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Attention to the alleged misdeeds of Julian Assange in his personal life began to outnumber the wikileaks-specific commentary in my Twitter-feed. At some point around here in the timespan, someone mentioned a concept that was just about guaranteed to set me yelling and hammering on heads. The concept, probably paraphrased:
"If someone were trying to distract from Wikileaks, they couldn't have picked a better method, because no one will support a rapist."

I had problems with that, too deep to articulate in a conversation while I was still groggy from sleep, but the concept nagged at me for ... well, quite a while. So I've broken down some of the things it made me think of.

* The framing of the concept seems designed to throw doubt on the legitimacy of the charges. My brain goes a couple different directions on that one.

* Are the charges likely to have some substance to them, given the timing, since the cables were released and then the charges hit the news? Given that they were filed before this amazing thing with the cables happened, I doubt they were manufactured wholesale.

* Isn't it suspicious, the timing? Yes. Without a doubt. Of course the timing screams political motivation for any interested government to dig up anything anyone might already have on him. The US government got some mobster on tax evasion charges. I have every confidence that the game of political hot-potato with this guy is not due to him being accused of rape, but due to him having pissed off and scared several governments. Ordinary rapists are not pursued with that same level of diligence, and it is upsetting when you consider that ordinary rape victims don't have that much of a chance at justice, and further upsetting when people try to pretend that there's no political motive at work.

* Do you actually think he's guilty? I am not the US legal system, and do not have to consider anyone innocent until proven guilty. I try to take my sensationalist media stuff with a grain of salt. This is not the same grain of salt that absolutely all my friends are taking, but it is mine. In addition to the media noise, I have also been hearing things about Julian Assange through the geek grapevine. Julian Assange is Australian. I have a certain selection of friends who have been at various points in the past connected with the Australian geek community. Sometimes the internet is a small world. You know the sort of guy who considers proper social behavior a topic for other people? That's the sort of stuff the grapevine associates with Julian Assange (not just the things he's being charged with, but other stories talking about assorted bullying). Regardless of what the courts ultimately decide, and regardless of the actual truth of the matter that a Fair Witness would have observed if they'd been in the various rooms along with Julian Assange and the various women -- I tend to avoid allowing my friends to go anywhere alone with people who have that sort of reputation, whether there's substance to it or not.
[side note: it's always fun to have a physical presentation where if you say things assuming that you are just as subject to physical harassment as the next woman, people make comments about you having nothing to worry about because you're not attractive, but when you make comments that *don't* worry about considering yourself subject to physical harassment, the same people will go out of their way to remind you that you still present and identify as a woman and therefore you are subject to physical harassment whether you're willing to admit it or not. fuck that.]


* Yes, the accusations against Julian Assange did quite effectively distract from Wikileaks. This is the problem with having a monofocused news cycle, which can only handle one major issue at a time. Yes, absolutely, having a major player in a political scandal accused of rape is newsworthy. However, losing sight of the reason why he's famous is a bad idea.

* Julian Assange is the public face of Wikileaks, but the organization seems to be perfectly capable of carrying on without him. (In fact, if he's that mediapathic, they might well be better without him.)

But all of this is just distraction from the huge, glaring flaw in that statement.

This statement presupposes that the concept "no one will support a rapist" is true. This statement is in fact false.

It's just not true. Yes, I perceive there's a collective horror among decent people at the thought that one might be harboring a rapist amongst one's friends and associates. Yes, I perceive a feeling that rapists ought to be shunned, exiled from the society of decent people, and made to exist solitary lives even after serving whatever legal penalties they're made to serve. But at the same time, I also perceive sentiments that weaken what is supposed to be a societal resolve to Do Something About Rape. Since "rapists are shunned" is a strong response -- shunning is one of the worst, and hardest, things to do to people -- there's a certain amount of reluctance to actually carry it out. And since the perceived penalties are so strict, one wants to be sure of it; it occurs to one that being falsely accused would be a Very Bad Thing. Since it's so bad, a false accusation would be pretty bad too, huh. There's a particular lack of faith in human nature: it's apparently easy to imagine someone using a false accusation of rape as a weapon. After all, if the accusation is believed, it would do an incredible amount of damage, and all it would take, as so many other forms of slander, is simply telling a lie. The problem here is that even a true accusation of rape gets an incredible amount of backsplatter on the person who points the finger.

Consider Roman Polanski. He's guilty as all fucking hell! He raped a teenager! Yet people still defend him! Some people, a non-zero number of people, famous people such that if you were saying "Oh god, we should shun people who support rapists too", you might pause and say helplessly, "But I *like*(d) ___!" Basically people treat him like he lived in Union and he was a Special.

So, no, my friend. Conviction for rape, and actually committing rape, does not mean that everyone will withdraw support from you. It means that your supporters will gang up on the person you raped until they attempt to withdraw charges just to stop being harassed again and again.

Crossposted. comment count unavailable comments.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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