Julian Assange and Big Bill Haywood

Haybill2Miami There are some pieces of this story that none of us really want to believe are happening, there are other parts that are way across the line are need huge pushback, as I have argued.   Talking to Canadian associates last night about the case, there was consensus that this was a “family-oriented” blog, so I should skirt away from some of the Swedish surprises other than to say it has always been a solid rule of organizing to keep away from the volunteers, and clearly these sisters weren’t volunteering for quite the full package here.  All that will sort out somehow, god knows, and stuff happens, and I’m petty alcohol was on the screen:  young people!

But Attorney General Eric Holder, Senator Lieberman (?-CT), and the right wing bar’s new found love affair with the World War I era Espionage Act gives me the total creep out even more.   We are past long memories certainly, but that doesn’t mean that history is not worth attention and that the warnings should be heeded.

The Espionage Act was categorically a blunt weapon to attack progressives and others out of favor.  The great Non-Partisan League and its chief organizer, Arthur C. Townley, certainly one of the greatest ever, and many of its leaders had built a huge base starting in North Dakota and then sweeping like a prairie fire through the Plains and Mountain states with a pro-farmer, anti-corporate program and an organizing strategy that Townley famously attributed to “$5 and a Ford,” meaning dues and mobility for his organizers and his program.

Even more widely known was the use of the Espionage Act to eviscerate the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which then was something much different that the small time, marginal wannabe and cover band of today.  They had organized frontline strikes in important industries in textiles, around free speech in San Diego and throughout the west, in the mines through the Western Federation of Miners which held sway in whole towns and counties in some parts of Idaho and Montana, and with leaders like Big Bill Haywood and other organizers, they were well known and highly regarded from coast to coast.  They were not much of a business unionism operation and their disputes with Samuel Gompers and the fledgling American Federation of Labor (AFL) were equally contentious.  They were a problem though, because politically they were pretty much stone cold anarchists, which is highly discomfiting to governments and other power structures because even when dissent and difference is tolerated, it has to be by a certain consensus on rules of engagement, which as we can see now from some of Assange and Wiki-leaks more bizarre pronouncements and threats is not part of the anarchist playbook as a rule.

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Calls to Assassinate Assange of Wikileaks Out of Line

assange cartoonHouston In San Francisco I had spent a lot of time talking to Tides people about “hate speech” as purveyed by Glenn  Beck and supported by Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, and the corporate sponsors which led to an attempted attack on their offices thwarted by good police intervention.  The attacks on Wikileaks founder and spokesperson, Julian Assange, are so direct and so violent that they go way past even that low water mark for civic discourse and these attacks are facilitated by the Washington Post and their distributors, like my hometown paper, The Times-Picayune, and anyone else carrying the Post columnist Charles Krauthammer.  Vigilantes are on the loose, and this is just plain wrong!

There are widely divergent views on the appropriateness of Wikileaks document dumps whether from the Iraq or Afghanistan war zones or most recently from U.S. State Department cables.  This is undoubtedly an appropriate debate, where I might be sympathetic but others apoplectic about these releases.   Assange is also not everyone’s cup of tea either or necessarily someone you would want to introduce to your daughter.  If lawyer think laws have been broken, then that’s why we have courts and a judicial system, though the more it is just talk, then more I believe they don’t own any cattle.

But, hey, when Tom Flanagan, a former adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, says on CBC, “I think Assange should be assassinated, actually,” I know that is out line and simply dead wrong.  What is the CBC’s responsibility and the Associated Press though?  They are just reporting, but at another level, they are broadcasting hate speech at its worse and most violent without any warning or moderation.  What’s the story?  One is free speech but the other isn’t?  Hardly!  Both are free speech and both are dangerous and involve consequences and accountability.

I also am not fooled by the call for violence and hate speech of Charles Krauthammer in his Post column’s conclusion:

“Want to prevent this from happening again?  Let the world see a man who can’t sleep in the same bed on consecutive nights, who fears the long arm of American justice.  I’m not advocating that we bring out of retirement the KGB proxy who, on a London street, killed a Bulgarian dissident with a poisoned umbrella tip.  But it would be nice if people like Assange were made to worry every time they go out in the rain.”

Who at the Post was on duty as an editor when Krauthammer made deadline?  What kind of fools are we being taken for now?  The fact that Krauthammer says he is not “advocating” assassination, but then both exhaustingly describes it and recommends violence sufficiently intimidating that Assange should fear for his live “every time” he goes out, is clearly an implicit call for assassination as well.  What line is the Post trying to draw with Krauthammer?  If someone finds Assange and beats the bejesus out of him and he dies later, what is there moral compass here?  They just meant to “scare him?”  They were just “trying to teach him a lesson?”  They “didn’t mean for him to die.”  Bull-dink!  When you issue the cry for violence and threaten people personally you have crossed the line of commentary and entered into the world of thuggery and no one should pretend anything different.

Even the call for “American justice” seems to be the call for “rough justice” typical of the vigilante’s hanging rope of frontier “justice” without a trial, judge or sheriff or the lynchings that still disgrace the history of the South.

This has to stop.  It is wrong as it can be and part of a dangerous movement of ad hominem attacks in this sad McCarthyist time polarizing all differences, criminalizing all politics, and now only days away it seems from dripping blood from the powerful pens of the press and far, global reaches of broadcasted speech.

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