The knee-jerk response of many so-called liberals and progressives to the rape allegations against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been to defend Assange and attack his accusers. It’s a shameful and hypocritical position, but one which will come as no surprise to most conservatives. It might, however, open the eyes of moderate feminists and their supporters as to just how far women’s rights have slipped down the left’s traditional pecking order of causes.
A gaggle of prominent lefties have taken Assange’s side, trivializing the allegations made against him by two Swedish women and contributing money to his bail fund. Most are little-known outside the politics and arts worlds, such as the filmmaker Ken Loach and journalist John Pilger (who called the charges a “political stunt”), while others, like Bianca Jagger, are the epitome of B-list celebrity activism. A better-known figure, Michael Moore, caused outrage when he dismissed the allegations as “hooey,” and misrepresented the details of the complaints on Keith Olbermann’s show. (He later attempted to clarify his remarks, acknowledging that the allegations “have to be investigated.”)
Countless other left-wing writers and bloggers have joined in, attacking the characters of the women, diminishing sexual crimes against women in general, and spreading wild theories about CIA “honeytraps.” This piece by Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn is a particularly fine example of the genre.
But the clear winner in the hypocrisy stakes has been Naomi Wolf, hero of the anti-American and conspiracy-obsessed far left, and ostensible feminist. In December, Wolf posted a mocking letter to Interpol at The Huffington Post, in which she made light of the rape allegations. Like Moore, she also misrepresented the nature of the allegations, suggesting that the entire case hinged on a broken condom, when it’s also claimed that Assange had sex with one woman without her consent and the other while she slept; either refused to wear or tampered with a condom; and refused to be tested for STDs. (You can read a detailed account of the allegations against Assange here.)
Wolf also defended Assange in a debate with Jaclyn Friedman of Women, Action & The Media, which led Amy Siskind of the women’s advocacy group The New Agenda to claim that Wolf had “trivialized these women and rape generally.” In an interview with The Daily Caller, Siskind also said “it seems as if these women are meant to be roadkill so that the people on the left who view what Assange did as heroic can celebrate him.”
Not content with having attracted the ire of much of the women’s movement, Wolf last week suggested that accusers in rape cases should lose their right to anonymity. In the UK and much of Europe it’s against the law to name the alleged victim in a rape case, while in the U.S. a complainant’s identity is generally protected as a matter of convention on the part of the media. (Wolf, incidentally, is said to be one of a number of activists who have released the women’s names on the internet, making the anonymity issue somewhat moot — the women have since received death threats.)
There are valid doubts that can be raised over the women’s allegations against Assange, and it’s certainly possible to interpret the events in Stockholm as a case of two starstruck young women joining forces to take revenge after being shabbily treated by the object of their affections. However, it’s equally possible that Assange is guilty of serious sexual crimes, and at the very least there’s a case to be answered. Similarly, there’s a debate to be had about the desirability of granting anonymity to rape victims, particularly when their alleged attacker can been identified; anonymity for both victim and accused would arguably be fairer.
But despite the elaborate posturing of Wolf and her fellow leftists, neither the details of what went on in those women’s bedrooms, nor the wider issues of rape laws and anonymity, are of the least interest to them. It’s all simply a smokescreen to obscure their real motive, which is to prevent Assange’s extradition from the UK to Sweden, or undermine the case against him until it collapses. And if Assange should be convicted, destroying the characters of his victims will at least allow them to maintain that he’s the victim of a conspiracy, and that his guilt should not detract from the nobility of the Wikileaks project.
Their positions have nothing to do with the facts of the case, and everything to do with the political ideology of the accused. The intent behind the current round of revelations from Wikileaks is essentially anti-American and anti-Western (even if many of the disclosures don’t actually serve that end) — and for the left, the anti-American, anti-Western project comes before all else. Women, like blacks, gays, and other “interest groups,” are only useful insofar as they can be exploited to advance the greater cause. The feminist movement, for example, has proved invaluable for undermining the traditional family and expanding the availability of abortion; blacks, for enabling liberals to expand the welfare state and thus the reach of government in the U.S., and for perpetuating self-destructive notions of white guilt.
But when a group is no longer helpful to the left, it is cast aside, and Assange’s accusers are being sacrificed to safeguard his image as an unimpeachable seeker of truth and justice. Any interest group can be similarly discarded at any time. The left is big on animal rights too, but if Michael Vick were a prominent figure on the left, Wolf would by now have written several articles explaining why the occasional fight can help to keep your dog active and alert, and comparing the prosecution of Vick with the fate of Martin Luther King, Jr..
Campaigners for women’s rights shouldn’t be surprised by this turn of events. Leftists have in recent years made clear how little importance they attach to the freedom of women around the world by resisting moves by Western governments and moderate Muslims to outlaw the burka. Not surprisingly, Naomi Wolf has been busy in this respect too. Again, the logic is simple: those who enforce the wearing of the burka are Muslim extremists, and Muslim extremists are at war with the United States; therefore Wolf, and the rest of the hard left, are compelled to support them.
And anyway, liberals and leftists have never had a problem excusing the mistreatment of women by their leading men, whether it’s Teddy Kennedy leaving his date to die in a submerged car, Bill Clinton exploiting a young intern and lying about it under oath, Nelson Mandela beating his wife, or Roman Polanski drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. The status of a leftist icon is the ultimate Get Out of Jail Free card, both in terms of reputation and, sometimes, literally.
It’s important to note that many decent liberals have spoken out against those who are making light of the allegations against Assange and attacking his accusers, while expressing full or qualified support for the activities of Wikileaks. But far too many on the left take the view of Whoopi Goldberg, discussing the Polanski case on The View:
I know it wasn’t “rape” rape. I think it was something else, but I don’t believe it was “rape” rape.
What she was trying to say was: there’s rape, and there’s rape by liberal-left icons. There’s a big difference, don’t you know.