Thursday, December 16, 2010





Last night on WBAI, Joy of Resistance (available in the WBAI archives for 89 days from today) found host Fran Luck addressing the topic of "Swedish and US rape laws and the current wave of misogny that has surfaced in response to rape allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange" with attorney Jill Filipovic. Excerpt:
Fran Luck: We're going to be looking at some of the aspects that haven't been discussed very much, certainly in the leftist media, about -- or in the right wing media, only in the feminist media -- about some of the kind of side effects of the rape accusations against Julian Assange that have kind of brought up huge amounts -- almost dust clouds -- of misogyny that, amazing, has been all over the internet. And we're going to look at that and we're also going to look at Swedish law on rape with Jill who is a feminist lawyer as well as being a blogger for Feministe. I was first alerted to this when I began to see these huge amounts of just absolutely evil posts calling, oh, God, talking about women as just these revenge motivated monsters, acting out of jealousy, all of the tropes, everything that women in court rooms have to confront when they are accusing men of rape, okay, their characters are defamed, etc. Now my position on this whole thing is that I don't know what happened. I don't know if Assange is guilty of these charges, I don't know that he is not. I know many people feel the circumstances are suspicious and I agree with that. I also am very much rooting for WikiLeaks and I think what they're doing is absolutely marvelous for the world. However, you know, that doesn't mean that their founder is a wonderful person. We don't know. He may be wonderful in some aspects and not in others. I think we need to keep an open mind to both sides. I certainly am not going to dismiss any rape allegations by any woman. So, Jill, what's your take on this?
Jill Filipovic: Well I think that's right. I think that part of the problem with the Julian Assange accusations is that there's become such a cult of personality around Assange himself that he's now so tied to the WikiLeaks project that any criticism of him at all is seen as somehow feeding into this right-wing target that's been painted on his back. You know, I think we can all agree Assange is under fire and he is in a very difficult situation and he is heading up what I believe is a very valuable project. We can believe that and also realize that life is complicated and he can head up a very valuable project and also potentially have done some very bad and illegal things. We can also withhold judgment on whether or not he's guilty. And, at the same time, we can withhold judgment on whether or not the women who have accused him of rape are just making up their accusations.
Fran Luck: Mm-hmm. I know the lawyer for the two woman has said his clients have been assaulted twice. "First physically, before being sacrificed to a malevolent online attack." And the women were having a very tough time and we know one of them has now fled which has some people saying, 'Well the charges weren't real, that proves it." And, you know, as a feminist I can understand caving under that kind of pressure, that kind of assault. Another target has been the government of Sweden and the laws of Sweden. There's been a lot of misrepresentation. I mean, all over the internet, there are posts that say: 'Oh! A man can be arrested for not wearing a condom in Sweden.' Which is also very funny, right? Tell us why.
Jill Filipovic: Right. I mean that is such an incredible mischaracterization. You know, what I think has happened, there's been a series of, I think, over-reliance on statements made by Julian Assange's criminal defense attorneys. I believe they're the ones who first used that phrase "sex by surprise" which isn't actually a crime in Sweden, isn't a legal term in Sweden. A lot of the reporting on it is centered around one tabloid, Daily Mail article that used the "sex by surprise" term and that also basically said that these accusations are about a broken condom and a lady who was mad because a condom broke when, if you actually read what the Swedish prosecutors have said in public -- which isn't a whole lot, but they've made the charges pretty clear, is that one of the women says that she was physically held down during sex and Assange also refused to wear a condom. And the second woman says that Assange had sex with her without a condom while she was asleep. That's very different than: The condom broke and we all agreed we would just keep going and the next morning I have -- what a right-wing blogger called --'buyer's remorse' and so I'm going to report this man for rape. These are crimes that involve physical force, that involve lack of consent, that are serious crimes and that would be considered crimes -- that would be considered sex crimes and sexual assault in place other than Sweden which has been sort of painted as the lefty feminist out of control country when in fact their rape laws are entirely reasonable.
Fran Luck: Why don't you talk about their rape laws and how they differ from US rape laws.
Jill Filipovic: Sure. I'm not an expert in Swedish rape laws so I don't want to put forth the idea that I'm issuing some sort of expert Swedish opinion here. But I have read the Swedish penal code and I have been doing a good deal of reading of how rape is treated in Sweden and, you know, it's clear that in Sweden they have what would sort of be our first degree rape law which is forceful sexual intercourse and then they also have a law that covers sexual coercion. So a law that basically says if there's a lack of consent, if sex is coerced, then that's a sex crime. And I think that is sort of what fits into a lot of what we've been talking about here in the Assange case which is that one of the accusers has said that the incident started out consensually and that at some point consent was withdrawn and Assange didn't stop. When you actually think about how that plays out, if you're having sex with someone consensually and then you say "No stop" because the condom broke or because it hurts or because something just went wrong, most people are going to stop at that point. The only person that's not going to stop at that point really is going to be a rapist. And it's not such an out there thought that consent should be able to be withdrawn at any point during sex. The idea that consent can be withdrawn -- even after sex has commenced -- is not the law across the United States. It's the law in some states, it's not the law in others. In a lot of states, it's very unclear whether or not you can withdraw consent. You know, in the US, we really hang a lot on the idea of force when it comes to rape and sexual assault.
Fran Luck: In our laws.
Jill Filipovic: In our laws. And I think in our culture as well. But legally we pin a lot on this force issue and the way that consent tends to be used in rape trials and in rape cases is with the defendant saying 'well she consented' as a defense. You don't see a lot of folks being prosecuted based on the idea that the woman did not consent. Instead, what you see is you see the prosecution focusing on the force issue, you know, whether or not there was violence involved, how much, how much force was used, how much force you can prove. You know, there aren't -- The idea of consent and a lack of consent translates into assault is just not really part of American legal culture which I think has led to a lot of confusion and, I think, a lot of the derision of Swedish laws.
Fran Luck: Mmm-hmm. What's the basic philosophical difference between basing your rape laws on lack of consent versus force?
Jill Filipovic: I think the basic philosophical difference is how you view sex versus how you view crimes and violence. As someone who is a big proponent of a "Yes Mean Yes" model of consent -- affirmative consent -- my view is that sex is something that should be fun for everyone involved. That sex is great. And people should like it. And they should have fun with it. And, you know, at the point where you are creating sexual assault laws that don't just say any sex without consent isn't assault but instead say, "Eh, if you don't consent that's maybe not assault. You have to physically do violence to someone, you have to hold someone down, you have to hit them, you have to punch them, you have to threaten them with a weapon and only then are we going to say that you broke a law, to me, is a really sexually unhealthy way to view the world, to view sex." And I think that a much better model and a much clearer model for all of us would assume that sex is something that shared, something positive. And as much as I hate to compare women's bodies to objects, you know if I leave a hundred dollar bills out on my table it doesn't mean that just because you're in my house you get to take that and walk away and then claim that because I didn't say that you couldn't have it, that I gave it to you. It's a little bit of an icky metaphor.
Fran Luck: So-so here we are with Sweden being just vilified and being seen by many misogynist men as home of these crazed radical feminists who -- which another wonderful term, I think --
Jill Filipovic: "Leftist, atrocious sluts" is what one blog post call them.
Fran Luck: Oh, okay. Yeah, we have some examples. You know, here's one. "She is one" -- I guess they're talking about one of the rape accusers, "She is one of the many Swedish women who advocate using false rape charges in the name of gender equality. In other words, she's a complete raving lunatic and should be" I can't say this, something-"slapped and subsequently put in jail." And in another one, one of these women is called a psychotic bitch and Sweden is a" another word I can't say, a word that goes with the word "whipped." What you're saying when a woman is dominating a man, that it's that kind of country. So this is all over the internet and in reality there laws are really -- should be -- they should be honored because they are kind of advanced. So I wanted to -- I did want to talk about that.
Again, for those who can enjoy online streaming, the episode is available in the WBAI archives for 89 days. Fran's other guests were Susan J. Douglas, Lu Baily and Amanda Marcotte. The next installment of Joy of Resistance will air January 5th. Trina caught the broadcast and noted, "On The Issues magazine was mentioned repeatedly thoughout the show so I'm giving a link to that in case listening/streaming audio doesn't work for you (due to equipment issues or hearing issues) and you can read a number of strong articles including a few by some of the guests."
Henry Chu (Los Angeles Times) reports, "After nine days in jail, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted bail Thursday in a politically charged case concerning alleged sex crimes in Sweden. [. . .] But he must surrender his passport, submit to monitoring by an electronic tag, abide by a curfew and report to the police daily." BBC News adds he will be staying at the home of Vaughan Smith. BBC News' Maddy Savage reported on the day for PRI's The Takeaway: "Dramatic scenes in the last few minutes as supporters outside the court are cheering and screaming in joy at the decision. What happened here is that the decision to grant Julian Assange bail has been upheld following an appeal by prosecutors and this means that he should be able to leave jail shortly". Al Jazeera quotes Assange stating, "I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal as we get it, which we have not yet, the evidence from these allegations." Generally speaking, a defendent sees evidence during a trial.
At The Atlantic, David Samuels writes, "Julian Assange and Pfc Bradley Manning have done a huge public service by making hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents available on Wikileaks -- and, predictably, no one is grateful. Manning, a former army intelligence analyst in Iraq, faces up to 52 years in prison. [. . .] It is dispiriting and upsetting for anyone who cares about the American tradition of a free press to see Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gibbs turn into H.R. Haldeman, John Erlichman and John Dean." You know what? It is dispiriting and upsetting for anyone who cares about the American tradition of innocent until proven guilty to see David Samuels convict Bradley Manning.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. As Daniel Ellsberg reminded from the stage in Oakland last September, "We don't know all the facts." But we know, as Ellsberg pointed out, that the US military is attempting to prosecute Bradley. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say." Cameron Joseph (National Journal) reports that Daniel Ellsberg was at the White House today "chained to its snowy gates as part of a protest organized by Veterans for Peace [. . .] Ellsberg was one of dozens arrested, the Associated Press reported." David Jackson (USA Today) explains, "It's cold and snowy in Washington, D.C., but that didn't stop protestors from showing up at the White House today to demonstrate against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Police appeared to arrest an unknown number of protestors as they sought to chain themselves to the White House fence." UPI offers a photo essay of the protest by Kevin Dietsch. David Swanson's War Is A Crime offers video of the protest. Paul Courson (CNN) states 131 is the number of activists arrested and cites US Park Police spokesperson David Schlosser as the source for that number. At Stop These Wars (umbrella group for the various groups and individuals organizing the action) it's noted, "131 veterans and others were arrested December 16 in front of the White House. Preliminary gallery of photos here. More to come."

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