcastic humour, attempting to whip up a general sense that the charges being dropped against Assange show that the patriarchy has won another battle. This call to arms seems shoehorned in somewhat but you could argue there’s a place for it, if evidence is presented in the rest of the article to suggest why Assange’s case is indicative of patriarchal oppression (Spoilers: we never get any).
It’s hard to take this first portion seriously and it feels like a cynically ham-fisted attempt to tie Assange to inequality issues that people are (justifiably) angry about. Maybe that case can be made but the attempt isn’t backed with evidence. The smear alone is good enough for the reader, apparently, don’t trouble yourself with the facts.
The Many “Evil” Faces of Julian Assange
Off the back of not proving her own initial argument, we get some interesting character comparisons and baseless statements.
In no particular order we are told that: Assange would like to wear a MAGA hat (because he’s obviously a massive Trump fan) and that he has a foolish relationship with Pamela Anderson in which he has lusty daydreams like an idiotic adolescent. It’s implied that he’s “disturbingly unsuitable” and that the situation between them “feels worse” than the relationship Anderson had with Tommy Lee (where Lee got 6 months in jail for battering and abusing her, as well as supposedly hurting her sons).
Assange also gets compared to Charles Bronson (nicknamed “the most violent prisoner in Britain”) in a way that attempts to link Bronson’s sexual exploits with Assange’s supposed ones. Hyde has form here too, having made the Bronson comparisons in a previous article from February 2016, where she ironically says that any “Assange bros” that are “claiming I am literally equating Julian Assange with Peter Sutcliffe and Charles Bronson” are essentially “silly”*. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to use a crude attack point once may be regarded as a misfortune; to use the same one twice looks like a deliberate smear.
*Equating Assange with Bronson and the murderous Yorkshire Ripper should really be seen as far more “silly”.
Chelsea Manning vs Julian Assange: who’s better? There’s only one way to find out!
And Hyde isn’t done there with the deliberate repetition of attack points. We are treated to more comparisons, this time between the “good” Chelsea Manning and the “bad” Assange. Manning is painted positively because she was”actually incarcerated” and had to undergo deprivations such as being “barred from the prison library, gym, and outdoor areas for 21 days for being caught with expired toothpaste and some magazines”.
Assange is contrasted negatively with Manning for several reasons, including that “he carelessly misgendered” Manning at one point and because his time in the Ecuadorian Embassy is apparently a kind of joyful romp, where Assange is:
on the run in a Knightsbridge embassy where celebrity visitors were given to delivering frequent care hampers from the nearest grocer (Harrods).
It turns out that Hyde has used this exact same point in another previous article too:
It seemed his luvvie visitors, being possessed of good fortunes but frequently limited imaginations, tended to stop off at the next door grocers (Harrods) and buy him a hamper.
The brackets in both the above quotes make it look like I’ve put the Harrods name in there for clarity. I haven’t; Hyde has made the same joke in the same way while inserting the Harrods name with the same use of brackets. This appears to be the level of wit required to earn a mainstream columnist’s wage.
I enjoyed the paté more the second time
Further on, Manning’s (very real) hardships are compared to Assange’s own lengthy imprisonment with the snide comment that:
I think Julian once had some paté that went off a bit or something.
After all, as Hyde sensitively points out, he’s merely been in “pretend-jail”. The British policemen who have been outside for every single day of his incarceration are obviously from the more extreme school of play acting.
Incidentally, the Daily Mail-tier paté attack point has also been used before by Hyde in one of her previous articles:
“But I would imagine Julian’s tinned pâté stocks are nearing dangerously low levels”.
If I was her editor, I might be a little unhappy at the blatantly recycled quality to these pieces; although maybe hypnotic repetition is the point. Smears stick better in volume.
No discussion of establishment crimes here; I’m a Guardian columnist!
Everything is done here to try to trivialize and diminish the illegal imprisonment of Assange. Manning has been treated cruelly and brutally by the US government and is now treated cynically by Hyde here; as a pawn to be displayed and contrasted against Assange. Manning is portrayed as suffering in a noble fashion (“Chelsea continues to choose dignity”), free (stripped) of any power that might damn Western elites further, like the illuminating power Assange still wields.
Does Hyde take the chance to offer an indictment of Manning’s own cruel and lengthy imprisonment by the Obama administration? No, she remains silent; as if the actions of the US government are merely strokes of misfortune, like a flood or getting hit by lightning. Assange, the publisher of uncomfortable secrets, deserves her full attention, while those with unprecedented power receive no mention.
Praying for Authority to smash Assange
Finally, we are given a sinister final comment that seems to be hoping that there’s an unseen and corrupt authority figure to end Assange:
a Mr Big – or a President Big, or whoever – that ends up doing for him, just when he thought he’d escaped.
It doesn’t matter who “ends up doing for him”. “Whoever” can get the job done and finish off this pesky pariah will do and hopefully, Hyde seems to imply, that final act will wipe the smirk from Assange’s face.
Is Marina Hyde genuinely hoping that some sinister establishment figure murders Assange? Is that the positive outcome we are being told to hope for? Her response seems anti-democratic, as well as disproportionate and vindictive.
Even if Assange were guilty of rape (and there’s a very strong case against that, as outlined by Craig Murray here and elsewhere), does he deserve to be murdered outside of the rule of law? Is that justice? Why are we being led down this particular path so vehemently and with so little attempt to introduce evidence and balance?
Judgement is evident, a history of compassion less so
Again, all this is playing the man and not the ball. Attack what Assange might have done in a measured way, use evidence, tear him apart with facts, bring him down with logic, anything! Instead we get coarse implications and insinuation, Daily Mail-level brushstrokes designed to inflame and upset us with a tone that is impressively sure of it’s own moral certainty, dispensing sure and certain (but sadly fact free) statements.
I’ve looked through Hyde’s published articles and I haven’t been able to find a single one that showed any compassion or interest in the Chelsea Manning case before this. I searched for Hyde’s name in conjunction with “Bradley Manning” too, thinking I’d miss a well of sympathy; no such luck.
It’s revealing that Hyde wouldn’t have mentioned Manning previous to this point. Hyde has written frequently (and vehemently) about Assange; why not Manning, Wikileaks main source, whose name has gone hand in hand with Assange’s for years? Is her admiration and concern for Manning genuine or is it merely a convenient stick with which to beat an imprisoned man who defies Western elites?
What questions aren’t being asked?
There are interesting questions to be asked in this case: of Assange, of Manning, of Obama, of Trump, of the Swedish prosecutor’s office, of Marianne Ny, of the UK government etc etc. It’s absurd that in so many of these comment pieces, there are no worthy questions being asked, merely smear tactics employed.
Liberal commentators regularly (and correctly) decry such approaches within the right-wing press. However, their keen observations regarding their competitors failings are completely undercut by their own hypocritical output regarding Assange (and others who become Official Enemies of the establishment).
Until strong, fact based evidence is printed in columns like this, they have to be regarded as what they are: fact free propaganda that endorses establishment positions.