Naomi Wolf's Blog, page 3

February 4, 2011

Now that the WikiLeaks releases about Tunisian corruption have directly sparked a peoples' uprising in Tunisia; now that Egypt is in the throes of pro-democracy protest driven in large measure by WikiLeaks' revelation in the Palestine Papers about US manipulation of Palestine, surely one would expect key U.S. news organizations and journalists to rally prominently to the defense of the right to publish that that site represents. One would expect lead editorials supporting Assange's right to publish from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and USAToday, not to mention every major TV outlet. But instead, what we have heard is the deafening sounds of what middle-schoolers call 'crickets' -- that is, an awkward silence. As Nancy Youssef in the McClatchy papers reported recently, most U.S. journalists -- and, even more shamefully, journalists' organizations -- decided, regarding supporting Wikileaks' freedom to publish, to "take a pass."



How on earth could this be? This cravenness represents one of American journalism's darkest hours -- as dark as the depth of the McCarthy era. In terms of the question of the legalities of publishing classified information, most American journalists understand full well that Assange is not the one who committed the crime of illegally obtaining classified material -- that was Bradley Manning, or whomever released the material to the site. So Assange is not the 'hacker' of secrets, as People magazine has mis-identified him; he is of course the publisher, just as any traditional news organization is. He is not Daniel Ellsberg, in the most comparable analogy, the illegal releaser of the classified Pentagon Papers; rather, Assange is analogous to the New York Times, which made the brave and correct decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in the public's interest.



U.S. journalists also know perfectly well that they too traffic in classified material continually -- and many of our most prominent reporters have built lucrative careers doing exactly what Assange is being charged with. Any sophisticated dinner party in media circles in New York or Washington has journalists jauntily showing prospective employers their goods, or trading favors with each other, by disclosing classified information. For we all, in this profession, know that seeking out and handling classified information is what serious journalists DO: their job is to find out the government's secrets in spite of officials who don't want these secrets revealed. American journalists also know that the U.S. government classifies information mostly out of embarrassment, or for expediency, rather than because of true national security concerns (an example is the classification of suspicious deaths in Guantanamo and other US-held jails). The New York Times garnered kudos -- as they should have -- in 2005 with the publication of the SWIFT banking story -- based on leaked classified documents, which makes Bill Kellers' recent essay trying to put distance between his newspaper and WikiLeaks all the more indefensible.



Here is what readers are not being told: We have ALL handled classified information if we are serious American journalists. I am waiting for more than a handful of other American reporters, editors and news organizations to have the courage -- courage that is in abundance in Tahrir Square and on the pages of Al Jazeera, now that we no longer see it on the editorial page of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal -- to stand up and confirm the obvious. For the assault on Assange to be credible, they would have to come arrest us all. Many of Bob Woodward's bestselling books, which have made him America's highest-paid reporter, are based on classified information -- that's why he gets the big bucks. Where are the calls for Woodward's arrest? Indeed Dick Cheney and other highest-level officials in the Bush administration committed the same act as Bradley Manning in this case, when they illegally revealed the classified identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.



So why do all these American reporters, who know quite well that they get praise and money for doing what Assange has done, stand in a silence that can only be called cowardly, while a fellow publisher faces threats of extradition, banning, prosecution for spying -- which can incur the death penalty -- and calls for his assassination?



One could say that the reason for the silence has to do with the sexual misconduct charges in Sweden. But any serious journalist in America knows perfectly well that the two issues must not be conflated. The First Amendment applies to rogues and scoundrels. You don't lose your First Amendment rights because of a sleazy personality, or even for having committed a crime. Felons in jail are protected by the First Amendment. Indeed the most famous First Amendment cases, the ones that are supposed to showcase America's strength and moral power, involve the protection of speech most decent people hate.



So again: why have U.S. journalists and editor, as Youssef reported, "shunned" Assange? Youssef reports an almost unbelievably craven American press scenario: The "freedom of the press committee" -- yes, you read that correctly -- of the Overseas Press Club of America in New York City declared him "not one of us." The Associated Press itself won't issue comment about him. And even the National Press Club in Washington made the decision not to speak publicly about the possibility that Assange may be charged with a crime. She notes that it is foreign press organizations that have had to defend him.



One answer for this silence has to do with what happens to the press in a closing society. I warned in 2006 and often since that you don't need a coup to close down America's open society -- you need to simply accomplish a few key goals. One critical task -- number seven -- is to intimidate journalists; this is done, as in any closing society, by creating a situation in which a high-profile reporter is accused of "treason" or of endangering national security through their reporting, and threatened with torture or with a show trial and indefinite detention. History shows that when that happens, you don't need to arrest or threaten any other reporters -- because they immediately start to police and censor themselves, and fall all over themselves attacking the "traitor" as well. That way safety lies, whether the knowledge is conscious or not.



Another motive is revealed in the comment that Assange is "not one of us." U.S. journalism's business model is collapsing; the people who should be out in front defending Assange are facing cut salaries or unemployment because of the medium that Assange represents. These journalists are not willing to concede that Assange is, of course, a publisher, rather than some sort of hybrid terrorist blogger, because of their self-interested prejudices against a medium in which they are not the gatekeepers.



In this, paradoxically, they have become just like the outraged U.S. government officials who are threatening Assange: the American government too is in the position, because of the Internet, of no longer being able to control its secrets, and is lashing out at Assange as it faces a future in which there are no traditional gatekeepers, and all institutions live in glass houses.



It is for this reason that the prosecution of Assange -- and his betrayal by his fellow journalists and publishers in America -- is so almost absurdly futile. Even if they lock Assange up forever, the world of the future is a WikiLeaks world. Trying to extradite and to convict Assange is like trying to convict the first person who dared to install a telephone. The WikiLeaks necessity -- for citizens who are upset at government or private sector abuses of power -- to release documents, is not going away, ever. Egypt is showing us that conclusively: they turn off the news and people create the news on their cellphones. The technology of leaking government secrets globally is not going away either. In five years one can expect that every major institution will have its own version of WikiLeaks -- so shareholders, members of university communities, citizens of governments all over the world, and so on, can read the secrets that are in the public interest that the traditional gatekeepers wish to keep under wraps.



History shows that journalists only protect themselves, when bullied like this, by fighting back -- as a group. And history shows that when a technology and its social change are inevitable, it is better to integrate the way the future will work, into an open society -- rather than trying pointlessly to punish it, in this case by seeking to ship the inevitable future off to Guantanamo Bay.



An earlier version of this post appeared at Project Syndicate.
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Published on February 04, 2011 08:40 • 136 views

January 31, 2011

I am here in Park City, Utah, for my first encounter with the Sundance Festival; I had expected starlets in ski boots and parties in which people said 'Darling' and perhaps many worthy little films with artistic merit, but -- my mistake, probably due to the grudging reluctance on the part of print journalists like myself to yield respect to a medium that seems to get all the glamor and sometimes go an inch deep -- I had not expected subversion, analysis or, even, revolutionary ideas.



But thirty-six hours into Sundance at the time of this writing, I have to say: we seem at one of the few nexuses left in the US for brave journalistic critical thinking. Sundance this year is packed with substance, and documentarians especially are tacking head-on issue that US print journalists, especially those who work for corporate-owned media, have abashedly refused to tackle. The two main themes in the festival -- to my amazement, given that the mainstream pop-culture world seems to have dismissed feminism and closed its eyes to threats to freedom -- seem to be gender rebellion -- and civil liberties.



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I am here as part of an event put together by PEN -- the organization that defends writers' freedom of expression -- and the ACLU: on Saturday we staged 'Reckoning with Torture', an ensemble piece based on real documents related to US torture that the ACLU acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request. The parts were read by a lineup of writers and film actors, including Sandra Cisneros, Annie Proulx, and America Ferrera. A former US military interrogator and former CIA agent, Jack Rice, read with us as well. The piece was directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Fair Game). I am pleased to say I read the part of George Bush.

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We arrived in the charming former mining town, which is set among high, rounded, snow-dusted hills; a white-blue sun blazes down on energized crowds of tourists, filmmakers and huge gaggles of ecstatic young film students ranging from Japan to the American Midwest. The vibe was much more down-to-earth than I had expected, for the most part, as we board free shuttles from theatre to theatre, ushered around the small town by upbeat locals who seem very proud of their community and their festival. Nonetheless a wave of tension undergirds it all, as so many careers of young hopefuls will be made -- or not made here, and so many films either take off or never find an audience.



Our first night here, Wednesday, we made it to a screening of the much-buzzed about indie horror-comedy genre piece, The Woman. This terrifying film, about a woman living in the wild who is captured and imprisoned by a stern paterfamilias, locked in a root cellar and raped, becomes a violent rape revenge story. It has generated buzz online because of a screaming confrontation between viewers at an early screening, about the issue of how rape is portrayed. I had met the tiny, friendly, very young, strong-looking lead actress at a cocktail party the day before; she was interested, she said, in a career doing stunts. When we passed a group of undercover cops at the screening who were all dressed as working-class locals -- all wearing baseball caps and single earrings, and neatly goatee'd; there had been a state attorney general complaint about minors seeing the nudity in this violent film.



I made it into the theatre for thirty seconds: there, fifty-foot high, was my tiny young friend from the night before -- but covered in mud, hair tangled, and blood pouring form a wound in her side; the creepiness of the image and the music, and the knowledge of what the story line would be, were too much; I had to leave the theatre. But even though I was too much of a wimp to sit through it, I noted that this theme, of the gender tables being turned, was cropping up in many places in the festival. At one of the welcome cocktail parties I had met Ellen Barkin, who had just produced and starred in the much-anticipated Another Happy Day, written and directed by new discovery, 25-year-old Sam Levinson; it centers on a dysfunctional household of two generations of women, and Barkin was witty and scathing about how delighted she was to find such a good script with four parts for women over forty, as she skewered the refusal of Hollywood decisionmakers to understand what a longing there is in female audiences for films that portray older actresses in a range of complex roles. And 'Miss Representation' directed by Jennifer Siebel Newman, is a long-overdue look at how media objectification of women is internalized by young girls. Real, classic -- that is, unapologetic -- feminism is back, at least at Sundance.



Civil rights also crowd the roster of the most talked-about movies. Thursday morning, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! was broadcasting in our hotel's restaurant: Egypt was erupting in riots, and one of her sources, who was connected to a well-known activist there, had sent word that the whole country would be up in arms, whatever the cost, by the following day. (Indeed by Friday that prediction had come true -- and the Mubarak regime had reacted by closing down the internet and all outside sources of news; Egypt would go dark). Later that day, we attended a provocative panel discussion between Goodman, David Carr, media critic at the New York Times, documentarian Eugene Jarecki (Reagan) and Stephen Engelberg of Pro Publica. WikiLeaks was the hot center of the discussion, and there were tense moments as panel members were confronted by the audiences' resistance to the notion -- presented by Bill Keller the day before, in a shameful essay -- that Assange is somehow not engaged in journalism, and that the New York Times publishing the Pentagon Papers -- or the 2005 SWIFT banking story -- is in some magical way 'different' than what Wikileaks has done.



Then on to one of the great documentaries of the moment: Hot Coffee, directed by attorney Susan Saladoff in her first film effort. This tracks the issue of 'tort reform' (the left has yet to come up with a soundbite to counter this right-wing phrasing of the issue) and, incredibly, makes vivid the story of how corporate America used the (much-distorted) story of 'the woman who spilled McDonald's coffee in her lap and sued for millions' to show how big business is propagandizing us all -- and buying out the state judiciary, at Karl Rove's direction -- to gut a consumer's right to seek accountability in the courts. Two other important documentaries center on activism: If a Tree Falls tells the story of the FBI infiltrating the Earth Liberation Front, and 'turning' the members to betray one another. And We Were Here tells the story of the Stonewall riots, which ushered in the latest wave of the gay liberation movement. The showing of Front Page, which is a love letter to the New York Times and reveals the way economic pressures are gutting traditional journalism -- showing vividly what a cost to democracy will result from nothing taking the place of serious reporting -- was yet another tribute to what seems like a grassroots cultural recognition of the importance of threatened freedoms: the integrity of civil law, of the right to assemble, and of the First Amendment.



Later that night, at a party with hip-hop music, director Kevin McCarthy (Last King of Scotland) was jumping up and down, a look of serenity on his face. He had just screened 'A Life in the Day', a well-received and very beautiful project in which YouTube invited people from all over the world to send in video of their daily lives, all on one day, July 24, 2010. 80,000 submissions resulted. The images, which flickered on a screen above young people making music-video moves and older people schmoozing, were so unexpectedly moving that I kept blinking back tears. Here was the life of a seven-year-old shoeshine boy in some Latin American city; here was a mom with cancer caressing the face of her child in what looked like a Brooklyn bedroom; here was a Japanese single dad preparing his little boy's lunch. Suddenly one had a sense of the power of film to really make the world a single family; adding together all we had seen in two days -- and getting ready for our own event on Saturday, for which our scripts bore hand prints from prisoners who had died in US custody -- it seemed from this Sundance, anyway, that ours was a global family that longed for equality -- and longed to be free.



Photo credits: Charlie Ehlert, Redwell Imaging
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Published on January 31, 2011 13:15 • 89 views

December 15, 2010

As I have been making the case on media outlets in the past few days that the British and Swedish sex crime charges related actions against Julian Assange are so extraordinarily and unprecedentedly severe -- compared to how prosecutors always treat far more cut-and-dry allegations than those in question in this case worldwide, including in the Scandinavian countries, and that thus the pretext of using these charges against Assange is a pimping of feminism by the State and an insult to rape victims -- I have found myself up against a bizarre fantasy in the minds of my (mostly male) debating opponents.



The fantasy is that somehow this treatment -- a global manhunt, solitary confinement in the Victorian cell that drove Oscar Wilde to suicidal despair within a matter of days, and now a bracelet tracking his movements -- is not atypical, because somehow Sweden must be a progressively hot-blooded but still progressively post-feminist paradise for sexual norms in which any woman in any context can bring the full force of the law against any man who oversteps any sexual boundary.



Well, I was in Norway in March of this year at a global gathering for women leaders on International Women's Day, and heard extensively from specialists in sex crime and victims' rights in Sweden. So I knew this position taken by the male-dominated US, British and Swedish media was, basically, horsesh-t. But none of the media outlets hyperventilating now about how this global-manhunt/Bourne-identity-chase-scene-level treatment of a sex crime allegation originating in Sweden must be 'normative' has bothered to do any actual reporting of how rape -- let alone the far more ambiguous charges of Assange's accusers, which are not charges of rape but of a category called 'sex by surprise,' which has no analog elsewhere -- is actually prosecuted in Sweden.



Guess what: Sweden has HIGHER rates of rape than other comparable countries -- including higher than the US and Britain, higher than Denmark and Finland -- and the same Swedish authorities going after Assange do a worse job prosecuting reported rapes than do police and the judiciary in any comparable country. And these are flat-out, unambiguous reported rape cases, not the 'sex by surprise' Assange charges involving situations that began consensually.



Indeed, the Swedish authorities -- who are now being depicted as global feminist sex-crime-avenger superheroes in blue capes -- were shamed by a 2008 Amnesty International report, "Case Closed", as being far more dismissive of rape, and far more insulting to rape victims who can be portrayed as 'asking for it' by drinking or any kind of sexual ambiguity -- than any other country in their comparison group. As Amnesty International put it in a blistering attack: "Swedish Rapists Get Impunity."



The same Swedish prosecutors who are now claiming custody of Julian Assange are, indeed, so shamefully negligent in prosecuting Swedish rapists who did not happen to embarrass the United States government that a woman who has been raped in Sweden is ten times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than she is of getting any kind of legal proceeding on her behalf undertaken by Swedish prosecutors.



Of all Swedish reported rapes (and remember this is rape, not "molestation"), fewer result in legal proceedings of any kind than do comparable cases in the US, Finland and Norway.



"Sweden needs to do much more to clamp down on rapists, according to reports from Amnesty International and the United Nations," Jennifer Heape reports for the website thelocal.se, which translates Swedish news for an English-speaking audience. Sweden tops European rape league, data showed in 2009, but "Sweden's image as an international forerunner in the fight for gender equality has been damaged by recent reports comparing rape statistics across various countries....''



The same prosecutors going after Assange for an ambiguous situation are doing worse in getting convictions today than they were forty-five years ago: "despite the number of rapes reported to the police quadrupling over the past 20 years, the percentage of reported rapes ending in conviction is markedly lower today than it was in 1965."



Sweden's horrific record in prosecuting all the accused rapists and men accused of sex crime in Sweden who are not Julian Assange drew consternation from as high up as the UN. UN rapporteur Yakin Ertürk warned in February 2007, that there is a shocking discrepancy "between the apparent progress in achieving gender equality and the reports of continued violence against women in the country."



The actual number of rapes in Sweden in 2006 was estimated to be close to 30,000, according to Swedish data compilation. This number indicates that Swedish women have so little faith in their own legal system that 85-90 percent do not bother reporting the crime to the same police who are ankle-braceleting Assange, as a 2007 study showed that only '5-10 percent of all rapes are reported to the police' -- a reporting rate lower than the US and the UK, which have reporting rates of about 13-30 percent, a shameful enough set of numbers in itself.



The statistical survey by the Swedish organization BRÅ showed that of that five or ten percent of rapes that resulted in reporting -- fewer than thirteen percent resulted in a police decision to start any legal proceedings at all. "The phenomenon of alleged offenses not formally being reported to the police or dropped before reaching court is termed 'attrition'," the report remarks sadly. "Amnesty slams the Swedish judicial system and the prevalence of attrition within it, concluding that, "in practice, many perpetrators enjoy impunity," Heape writes. In other words, 1.3 women in a thousand who is raped in Sweden will not receive any legal response whatsoever.



In the US and in Europe, male-dominated media discussions seem to portray the Assange charges as a victory of Swedish authorities over the old canard that "date rape" is not prosecuted because of a tendency to "blame the victim." But in fact, whenever they are not prosecuting Julian Assange, if you are raped on a date, Swedish police are unlikely to pursue your assailant. If the victim has been drinking, or behaving in a way that can be stigmatized as sexually provocative, no matter how clear-cut the rape charge, Swedish police typically leave such charges by the wayside. "In analyzing attrition and the failings of the police and judicial system, Case Closed draws attention to 'discriminatory attitudes about female and male sexuality...Young (drunk) women, in particular, have problems fulfilling the stereotypical role of the 'ideal victim', with the consequence that neither rapes within intimate relationships nor 'date rapes' involving teenage girls result in legal action," reports Heape.



"Helena Sutourius, an expert in legal proceedings in sexual offense cases, concludes that, in Sweden, 'the focus appears to be on the woman's behaviour, rather than on the act that is the object of the investigation.'" Swedish prosecutors and police don't even keep proper track of their own rape issue and how their own police handle or mishandle cases. Amnesty accused Sweden of little scrutiny of or research into the quality of its own rape crime investigations, "a serious shortcoming that needs to be addressed immediately."



Finally, remember that in the Assange case it is the State rather than the women themselves that is bringing the charges. The Swedish state -- which has proven, in politically neutral cases that merely involve actual assaults against women -- such a shameful custodian of raped victims' well-being.



And then, conclude: shame on Sweden; shame on Interpol; shame on Britain. And lasting shame, given this farcical hijacking of a sex crime law that is scarcely ever enforced in Sweden in far less ambiguous contexts, on the United States of America.
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Published on December 15, 2010 10:59 • 132 views

December 13, 2010

How do I know that Interpol, Britain and Sweden's treatment of Julian Assange is a form of theater? Because I know what happens in rape accusations against men that don't involve the embarrassing of powerful governments.



WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in solitary confinement in Wandsworth prison in advance of questioning on state charges of sexual molestation. Lots of people have opinions about the charges. But I increasingly believe that only those of us who have spent years working with rape and sexual assault survivors worldwide, and know the standard legal response to sex crime accusations, fully understand what a travesty this situation is against those who have to live through how sex crime charges are ordinarily handled -- and what a deep, even nauseating insult this situation is to survivors of rape and sexual assault worldwide.



Here is what I mean: men are pretty much never treated the way Assange is being treated in the face of sex crime charges.



I started working as a counselor in a UK center for victims of sexual assault in my mid-twenties. I also worked as a counselor in a battered women's shelter in the US, where sexual violence was often part of the pattern of abuse. I have since spent two decades traveling the world reporting on and interviewing survivors of sexual assault, and their advocates, in countries as diverse as Sierra Leone and Morocco, Norway and Holland, Israel and Jordan and the Occupied Territories, Bosnia and Croatia, Britain, Ireland and the united States.



I tell you this as a recorder of firsthand accounts. Tens of thousand of teenage girls were kidnapped at gunpoint and held as sex slaves in Sierra Leone during that country's civil war. They were tied to trees and to stakes in the ground and raped by dozens of soldiers at a time. Many of them were as young as twelve or thirteen. Their rapists are free.



I met a fifteen-year-old girl who risked her life to escape from her captor in the middle of the night, taking the baby that resulted from her rape by hundreds of men. She walked from Liberia to a refugee camp in Sierra Leone, barefoot and bleeding, living on roots in the bush. Her rapist, whose name she knows, is free.



Generals at every level instigated this country-wide sexual assault of a generation of girls. Their names are known. They are free. In Sierra Leone and Congo, rapists often used blunt or sharp objects to penetrate the vagina. Vaginal tears and injuries, called vaginal fistulas, are rampant, as any health worker in that region can attest, but medical care is often unavailable. So women who have been raped in this way often suffer from foul-smelling constant discharges from infections that could be treated with a low-cost antibiotic -- were one available. Because of their injuries, they are shunned by their communities and rejected by their husbands. Their rapists are free.



Women -- and girls -- are drugged, kidnapped and trafficked by the tens of thousands for the sex industry in Thailand and across Eastern Europe. They are held as virtual prisoners by pimps. If you interview the women who spend their lives trying to rescue and rehabilitate them, they attest to the fact that these women's kidnappers and rapists are well known to local and even national authorities -- but these men never face charges. These rapists are free.



In the Bosnian conflict, rape was a weapon of war. Women were imprisoned in barracks utilized for this purpose, and raped, again at gunpoint, for weeks at a time. They could not escape. Minimalist hearings after the conflict resulted in slap-on-the-wrist sentences for a handful of perpetrators. The vast majority of rapists, whose names are known, did not face charges. The military who condoned these assaults, whose names are known, are free.



Women who testify to having been raped in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Morocco face imprisonment and beatings, and being abandoned by their families. Their rapists almost never face charges and are free. Women who testify to rape in India and Pakistan have been subjected to honor killings and acid attacks. Their rapists almost never face charges, are almost never convicted. They are free. A well-known case of a high-born playboy in India who was accused of violently raping a waitress -- who was willing to testify against him -- resulted in a cover-up at the highest levels of the police inquiry. He is free.



What about more typical cases closer to home? In the Western countries such as Britain and Sweden, who are uniting to hold Assange without bail, if you actually interviewed women working in rape crisis centers, you will hear this: it is desperately hard to get a conviction for a sex crime, or even a serious hearing. Workers in rape crisis centers in the UK and Sweden will tell you that they have deep backlogs of women raped for years by fathers or stepfathers -- who can't get justice. Women raped by groups of young men who have been drinking, and thrown out of the backs of cars, or abandoned after a gang-rape in an alley -- who can't get justice. Women raped by acquaintances who can't get a serious hearing.



In the US I have heard from dozens of young women who have been drugged and raped in college campuses across the nation. There is almost inevitably a cover-up by the university -- guaranteed if their assailants are prominent athletes on campus, or affluent -- and their rapists are free. If it gets to police inquiry, it seldom gets very far. Date rape? Forget it. If a woman has been drinking, or has previously had consensual sex with her attacker, or if their is any ambiguity about the issue of consent, she almost never gets a serious hearing or real investigation.



If the rare middle-class woman who charges rape against a stranger -- for those inevitably are the few and rare cases that the state bothers to hear -- actually gets treated seriously by the legal system, she will nonetheless find inevitable hurdles to any kind of real hearing let alone real conviction: either a 'lack of witnesses' or problems with evidence, or else a discourse that even a clear assault is racked with ambiguity. If, even more rare, a man is actually convicted -- it will almost inevitably be a minimal sentence, insulting in its triviality, because no one wants to 'ruin the life' of a man, often a young man, who has 'made a mistake'. (The few exceptions tend to regard a predictable disparity of races -- black men do get convicted for assault on higher-status white women whom they do not know.)



In other words: Never in twenty-three years of reporting on and supporting victims of sexual assault around the world have I ever heard of a case of a man sought by two nations, and held in solitary confinement without bail in advance of being questioned -- for any alleged rape, even the most brutal or easily proven. In terms of a case involving the kinds of ambiguities and complexities of the alleged victims' complaints -- sex that began consensually that allegedly became non-consensual when dispute arose around a condom -- please find me, anywhere in the world, another man in prison today without bail on charges of anything comparable.



Of course 'No means No', even after consent has been given, whether you are male or female; and of course condoms should always be used if agreed upon. As my fifteen-year-old would say: Duh.



But for all the tens of thousands of women who have been kidnapped and raped, raped at gunpoint, gang-raped, raped with sharp objects, beaten and raped, raped as children, raped by acquaintances -- who are still awaiting the least whisper of justice -- the highly unusual reaction of Sweden and Britain to this situation is a slap in the face. It seems to send the message to women in the UK and Sweden that if you ever want anyone to take sex crime against you seriously, you had better be sure the man you accuse of wrongdoing has also happened to embarrass the most powerful government on earth.



Keep Assange in prison without bail until he is questioned, by all means, if we are suddenly in a real feminist worldwide epiphany about the seriousness of the issue of sex crime: but Interpol, Britain and Sweden must, if they are not to be guilty of hateful manipulation of a serious women's issue for cynical political purposes, imprison as well -- at once -- the hundreds of thousands of men in Britain, Sweden and around the world world who are accused in far less ambiguous terms of far graver forms of assault.



Anyone who works in supporting women who have been raped knows from this grossly disproportionate response that Britain and Sweden, surely under pressure from the US, are cynically using the serious issue of rape as a fig leaf to cover the shameful issue of mafioso-like global collusion in silencing dissent. That is not the State embracing feminism. That is the State pimping feminism.
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Published on December 13, 2010 09:40 • 200 views

December 10, 2010

This week, Senators Joe Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein engaged in acts of serious aggression against their own constituents, and the American people in general. They both invoked the 1917 Espionage Act and urged its use in going after Julian Assange. For good measure, Lieberman extended his invocation of the Espionage Act to include a call to use it to investigate the New York Times, which published WikiLeaks' diplomatic cables. Reports yesterday suggest that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder may seek to invoke the Espionage Act against Assange.



These two Senators, and the rest of the Congressional and White House leadership who are coming forward in support of this appalling development, are cynically counting on Americans' ignorance of their own history -- an ignorance that is stoked and manipulated by those who wish to strip rights and freedoms from the American people. They are manipulatively counting on Americans to have no knowledge or memory of the dark history of the Espionage Act -- a history that should alert us all at once to the fact that this Act has only ever been used -- was designed deliberately to be used -- specifically and viciously to silence people like you and me.



The Espionage Act was crafted in 1917 -- because President Woodrow Wilson wanted a war and, faced with the troublesome First Amendment, wished to criminalize speech critical of his war. In the run-up to World War One, there were many ordinary citizens -- educators, journalists, publishers, civil rights leaders, union activists -- who were speaking out against US involvement in the war. The Espionage Act was used to round these citizens by the thousands for the newly minted 'crime' of their exercising their First Amendment Rights. A movie producer who showed British cruelty in a film about the Revolutionary War (since the British were our allies in World War I) got a ten-year sentence under the Espionage act in 1917, and the film was seized; poet E.E. Cummings spent three and a half months in a military detention camp under the Espionage Act for the 'crime' of saying that he did not hate Germans. Esteemed Judge Learned Hand wrote that the wording of the Espionage Act was so vague that it would threaten the American tradition of freedom itself. Many were held in prison for weeks in brutal conditions without due process; some, in Connecticut -- Lieberman's home state -- were severely beaten while they were held in prison. The arrests and beatings were widely publicized and had a profound effect, terrorizing those who would otherwise speak out.



Presidential candidate Eugene Debs received a ten-year prison sentence in 1918 under the Espionage Act for daring to read the First Amendment in public. The roundup of ordinary citizens -- charged with the Espionage Act -- who were jailed for daring to criticize the government was so effective in deterring others from speaking up that the Act silenced dissent in this country for a decade. In the wake of this traumatic history, it was left untouched -- until those who wish the same outcome began to try to reanimate it again starting five years ago, and once again, now. Seeing the Espionage Act rise up again is, for anyone who knows a thing about it, like seeing the end of a horror movie in which the zombie that has enslaved the village just won't die.



I predicted in 2006 that the forces that wish to strip American citizens of their freedoms, so as to benefit from a profitable and endless state of war -- forces that are still powerful in the Obama years, and even more powerful now that the Supreme Court decision striking down limits on corporate contributions to our leaders has taken effect -- would pressure Congress and the White House to try to breathe new life yet again into the terrifying Espionage Act in order to silence dissent. In 2005, Bush tried this when the New York Times ran its exposé of Bush's illegal surveillance of banking records -- the SWIFT program. This report was based, as is the WikiLeaks publication, on classified information. Then, as now, White House officials tried to invoke the Espionage Act against the New York Times. Talking heads on the right used language such as 'espioinage' and 'treason' to describe the Times' release of the story, and urged that Bill Keller be tried for treason and, if found guilty, executed. It didn't stick the first time; but, as I warned, since this tactic is such a standard part of the tool-kit for closing an open society -- 'Step Ten' of the 'Ten Steps' to a closed society: 'Rename Dissent 'Espionage' and Criticism of Government, 'Treason' -- I knew, based on my study of closing societies, that this tactic would resurface.



Let me explain clearly why activating -- rather than abolishing -- the Espionage Act is an act of profound aggression against the American people. We are all Julian Assange. Serious reporters discuss classified information every day -- go to any Washington or New York dinner party where real journalists are present, and you will hear discussion of leaked or classified information. That is journalists' job in a free society. The White House, too, is continually classifying and declassifying information.



As I noted in The End of America, if you prosecute journalists -- and Assange, let us remember, is the New York Times in the parallel case of the Pentagon Papers, not Daniel Ellsberg; he is the publisher, not the one who revealed the classified information -- then any outlet, any citizen, who discusses or addresses 'classified' information can be arrested on 'national security' grounds. If Assange can be prosecuted under the Espionage Act, then so can the New York Times; and the producers of Parker Spitzer, who discussed the WikiLeaks material two nights ago; and the people who posted a mirror WikiLeaks site on my Facebook 'fan' page; and Fox News producers, who addressed the leak and summarized the content of the classified information; and every one of you who may have downloaded information about it; and so on. That is why prosecution via the Espionage Act is so dangerous -- not for Assange alone, but for every one of us, regardless of our political views.



This is far from a feverish projection: if you study the history of closing societies, as I have, you see that every closing society creates a kind of 'third rail' of material, with legislation that proliferates around it. The goal of the legislation is to call those who criticize the government 'spies', 'traitors', enemies of the state' and so on. Always the issue of national security is invoked as the reason for this proliferating legislation. The outcome? A hydra that breeds fear. Under similar laws in Germany in the early thirties, it became a form of 'espionage' and 'treason' to criticize the Nazi party, to listen to British radio programs, to joke about the fuhrer, or to read cartoons that mocked the government. Communist Russia in the 30's, East Germany in the 50's, and China today all use parallel legislation to call criticism of the government -- or whistleblowing -- 'espionage' and 'treason', and 'legally' imprison or even execute journalists, editors, and human rights activists accordingly.



I call on all American citizens to rise up and insist on repeal of the Espionage Act immediately. We have little time to waste. The Assange assault is theater of a particularly deadly kind, and America will not recover from the use of the Espionage Act as a cudgel to threaten journalists, editors and news outlets with. I call on major funders of Feinstein's and Lieberman;s campaigns to put their donations in escrow accounts and notify the staffers of those Senators that the funds willonly be released if they drop their traitorous invocation of the Espionage Act. I call on all Americans to understand once for all: this is not about Julian Assange. This, my fellow citizens, is about you.



Those calling for Julian Assange's criminalization include:



1. Rep. Candice Miller

2. Jonah Goldberg, Journalist

3. Christian Whiton, Journalist

4. Bill O'Reilly, Fox News Journalist

5. Sarah Palin, Member of the Republican Party, former candidate

6. Mike Huckabee, Politician

8. Prof. Tom Flanagan

9. Rep. Peter King

10. Tony Shaffer

11. Rick Santorum

12. Rep. Dan Lugren

13. Jeffrey T. Kuhner, Journalist The Washington Times

14. Rep. Virginia Foxx

15. Sen. Kit Bond, Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee

16. Sen. Joe Liberman

17. Sen. Charles Schumer

18. Marc Thiessen, Columnist
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Published on December 10, 2010 09:28 • 75 views
This week, Senators Joe Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein engaged in acts of serious aggression against their own constituents, and the American people in general. They both invoked the 1917 Espionage Act and urged its use in going after Julian Assange. For good measure, Lieberman extended his invocation of the Espionage Act to include a call to use it to investigate the New York Times, which published WikiLeaks' diplomatic cables. Reports yesterday suggest that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder may seek to invoke the Espionage Act against Assange.



These two Senators, and the rest of the Congressional and White House leadership who are coming forward in support of this appalling development, are cynically counting on Americans' ignorance of their own history -- an ignorance that is stoked and manipulated by those who wish to strip rights and freedoms from the American people. They are manipulatively counting on Americans to have no knowledge or memory of the dark history of the Espionage Act -- a history that should alert us all at once to the fact that this Act has only ever been used -- was designed deliberately to be used -- specifically and viciously to silence people like you and me.



The Espionage Act was crafted in 1917 -- because President Woodrow Wilson wanted a war and, faced with the troublesome First Amendment, wished to criminalize speech critical of his war. In the run-up to World War One, there were many ordinary citizens -- educators, journalists, publishers, civil rights leaders, union activists -- who were speaking out against US involvement in the war. The Espionage Act was used to round these citizens by the thousands for the newly minted 'crime' of their exercising their First Amendment Rights. A movie producer who showed British cruelty in a film about the Revolutionary War (since the British were our allies in World War I) got a ten-year sentence under the Espionage act in 1917, and the film was seized; poet E.E. Cummings spent three and a half months in a military detention camp under the Espionage Act for the 'crime' of saying that he did not hate Germans. Esteemed Judge Learned Hand wrote that the wording of the Espionage Act was so vague that it would threaten the American tradition of freedom itself. Many were held in prison for weeks in brutal conditions without due process; some, in Connecticut -- Lieberman's home state -- were severely beaten while they were held in prison. The arrests and beatings were widely publicized and had a profound effect, terrorizing those who would otherwise speak out.



Presidential candidate Eugene Debs received a ten-year prison sentence in 1918 under the Espionage Act for daring to read the First Amendment in public. The roundup of ordinary citizens -- charged with the Espionage Act -- who were jailed for daring to criticize the government was so effective in deterring others from speaking up that the Act silenced dissent in this country for a decade. In the wake of this traumatic history, it was left untouched -- until those who wish the same outcome began to try to reanimate it again starting five years ago, and once again, now. Seeing the Espionage Act rise up again is, for anyone who knows a thing about it, like seeing the end of a horror movie in which the zombie that has enslaved the village just won't die.



I predicted in 2006 that the forces that wish to strip American citizens of their freedoms, so as to benefit from a profitable and endless state of war -- forces that are still powerful in the Obama years, and even more powerful now that the Supreme Court decision striking down limits on corporate contributions to our leaders has taken effect -- would pressure Congress and the White House to try to breathe new life yet again into the terrifying Espionage Act in order to silence dissent. In 2005, Bush tried this when the New York Times ran its exposé of Bush's illegal surveillance of banking records -- the SWIFT program. This report was based, as is the WikiLeaks publication, on classified information. Then, as now, White House officials tried to invoke the Espionage Act against the New York Times. Talking heads on the right used language such as 'espioinage' and 'treason' to describe the Times' release of the story, and urged that Bill Keller be tried for treason and, if found guilty, executed. It didn't stick the first time; but, as I warned, since this tactic is such a standard part of the tool-kit for closing an open society -- 'Step Ten' of the 'Ten Steps' to a closed society: 'Rename Dissent 'Espionage' and Criticism of Government, 'Treason' -- I knew, based on my study of closing societies, that this tactic would resurface.



Let me explain clearly why activating -- rather than abolishing -- the Espionage Act is an act of profound aggression against the American people. We are all Julian Assange. Serious reporters discuss classified information every day -- go to any Washington or New York dinner party where real journalists are present, and you will hear discussion of leaked or classified information. That is journalists' job in a free society. The White House, too, is continually classifying and declassifying information.



As I noted in The End of America, if you prosecute journalists -- and Assange, let us remember, is the New York Times in the parallel case of the Pentagon Papers, not Daniel Ellsberg; he is the publisher, not the one who revealed the classified information -- then any outlet, any citizen, who discusses or addresses 'classified' information can be arrested on 'national security' grounds. If Assange can be prosecuted under the Espionage Act, then so can the New York Times; and the producers of Parker Spitzer, who discussed the WikiLeaks material two nights ago; and the people who posted a mirror WikiLeaks site on my Facebook 'fan' page; and Fox News producers, who addressed the leak and summarized the content of the classified information; and every one of you who may have downloaded information about it; and so on. That is why prosecution via the Espionage Act is so dangerous -- not for Assange alone, but for every one of us, regardless of our political views.



This is far from a feverish projection: if you study the history of closing societies, as I have, you see that every closing society creates a kind of 'third rail' of material, with legislation that proliferates around it. The goal of the legislation is to call those who criticize the government 'spies', 'traitors', enemies of the state' and so on. Always the issue of national security is invoked as the reason for this proliferating legislation. The outcome? A hydra that breeds fear. Under similar laws in Germany in the early thirties, it became a form of 'espionage' and 'treason' to criticize the Nazi party, to listen to British radio programs, to joke about the fuhrer, or to read cartoons that mocked the government. Communist Russia in the 30's, East Germany in the 50's, and China today all use parallel legislation to call criticism of the government -- or whistleblowing -- 'espionage' and 'treason', and 'legally' imprison or even execute journalists, editors, and human rights activists accordingly.



I call on all American citizens to rise up and insist on repeal of the Espionage Act immediately. We have little time to waste. The Assange assault is theater of a particularly deadly kind, and America will not recover from the use of the Espionage Act as a cudgel to threaten journalists, editors and news outlets with. I call on major funders of Feinstein's and Lieberman;s campaigns to put their donations in escrow accounts and notify the staffers of those Senators that the funds willonly be released if they drop their traitorous invocation of the Espionage Act. I call on all Americans to understand once for all: this is not about Julian Assange. This, my fellow citizens, is about you.
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Published on December 10, 2010 09:07 • 33 views

December 7, 2010

Dear Interpol:



As a longtime feminist activist, I have been overjoyed to discover your new commitment to engaging in global manhunts to arrest and prosecute men who behave like narcissistic jerks to women they are dating.



I see that Julian Assange is accused of having consensual sex with two women, in one case using a condom that broke. I understand, from the alleged victims' complaints to the media, that Assange is also accused of texting and tweeting in the taxi on the way to one of the women's apartments while on a date, and, disgustingly enough, 'reading stories about himself online' in the cab.



Both alleged victims are also upset that he began dating a second woman while still being in a relationship with the first. (Of course, as a feminist, I am also pleased that the alleged victims are using feminist-inspired rhetoric and law to assuage what appears to be personal injured feelings. That's what our brave suffragette foremothers intended!).



Thank you again, Interpol. I know you will now prioritize the global manhunt for 1.3 million guys I have heard similar complaints about personally in the US alone -- there is an entire fraternity at the University of Texas you need to arrest immediately. I also have firsthand information that John Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, went to a stag party -- with strippers! -- that his girlfriend wanted him to skip, and that Mark Levinson in Corvallis, Oregon, did not notice that his girlfriend got a really cute new haircut -- even though it was THREE INCHES SHORTER.



Terrorists. Go get 'em, Interpol!



Yours gratefully,



Naomi Wolf
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Published on December 07, 2010 06:40 • 70 views

December 2, 2010

OXFORD - Just when it seemed that America's "Homeland Security state" could not get more surreal, the United States Transportation Security Administration has rolled out a costly Scylla and Charybdis at major airports: either you accept dangerous doses of radiation and high-resolution imaging of your naked body, or, worried about the health risks of cumulative radiation, you opt out of the new full-body x-ray machines (rapidly dubbed "porno-scanners").



But if you opt out, you are now subjected, as I was last week, to an extraordinarily sexualized and invasive "pat-down" by TSA officials. "I will now touch your private parts," a very uncomfortable female TSA official said to me when I flew out of New York's Kennedy Airport. And, sure enough, I experienced the invasive touching of genitals and breasts that is now standard policy for US travelers.



Continue reading at Project Syndicate .
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Published on December 02, 2010 08:22 • 65 views

August 25, 2010

Well, just when I thought my 'Banks Siding Against the Customer in Bank Fraud' story couldn't get any more shocking -- it did. I had assumed that when I posted the account this week of how WaMu and now Chase were apparently systematically stonewalling customers -- myself included -- who had experienced bank fraud, I might hear from a handful of other consumers. I had hoped thus to see if, indeed, as the insider emails that were handed to me by accident by a WaMu official seem to indicate, thi...
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Published on August 25, 2010 16:49 • 124 views

August 23, 2010

Like most consumers, I had always assumed that banks and customers are united in wanting to curtail bank fraud. Unfortunately, I have learned that in fact bank fraud is a big and profitable business -- for the banks themselves; and that changes in electronic banking, combined with the power of lobbyists to sustain the status quo that is stacked against ordinary account holders, mean that if consumers' accounts are corrupted, they can face systemic stonewalling by the banks themselves -- and h...
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Published on August 23, 2010 09:19 • 72 views