Posted Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, at 1:16 PM
Normally it brightens my day when an accused rapist is arrested for crimes against women. Catch them, and you’re sparing another woman-or many other women-from a terrible, life-changing experience. But the news that Julian Assange has been arrested on charges of "rape, molestation and unlawful coercion" leaves me mighty uncomfortable.
It’s not that the charges aren’t serious. They go beyond Assange allegedly not using a condom when a woman asked him to. He comes across as a creep and a misogynist. But they are still cases of "acquaintance rape," which is notoriously difficult to prove. And that just contributes to the idea among skeptics-and Assange’s lawyer , naturally-that these are trumped up charges designed to keep Assange from causing trouble for the United States and its allies. It doesn’t help that the last time Assange had a document dump, Swedish authorities wanted to question Assange and then released a statement backing off and saying that he "is not suspected of rape."
It’s soooo blatant that I’m inclined to give the U.S. government the benefit of the doubt here-couldn’t we come with something more clever to get Assange out of the way? (I don’t think that this is what Obama meant when he promised transparency.) But it just doesn’t feel right. If Julian Assange raped these women, he should have been pursued by Swedish authorities with the same level of effort that they would use to apprehend a "regular" person who’s been accused of similar crimes. If he violated the Espionage Act and the United States wants to try him, by all means, pursue those charges. But this comes across arresting someone for littering so you can hold him while you build a case that he robbed the corner bank. (And no, I’m not comparing rape to littering.)
What’s most bothersome to me about this is that rapists themselves are driven by an urge to assert control and dominance over their victims. And now sex charges are being used to assert control over Assange. It’s kind of creepy when you think about it.
Assange has a host of other prolems: Amazon stopped hosting his Web site , and credit-card companies and Pay Pal have stopped letting supporters send money to him. Those companies had done business with Assange by choice and were within their rights to cut him off. But IF this is a government-led effort to get Assange locked away where he can’t cause trouble (a claim that the Swedish prosecutor is denying), it’s misguided and wrong.