Citizen Action Monitor

Julian Assange on why we’re on the verge of a democratic power shift — and other musings

No 215 Posted by fw, July 7, 2011

Quotations from Chairman Assange — July 2, 2011

  • “Power that is completely unaccountable is silent.” 
  • We should always see censorship as a very positive sign.
  • And to paraphrase Assange: We’re on the verge of a democratic power shift because Internet technology allows a lot of people to share the same information, the same beliefs, at the same time. But to become a truly revolutionary movement the sharing should ideally be done in a central square.

The following Assange excerpts were selected from Amy Goodman’s public event interview with WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek at the Trotsky Club in London. The full video and transcript of the July 2, 2011 event is available here on Democracy Now.


Dominant powers ignore the “ants” of society – Guess who the ants are.

Julian Assange

Power that is completely unaccountable is silent. So, when you walk past a group of ants on the street and you accidentally crush a few, you do not turn to the others and say “Stop complaining or I’ll put a drone strike on your head”. You completely ignore them. And that is what happens to power that’s in a very dominant position. It does not even bother to respond, does not flinch for even an instance.

In the United States, most of the time, actually it doesn’t matter what you [ants] say.

But dominant powers listen when WikiLeaks speaks because its volume is “Too big to ignore”

We managed to speak and give information at such volume and of such intensity, people were actually forced to respond. It is rare that they are forced to respond. So, I think this is one of the first positive symptoms I’ve seen from the United States for a while. If you speak at this level, the cage can be rattled and people can be forced to respond. . . . Because, actually, these people [dominant powers] are frightened of the true part of history coming about and coming forth. So, I see this as a very positive sign.

Censorship is a positive sign, a signal that what ordinary people think, believe, feel and say still has the power to force a response from government. It’s only when there’s no response, no censorship that you should worry

We should always see censorship, actually, as a very positive sign, and attempts towards censorship as a sign that society is not yet completely sewn up . . . but still has some political dimension to it  — i.e., what people think and believe and feel and the words that they listen to actually matters.

Cancellation by the University of London of the venue where the Assange event was supposed to be held is an example of censorship. And censorship is an opportunity for people to see that change is possible.

I think that it’s extremely interesting that, although, twice this venue – not this venue, sorry – the venue we had rented was cancelled at the institute for education from the University of London on the basis that it would be too controversial. That’s why we ended up at the Trotsky, at this venue. . . . So, I see that [the institutional censorship and audience of 2,000] as extremely encouraging. On the one hand, we have the everyday tawdry institutional censorship of saying that something is too controversial therefore you can’t hold it in an institute of education. On the other hand, all of you came, and I’m not sure if that would have happened five years ago. In fact, I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have happened 5 years ago. . . . So, when I said before that censorship is always an opportunity, and censorship reveals something that is positive about a society, and a society with no censorship is in a very bad state. If you like, the censorship of not giving us this venue so easily is also related to why you are all here, it’s the other side of the coin. That people [the dominant powers] are worried that change is possible.

Distortion by the media of what we COULD know is the greatest impediment to our advancement

And, I think the distortion by the media of history, of all the things we should know so we can collaborate together as a civilization, is the worst thing. It is our single greatest impediment to advancement.

But the Internet is a game-changer, giving birth to new generations educated outside of the mainstream media. (Which is why we can’t allow powerful government agencies and monopolistic corporations to gain absolute control of the Internet)

But it’s changing. We are routing around media that is close to power in all sorts of ways, but it’s not a forgone conclusion, which is what makes this time so interesting. That we can wrest the Internet, we can wrest communication mechanisms that we have with each other into the values of the new generation that has been educated by the Internet. Has been educated outside of the mainstream media distortion, and all those young people are becoming important inside those institutions.

The coming struggle will be for the hearts, minds and values of the technical young people, to prevent them from being indoctrinated by a corporate-controlled education system. We must get to them first.

I do want to talk about what it means when institutions — the most powerful institutions from the CIA to news corporations are all organized using computer programmers, system organizers, technical young people. What does that mean when all those technical young people adopt a certain value system and they’re in an institution where they do not agree with the value system and yet actually their hands are on the machinery?

Because, there have been moments in the past like that. And it is those technical young people who are the most Internet educated and have the greatest ability to receive the new values that are being spread and the new information and facts about reality that are being spread OUTSIDE mainstream media distortions.

How did a small organization like WikiLeaks come to have such a BIG impact?

If you want to have an impact and you promise an impact and you’re an organization which is very small where actually you have to co-opt or leverage the rest of the mainstream press. So, under our model of how you make an impact and get people to do things that you wouldn’t have been otherwise be able to do, unless you have an army that can physically go someplace and divisions that can roll over.

The only way you can easily make an impact is push information about the world to many, many people. So, the mainstream press has developed expertise for how to do that. And it’s competition also for people’s attention. [Paradoxically] if we had several billion dollars to spend on advertising across the world, if we could get our ads placed, we wouldn’t easily be able to make the same impact as we did. And we don’t have that kind of money.

So, instead we entered into partnership with over 80 media organizations all over the world, including many good ones that I wouldn’t want to disparage. To increase the impact and push our material into over 50 different countries endemically, [we have been] . . . subverting the filters of the mainstream press.

An unexpected bonus – the education and radicalization of journalists who were exposed to Wikileaks’ materials, including those with Fox News

But an interesting phenomenon has developed amongst the journalists who work in these very large organization that are close to power and negotiate with power at the highest levels, which is the journalists having read our material and having been forced to go through it to pull out stories have themselves become educated and radicalize. And that is an ideological penetration of the truth into all these mainstream media organizations. And that, to some degree, may be one of the lasting legacies over the past year. Even Fox News, which is much disparaged, is an organization that wants viewers. It cannot do anything else without viewers. So, it will try and push news content.

So, for example, with collateral murder, CNN showed only the first few minutes and blanked out all the bullets going to the street, completely blanked it out – and said they did it out of respect for the families of the people who were killed, well there was no blood, there was no gore. And then they cut out all the most politically salient points. And the families had come forward and said that it was very important for us to have seen it. Fox actually displayed the first killing scene in full. . . . So, Fox not perceiving itself to be amenable to the threat of it not acting in a moral way actually gave people more of the truth than CNN did. So, Fox also motivated to grab in a hungry way this greater audience share as possible took this content and gave it to more people.

Afterwards, of course, they put in their commentators to talk against it but I think that the truth that we got out of Fox was often stronger than the truth we got out of CNN and similarly for many institutions in the media that we think of as liberal.

Wikileaks brought information and knowledge to the people in a way that made it impossible for the dominant powers to deny. Consider Tunisia . . .

But actually the real situation is much more rich and interesting than that. . . . [T]he population starts to know, and they start to know in a way that’s undeniable, and they also start to know that the United States knows, and the United States can’t deny what was going on inside Tunisia. And then, the elites within the country and without the country also know what is going on, and they can’t deny it, so, a situation developed where it was not possible for the United States to support the Ben Ali regime, and intervene in a revolution, in the way that it might have. Similarly, it was not possible for France to support Ben Ali or other partners in the same way that they might have been able to.

The cables about Tunisia were then spread around, online, [and] in other forms, translated by a little internet group called Tunis Leaks.  . . . it’s not that the people didn’t know it before, but it became undeniable to everyone, including the United States. And that the United States, or at least the State Department, [cables] could be read, that if it came down to supporting the army or Ben Ali, they would probably support the army, the military class, rather than the political class.

Once the people know that their view is the majority view, there is a power shift

So most revolutions kick off in a crowd situation . . . And once people realize that their view is in the majority, then they understand they physically have the numbers, and there’s no better way to do that than in some kind of public square, which is why Tahrir square in Egypt was so important, because everyone could see that they had the numbers.

[J]ust before the Berlin Wall fell, everyone thought that it was impossible. Why? . . . [I]t’s not that people suddenly received a lot of new information. [It’s] that everyone, a large majority of people, had the same [information] . . . and then you have a sudden switch, a sudden state change, and then, then you have a revolution.

We’re on the verge of a democratic power shift because Internet technology allows a lot of people to share the same information, the same beliefs, at the same time

So I often feel that we, we’re on the edge of that, and, that, alternative ways of people becoming aware of what their beliefs are, what each other’s beliefs are, is something that introduces that truly democratic shift.

Assange takes a parting shot at left wing bloggers for not doing any original work

I’ve often lambasted bloggers as people who just want to demonstrate peer value conformity, and who don’t actually do any original news, who don’t actually do any original work. When we release original documentation on many things . . . often we find that all of these left wing bloggers do not descend on a fresh cable from Panama revealing, as it did, today, that the United States has declared the right to board one-third of all ships in the world without any justification. They do not descend on that, rather, they read the front page of the New York Times and go “I disagree” or “I agree” or “I agree in my categories” and that is something that sort of, that hypocrisy of saying that you care about a situation, but not actually doing the work is something that has angered me.

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