Curtain Raiser

Tyranny Hates Journalists, Colltalers

The disturbing sight of Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange being dragged out of the Ecuador embassy in London by the British police, last week, sent shock waves through the dwindling democracies around the world. This time, it was him; the next, us?
But democracy isn’t done yet: 800 million Indians vote till May for a new government; 190 million Indonesians choose theirs on Wednesday; and Finland already has a new, leftist, Parliament. Sadly, Democrats in the U.S. Congress haven’t got it together yet.
In 2018, more than 250 journalists were imprisoned, half of them in China, Turkey, and Egypt, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Worse, 53 got murdered, including Saudi Arabia’s Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly killed by his own government.
Like Assange, most of the persecuted is accused of, well, doing their job: uncovering inconvenient facts, cross-referencing them, protecting sources, and reporting about the front lines of the fight between institutional oppression, and those who oppose it.
The arrest, a U.K. gift to the U.S., culminated a truculent campaign to dislodge the Australian activist, and jail him over the 2010 leak of a large but ultimately tame trove of cables exchanged by American officials. Although he may be charged as a hacker, a technicality, the aim is clear: to silence dissent. A shocking difference this time, though, is having the U.S. as leading prosecutor.
To be sure, the British have played a less than dignified role in all this. And so has, arguably, Sweden, set to reopen rape charges against Assange. A shameless, misleading establishment media has also been a factor, as has his own, flawed, moral compass.
Nothing justifies, though, going after a publisher whose revelations showed what a powerful government feels entitled to do, when its people are not looking. The case also produced one conscientious hero, Chelsea Manning, who leaked the cables

in the first place, out of justified disgust, and paid dearly with four years of her life in jail. And who’s now jailed again since March.
The ex-Army intelligence officer has refused to be dragged down to a case she’s already paid her dues to, and who Assange all but ignored when she’s was being court-martialed as a traitor. Non-evidence based Americans still go along with that version, but they may be distracted by another major issue the former male Private brought to the fore: her struggle with gender dysphoria.
The borderless persecution of journalists, activists, whistleblowers, accidental reporters, or volunteers for the cause of civil rights through the world, is a solid indication, not that democracy has failed, but that those assigned to protect it are in fact betraying it.
It’s been said so many times to almost turn it into a platitude, but it remains true: no democracy is possible without a free press.
For a while, we were used to reading about the lack of freedom of speech in some totalitarian, faraway country, ruled by tyrants. That is, everything the U.S., at least, had never been. But now, the president himself declared the press an ‘enemy of the people.’
Many Americans too have no sympathy for Assange, as his less than honorable actions against Hillary Clinton may have opened the doors for foreign interference in the 2016 elections. Some now believed, without proof, that he’s been a Putin’s tool all along.
It doesn’t matter: despite the illegality of leaking government secrets, administrations do try to break the law, and it’s usually up to citizens to stop them. That happened in the 1970s, when Daniel Ellsberg published the Pentagon Papers, and exposed the underbelly of the U.S.’s presence in Vietnam. Now another platitude, ‘democracy is not an spectator’s sport,’ proves its purpose.
Democracy is alive, if not too well, in India, even as its six-week-long procedure doesn’t bode well to its credibility. And no one expects a breakthrough in Indonesia either, where its ultra conservative religious council has issued a fatwa against vaccination, and its Sharia Law-abiding Aceh state will likely piously follow. Guess where a new global measles outbreak may strike next.
Just over five million Finnish voters, however, may serve as proxy to Europe’s much needed political change. For so far, Trump-inspired themes of ignorance and obscurantism have gotten the best out of the continent. Electing a progressive cabinet in the northern nation may be just the kind of measured good news we haven’t received about the region’s politics in a very long time.
Which brings us back to a majority of American voters, who may be bracing with dismay to the prospect of another defeat at the polls. So much dog whistling, weaponizing of the us-versus-them rhetoric, and use of code language for racial violence, which mark every president-sponsored rally, along GOP gerrymandering and spineless enabling of his diatribes, have us all worried.
Mostly by the Democrat Party’s apparent inability to capitalize on Nov. midterm elections’ record breaking wins by women and minority candidates, or incorporate their radical mandate for change in the mainstream of the party. It hasn’t encouraged anyone.
It is indeed startling that the party has responded tepidly to vicious, racist attacks leveled at novice House representative Ilhan Omar by the extreme right. Or that it hasn’t fully embraced the Green New Deal, so far the only comprehensive blueprint we’ve got to fight climate change. That only now it’s demanding the president’s tax filings, or may subpoena Robert Mueller to testify.
A lot can be gathered about a nation by the enemies it chooses to chase after. When a country lists as its biggest foes some poor, parentless, immigrant children, and creates the conditions to put them in cages; or when it seeks to intimidate and persecute those whose profession is to ask questions and bring the answers to the public, then it’s clear that this regime’s losing its honorability.
Today, millions of low and medium income Americans are filing their taxes, many set to pay the IRS at least something. But not Amazon and other 59 of the biggest corporations, along a bunch of billionaires, which are due nothing. And, of course, Trump.
Almost as depressing as witnessing power go after whistleblowers, is an apathetic electorate, who believes voting won’t make a difference. It does, though, as long as those who we vote for honor who they represent. Now that we finally saw what a Black Hole looks like, won’t we choose to get out of ours by electing a new leader for the free world? Vote hard and live free. Cheers WC


2 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. Colltales says:

    It’s true. It’s also a bit discouraging to realize it. Sad for Notre Dame. Cheers


  2. eremophila says:

    I believe the system is broken, and is beyond fixing. We need a whole new way of thinking and governance. Accountability every step of the way. But I’m not hopeful.

    Liked by 1 person

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