When I started studying journalism, John Pilger’s “Heroes” was one of my first ports of call. He writes about his career as a journalist, shifts in the media, specific world events he covered. Excerpts of his writing inspired me to try and tell the stories of people that do not usually get told, with the details that would make these lives vivid, interesting, compelling and importantly in a world where compassion often loses out to judgment, provoke empathy.
Of course, as a lefty, I would say that about JP. Despite it not escaping my attention that his analysis of gender inequality had none of the subtlety and attention to detail that he devotes to class and race oppression. Including a recurring tendency to tell feminists to stop worrying about whatever we were critiquing, and follow him in thinking about the important things.
When they drone on about relationships, “lifestyle”, what the kiddies said, shopping lists, cleaning the toilet, the right to wear nail polish ad nauseam, they have not been entirely depoliticised. They provide an important diversion on behalf of the social and political enemies of true, liberating feminism.
But when it comes to Julian Assange, John Pilger I’m afraid has moved not from not bothering with gender inequality, to joining forces with many he would usually condemn. I don’t mean in posting bail – provided Mr Assange is not at risk of perpetrating sexual violence right now, I’m fine with him not being held in prison until the case is heard – but in how he is writing about the sexual violence charges.
The Australian barrister James Catlin, who acted for Assange in October, says that both women in the case told prosecutors that they consented to have sex with Assange. Following the “crime”, one of the women threw a party in honour of Assange. When Borgström was asked why he was representing the women, as both denied rape, he said: “Yes, but they are not lawyers.” Catlin describes the Swedish justice system as “a laughing stock”. For three months, Assange and his lawyers have pleaded with the Swedish authorities to let them see the prosecution case. This was denied until 18 November, when the first official document arrived – in the Swedish language, contrary to European law.
Shock journalism! A lawyer defending a man accused of sexual violence says the woman concerned agreed to the sex! There is no “crime”. Sweden is “a laughing stock” when it comes to sexual violence.
This is just after Mr Pilger has accused a group of “media feminists” (does that make him a “media socialist”? I’m just saying….) of giving feminist credence to the “chaotic, incompetent and contradictory accusations against Assange in Sweden.”
Why contradictory? I am assuming because Mr Pilger is finding the concept of consent difficult to grasp. The idea that someone might be fine with some sexual activities, and not wish to take part in others does not make rape allegations “contradictory”. It makes them very much how most acquaintance rape happens.
I am going to keep repeating these statistics until left-wing apologists for rape stop and listen. In Sweden, 73% of reported rapes involve no physical injury. “Just” coercion, repeated pressure, perhaps being held down. 32% of reported rapes are perpetrated by someone the person reporting the rape knows, but not well. Someone staying with them, or someone they have perhaps met at a social event. And 64% of the time, the rape happens somewhere private – usually in the home of one of the two people involved.
I don’t know if Julian Assange raped these two women. But I do know what has been reported – unwanted sexual activies took place after repeated pressure and a degree of physical force but no violence, by an acquaintance at home – is exactly how most sexual violence happens. And frankly, I expect left-wing men interested in equality to, if they don’t know this already, stop themselves from jumping in and ridiculing allegations as “contradictory” just because the bloke they are about is someone they respect.
Defend Julian Assange’s human rights to be allowed a fair trial, John, I’d expect nothing less of you. I’ll even join you in campaigning for this case to be handled fairly. But don’t play into rape myths to do it.