THE ABSURD TIMES — STILL

Wikileaks, Zizek, Greece, Gaza

Posted in Uncategorized by @honestcharlie on July 6, 2011

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Wikileaks and the Flotilla, Paert 2

            Here we start with a transcript of a real time account of the Greek Coast Guard (it still sounds strange) intercepting the Audacity of Hope.
            We follow with part 2 of the interview with Zizek and Assange.   There are some great lines in it such as Amy Goodman reading a liswt of people and their comments against him and his response that once Sarah Palin told him to correct his grammar was the most insane.
            Zizek calls Newt Gingrich the “Scum of the Earth,” lists his moral offenses, and points out that to protect our children he should not be allowed in public.
            However, I think it is all here:

A French boat carrying eight people as part of the 10-ship Freedom Flotilla to the Gaza Strip has left Greek waters, defying a ban imposed by Greece under heavy pressure from Israel and the United States. The small boat is the first to elude Greek authorities after two ships were stopped since Friday. Carrying humanitarian cargo, the ships are trying to reach Gaza just over a year after Israeli forces killed nine people aboard the first Freedom Flotilla. Democracy Now!’s Aaron Maté was on board the U.S.-flagged ship, The Audacity of Hope, when it became the first flotilla ship to defy the ban and make a break for Gaza, only to be intercepted by Greek authorities in a dramatic standoff at sea. He filed this report. [Includes rush transcript]

Medea Benjamin, organizer with CodePINK and passenger on the U.S. ship in the Gaza Flotilla.
Lisa Fithian, longtime peace activist and anti-war organizer, and passenger on the U.S. ship in the Gaza Flotilla.
Yonatan Shapira, former Israeli Air Force pilot turned peace activist who is now a crew member on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla’s U.S.-flagged ship, “The Audacity of Hope.”
John Klusmire, Captain of the U.S.-flagged Audacity of Hope.
Alice Walker, passenger on The Audacity of Hope, acclaimed author, poet and activist. She has written many books, including The Color Purple, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Gail Miller, social worker, and passenger on the U.S. ship in the Gaza Flotilla.
Hedy Epstein, passenger on The Audacity of Hope, 86-year-old Jewish Holocaust survivor and longtime activist with the International Solidarity Movement.
Ken Mayers, U.S. Army veteran and passenger on the U.S. ship in the Gaza Flotilla.
Richard Levy, passenger on The Audacity of Hope, New York labor attorney and senior partner in the law firm Levy Ratner.
Alice Walker, passenger on The Audacity of Hope, acclaimed author, poet and activist. She has written many books, including The Color Purple, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Ann Wright, passenger on The Audacity of Hope, retired Army colonel and former US diplomat. She spent twenty-nine years in the military and later served as a high-ranking diplomat in the State Department. In 2001 she helped oversee the reopening of the US mission in Afghanistan. In 2003 she resigned her State Department post to protest the war in Iraq. She was also on the first Freedom Flotilla.
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Rush Transcript

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AMY GOODMAN: A French boat carrying 8 people as part of the Freedom Flotilla to the Gaza strip has left Greek waters, defying a ban imposed by Greece under heavy pressure from Israel and the United States. The small boat is the first to elude Greek authorities after two ships were stopped since Friday. The ships are trying to reach Gaza just over a year after Israeli forces killed nine people aboard the first Freedom Flotilla. Well, Democracy Now has been covering the mission of the U.S. flag ship in the new flotilla dubbed The Audacity of Hope after President Obama’s best-selling book. Democracy Now’s Aaron Maté was on board when the anchor was raised in the ship tried to make a run for Gaza, but Greek authorities caught them just as they headed out to sea. He files this report.
JOHN KLUSMIRE: We’re going to start pulling up the anchor. Let go of this line. So, I have an announcement that The Audacity of Hope has set sail.
[loud cheering]
AARON MATÉ: As you can see behind me passengers are waving goodbye. The Audacity of Hope is setting sail. Passengers are singing, they’re waving. And the boat is moving out of port. Surrounded by American flags and signs that say “we will not be silenced” and “boats to Gaza”, The Audacity of Hope after being moored here for over a week, after a campaign backed by the U.S., led by Israel to delay this ship, to stop these ships, The Audacity of Hope is defiantly setting out to sea.
AARON MATÉ: I am here with Alice Walker. Alice tell me how you feel?
ALICE WALKER: I feel ecstatic. This is wonderful. I am so happy.
AARON MATÉ: Tell me how you’re feeling.
GAIL MILLER: I feel overwhelmed. I’m crying. I have been working for a year for this moment to sail to Gaza. We’re in the ocean. I feel the wind. I’m with wonderful people.
AARON MATÉ: Hey Hedy, tell me how you are feeling.
HEDY EPSTEIN: Great. I am going to make it.
AARON MATÉ: You are going to make it? You are going to make it to Gaza?
HEDY EPSTEIN: We’re all going to make it.
AARON MATÉ: Did you think that we were going to leave?
HEDY EPSTEIN: Of course we were going to leave at some point. But we left sooner than I thought.
AARON MATÉ: Ken, tell me how you’re feeling.
KEN MAYERS: Fantastic. Seeing Alice here and singing that song, things hooked up. It’s just a great moment we’ll see how far we get, but I think we’ve shown that it’s going to take a hell of a lot to stop us. You know, we’re going to do everything we can, non-violently, to get where we want to go.
AARON MATÉ: We’re walking towards the front now. I see Richard Levy right here. Richard if we could talk to you for a second.
RICHARD LEVY: Yeah?
AARON MATÉ: Tell us how you’re feeling?
RICHARD LEVY: A kind of excitement and almost choked up. I can hardly talk. It’s been so hard to get this boat off the dock, that whatever happens, it’s been a great moment to feel that we are breaking out of this blockade, the first step, and maybe we can get to the next one.
AARON MATÉ: So we’re standing right by the bridge. Captains asked us to stand clear. We’re seeing ships around us, but no signs of the Coast Guard yet, but obviously—the Greek Cabinet has issued an edict for all these ships to be intercepted. So, we’re expecting the Coast Guard to intercept us at any moment.
ANN WRIGHT: We apologize to the people of Greece for breaking their rules, but I think — their governmental rules — but I think the people of Greece are going to be so proud of us for challenging these governments just like they’re doing in Syntagma Square; challenging the Greek government for all of these things. We’re challenging stupid administrative rules that were purposely meant to keep us in port, as a political gesture toward Israel.
COAST GUARD: This is the Coast guard.
[UNINTELLIGIBLE]
COAST GUARD: For your own safety to return back [UNINTELLIGIBLE] over.
AARON MATÉ: Now we’re seeing two ships approaching us. One of them is definitely a coast guard ship.
JOHN KLUSMIRE: Roger, please we’re seeking safe passage to sea. Rather than being tied up in Parama where there is threat of sabotage. Over.
COAST GUARD: You are forbidden to sail.
AARON MATÉ: Now the Coast Guard is flagging us down, they’ve pulled in front of us. They’re entering directly in our path. They’re saying slow down., They’re saying stop.
PEOPLE CHANTING: Let us sail.
AARON MATÉ: You can hear passengers here saying, uh, “let us sail, let us sail”.
PEOPLE CHANTING: Let us go to Gaza. Let us go to Gaza.
AARON MATÉ: Now the ship has gone really quiet as everyone awaits what’s next. But obviously this was expected. The Greek government ordered this ship and others in the flotilla not to leave. Now, the Coast Guard has come. The captain has stopped the ship. The Coast Guard officer is calling the Captain.
JOHN KLUSMIRE: Yes, sir.
COAST GUARD: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] Please go back.
JOHN KLUSMIRE: Please let us make safe passage to sea. We have done nothing wrong. We showed the papers. We had the inspection. There are threats of sabotage in Parama. There’s threats of sabotage.
COAST GUARD: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] You are not safe.
JOHN KLUSMIRE: No, that’s not right. We have been surveyed to be safe. No, we have been surveyed to be safe.
COAST GUARD: Please go back.
JOHN KLUSMIRE: We are not safe in Parama, sabotagers.
AARON MATÉ: So, it’s finally come to a head after the Greek government ordered all flotilla ships to remain docked in their ports. The Audacity of Hope has defiantly set sail. About 15-20 minutes in to our sailing the Greek Coast Guard has intercepted the ship. There’s now been a standoff between the captain and these Coast Guard officers. One officer told the captain, you must return for your own safety. And now remain here stranded. As you can see behind me, the Coast Guard ship has a close watch on this ship. They are blocking our path. We’re seeing now a second Coast Guard boat approaching, it’s carrying armed commandos. They appear to have automatic rifles, they’re dressed in black, wearing masks. Now, the commandos are loading onto the boat. I counted about seven of them. They are joining that first Coast Guard ship that has stopped The Audacity of Hope, and they are taking up positions now on that larger ship. All of the media that are assembled on the ship are now gathered, filming this standoff. As the situation gets more and more serious.
ANN WRIGHT: We are unarmed civilians. No need for weapons.
AARON MATÉ: The Colonial Ann Wright who’s in charge of tactical operations on the ship, yelled to the ship, we are unarmed civilians.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What would your mother think of this?
ANN WRIGHT: We have the appropriate licenses. We are unarmed civilians. Do not shoot.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: We are peaceful, unarmed American citizens on a U.S. flagged ship. Do not come on board this ship. This is a U.S. flagged ship. You cannot come on board this ship. Put those weapons down. Put those weapons down.
PEOPLE CHANTING: Put those weapons down!
[music]
AARON MATÉ: It’s hard to capture how tense this moment is, but yet in the face of that protesters are still defiant and standing up to the threat of a raid.
COAST GUARD: Captain please.
AARON MATÉ: Now they’re calling for the captain.
JOHN KLUSMIRE: Okay, okay. I’ll follow you.
AARON MATÉ: Ok, so the captain has just agreed to follow this Coast Guard ship to a different port, going to the port of, what I heard was Karisini. And now the crew on the ship are going to go give us a briefing on what’s going on. A deal is just being reached for this ship to follow the Greek Coast Guard to a new port.
ANN WRIGHT: These fellows are not about to let us go any further. And with the arrival of the commandos, the heavily armed commandos, we can see that the intent was we were not going any further. And if we did not comply with what we said, they would forcefully board us. Our captain has been a very brave captain to bring us out. That next level of going up there, where we’ll be forcefully boarded, is something that we, as an organization, was not going to do.
AARON MATÉ: And so, after a tense standoff that saw Greek forces confront The Audacity of Hope, briefly pointing automatic rifles at the Captain and his passengers, we are now following a Greek Coast Guard ship back to shore. The Captain has agreed to take the ship to a different port. He refused to go to the initial port where The Audacity of Hope was moored. He cited the fears of sabotage in the aftermath of two other ships in the flotilla suffering damage; one ship being totally disabled, of course, passengers here have blamed the Israelis. So for now, we return to land. The fate of The Audacity of Hope in its journey to Gaza unclear.
AARON MATÉ: Alice Walker we’re close to docking, can you share with us your thoughts?
ALICE WALKER: Well, I feel very happy. I feel that we moved closer to Gaza. We didn’t get to Gaza of course, but the people will know that we made every effort to get there. And so, I feel that we succeeded. I feel that we have won whatever victory there was, it was in our doing this together, peacefully and more or less happily, and now we’re going back to port.
[singing]
AARON MATÉ: Now that The Audacity of Hope has been tied up, it’s moored now in this Greek military compound indefinitely, passengers have been told they are allowed to leave, but the Captain and his crew are being forced to remain on board. And so, in solidarity with them, the passengers are going to stay on the boat. And so, as night falls they’re discussing their next move.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I certainly think that we should demand to get the results of the inspection.
AARON MATÉ: So, it’s the day after The Audacity of Hope was seized. It’s been moored
overnight in the port of Karisini. We’re headed there now. Passengers refused to leave the ship in solidarity with the Captain. He’s been charged. So, we’re going to go there now and see what passengers are saying, see what their next move is, as they try to deal with this latest setback. So, we’ve arrived at the port where The Audacity of Hope has been parked overnight. The Captain has been arrested and charged. So we’re going to go in now and talk to them and see how they’re handling this latest setback.
So, we want to come back in and go back on the boat.
COAST GUARD: No, no can’t.
AARON MATÉ: The Coast Guard said we can come back. We were on the ship yesterday. So now, the Greek government is stalling tactics through this maze of bureaucracy and legalese is now affecting journalists. In addition to arresting the captain and of course keeping this ship from setting sail, now we’re being told that journalists cannot go back to the ship and speak to the passengers that we have been covering all week. Lisa, so tell us what’s happening?
LISA FITHIAN: Well, we’re inside in a strategy conversation about how we want to deal with the consequences of our actions yesterday, which is that our captain has now been arrested, he’s being detained. We feel strong about the work that we’ve done and the impact we’ve had around the world, and around this blockade. And we feel really strongly committed to support our captain. He took great risks. We knew he was taking great risks. And we’re going to do everything we can to make sure he gets what he needs and we’re hoping that people around the world will join us in this effort and demand that the U.S. and Israel get out of Greece and that the Greek government drops all charges and frees our captain immediately.
YONATAN SHAPIRA: So, we are still detained here. As a crew, I am not allowed to leave the boat or this gate. And you as a journalist cannot come in. I can just say that if I have to be detained in the boat, I want to do it with this group of amazing people. Although, it’s not nice to be detained, I know that it’s part of the process, it’s part of the struggle. You know, sometimes you struggle by sailing, sometimes you struggle by being detained in a Greek Coast Guard compound. But we still are, we’re still able to deliver our message of hope and audacity.
AARON MATÉ: Well, the next night the passengers defiance is being heard in Syntagma Square. Greek protesters have voted to hold a solidarity march denouncing their government for blocking the flotilla.
NIKOS: I am Nikos and we had this in the Syntagma Square. And we had a vote for about to support the Freedom Flotilla and what’s happening about that. And we wanted to, in the political discussion, make the votes, to make a march to the Ministry of Protection for the Citizens, about the restrictions that the Freedom Flotilla had not to sail to Gaza.
[chanting]
PROTESTERS: Let them go! Let them go!
ANN WRIGHT: We’re here to say to the government of Greece, don’t be the stool pigeons of Israel. Stand up for your own sovereignty and don’t let the Israelis run your country.
AARON MATÉ: And so, after marching in the streets of Athens and staging a hunger strike, passengers are celebrating as the captain has been freed from prison. He still faces charges, but all bail conditions have been dropped. And he is free to go.
JOHN KLUSMIRE: It won’t stop here or the next year or the next year after that. I believe it will be a continuation of a situation in the world that little people really recognize or know about and we need to bring attention to it and bring an end to it. And that being said, whenever I am called upon to help, I will find it very difficult to turn them down.
AARON MATÉ: So, the sun is setting over Greece and we’ve just said our goodbyes to the passengers and crew of The Audacity of Hope. It’s an emotional moment for Democracy Now’s Hany Massoud and I. We have been with these people all week long as they tried to pull off this improbable journey, defying their own government, the U.S., as well as the Israeli government and the Greek government; which of course came under heavy pressure from Israel and the West amidst a financial crisis. So although we leave them behind, we take with us one clear message, their mission to free Gaza is far from over.
ALICE WALKER: It feels really good to know that the world is watching — that there are people on this earth who care about the people of Gaza so much that we all got out of our houses and into our various cars and planes and we made it to this boat and we actually tried to cross the water to get to the people of Gaza, especially to the children who need to know the world is here and the world cares and the world sees and a lot of us love them and we do not agree that they should be brutalized and harmed.
AARON MATÉ: For Democracy Now! I’m Aaron Maté with Hany Massoud.
AMY GOODMAN: And special thanks to Democracy Now’s Hany Massoud for shooting, editing, and co-producing this report, as well as to Aaron Maté and Hany for all of their coverage this past week in Athens, Greece. This is Democracy Now! back in a minute.


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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in London July 2 for an unusual conversation with Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, moderated by Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman. Assange is currently under house arrest in Norfolk, outside London, awaiting a July 12 appeals hearing on his pending extradition to Sweden for questioning on sexual misconduct allegations. He has not been charged with a crime in any country. In this excerpt from Saturday’s discussion, Žižek and Assange respond to critics who say Assange should be charged in the United States under the Espionage Act of 1917 and that WikiLeaks should be shut down. “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, not yet completely fiscalized 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,” says Assange. [Includes rush transcript]

Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.org.
Slavoj Žižek, Slovenian philosopher, psychoanalyst and cultural theorist. He is author of dozens of books, his latest is called Living in the End Times.
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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now, DemocracyNow.org, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
As we go to to London, where Democracy Now! was this past weekend for a unusual gathering — almost 1,800 people gathered in an old theater in the East End of London to watch a rare public conversation between WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and the renowned Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek. I moderated the event.
Julian Assange is currently under house arrest in Norfolk — outside London — pending his a court hearing on July 12. He is appealing extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sexual misconduct case. Assange has not been charged for any crimes.
Yesterday we played part one of the conversation. Under his book Assange was wearing an ankle bracelet, an ankle monitor. Today, we turn to part two.
AMY GOODMAN: I don’t want to look distracted looking down, but I want to get these quotes accurate so I have them on my phone. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House in the United States, said: “Julian Assange is engaged in warfare . . . Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed is terrorism. And Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism . . . He should be treated as an enemy combatant and WikiLeaks should be closed down permanently and decisively.”
Bill Keller of the New York Times said “arrogant, thin-skinned, conspiratorial”. Judith Miller who often wrote or co-wrote articles that appeared on the front page of New York Times alleging weapons of mass destruction without named sources said, “Julian Assange isn’t a good journalist . . . didn’t care at all about attempting to verify the information that he was putting out or determine whether or not it would hurt anyone.”
Joe Biden, vice-president of the United States, said: “Julian Assange is a high-tech terrorist”. Congress member Peter King of New York called for Assange to be charged under the Espionage Act and asked whether WikiLeaks can be designated a terrorist organization. Not to just focus on the U.S., Tom Flanagan, a former aide to the Canadian prime minister, has called for Assange’s assassination. And former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, called you, Julian, an “anti-American operative with blood on his hands”. Can you respond to these charges?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, after Bill Keller said that I was thin-skinned it doesn’t really leave much ground for reply does it? Sarah Palin also, once on Twitter, complained about my grammar, which is really the biggest insult for me. Calling for a drone attack is perfectly understandable, correcting my grammar from Sarah Palin, that’s a real insult.
That event in the United States was very interesting. Obviously, the calls are wrong and outrageous and so on, but the social and political event in which they occurred were fascinating. So, within a few months, we saw a new McCarthyist hysteria arise in December, January – December last year, January this year. That is quite worrying that a new McCarthyism can come up so quickly.
On the other hand, yes, there are a lot of opportunistic politicians playing to their base, playing to their pals in the military-industrial complex. But, on the other hand, 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.
Yet we saw all these figures coming out and speaking very aggressively. Bill Keller, in a recent talk, as a way of perhaps legitimizing why he was speaking with me, said “if you have a dealing with Julian Assange, you’re fated to sit on panels for the rest of your life explaining what you did.” No, actually that’s a choice made by Bill Keller, a choice to twist history and whitewash history, and adjust history on a constant basis. Why? Why expend energy doing that? Why not just knock off another pager of the New York Times? Because, actually, these people are frightened of the true part of history coming about and coming forth. So, I see this as a very positive sign.
And, I’ve stated before, 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, not yet completely fiscalized 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. Because, in some areas, it doesn’t matter. And, in the United States, most of the time, actually it doesn’t matter what you say 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. In China, the censorship is much more aggressive, which, to me, is a much more hopeful sign that it is still a political society, even though it is fiscalizing, even though it is being sewn up in contractual relationships and banking relationships as time has gone by. At the moment, the Chinese government and public security bureau are actually scared of what people to think.
SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: Again, I hate myself because I want that — what is that movie called? “There will be Blood”. But, unfortunately, there will not be a lot of blood between the two of us because, again, I agree. Speaking of China, let me tell you, maybe you know it – it is not an anecdote – it perfectly confirms your point. Did you know that about a 2 or 3 months ago, a Chinese government, I don’t know which agency, passed a law, which formally prohibits in public media – they mean press, books, comic, TV, movies – all stories that deal with time travel or alternative realities. Literally. I double-checked with my friends in China. The official justification was that history is a great matter and it shouldn’t be left to such trifling games and so on.
But, of course, it’s clear what they’re really afraid of: for people to even imagine alternate realities and so. Again, to repeat your point, I think this is a good sign. They, at least, need the prohibition. With us, we don’t even need the prohibition, most of the time. If somebody proposes a radical change, we simply accept this spontaneous everyday ideology but we all know what our economic realities are like. You propose to raise for 1% healthcare spending. No, it would mean lose of competition and so on and so on. So, again, I totally agree with you right here.
A final comment of the people who you, Amy, list. Newt Gingrich for me is — sorry to use this strong word – scum of the earth. I don’t have any great – no, no, no, I’ll be very precise. I don’t have any great sympathy for Bill Clinton, but I remember when there was this campaign, Monica Lewinsky campaign. Newt Gingrich was making all these moralistic attacks and then it was confirmed in media – I listened to interview with him where he confirmed it that when his wife was dying in cancer, Newt Gingrich visited her in hospital forcing her to sign – not even having the decency to let her die – forcing her to sign a divorce agreement, so that he could marry another woman. And he was, at the exact time of the Lewinsky affair, already cheating on her with the secretary there and so on and so on.
Listen, these are people who simply – my God, I become here a kind of moral conservative. There should be some kind of ethical committee that imply claims that people such as these are a threat to our youth and they should be prohibited from appearing in public, whatever. Now, I will make a more important point to this terrorism stuff. Let me make it clear — but I’m not crazy, I mean this in a positive sense – yes, in a sense, you are a terrorist. In which sense? In the sense that I like to repeat that Gandhi was a terrorist. What you are doing, let’s face the facts. It’s not just something that can be swallowed, oh look all the interesting news in the newspapers. Here this is happening, there Slavoj Zizek is dating Lady Gaga and here – totally not true. And here there’s Wikileaks. You effectively…
AMY GOODMAN: Do we have a denial – an official denial there on dating Lady Gaga?
SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: Absolute denial on everything. I didn’t even listen to not one of her songs. My God, I listen to Schubert and Schumann songs. Sorry, I’m a conservative.
AMY GOODMAN: I don’t know her representatives were not that defiant. They just said no comment
SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: My friends were telling me the same: “You stupid, you should have said ‘no comment’ then you will enjoy much more glory and so on”. Ok, let’s go on, No, no, no, I have a more serious point to make. What does this mean? In what sense was Gandhi a terrorist? He effectively tried to stop, interrupt the normal function of the British state in India. And, of course you are trying to disrupt the normal – which is very oppressive – of the information circulation and so on.
But the way that we should respond to this point is, I repeat myself here, I know. Endless paraphrase of that wonderful line from Brecht’s Beggar’s Opera: “What is robbing a bank compared to founding a new bank?” What is your, under quotation marks, “terrorism” compared to the terrorism, which we simply accept, which has to go on day by day so just things remain the way they are? That is where ideology helps us. When we think of violence, terrorism, we always think about acts, which interrupt the normal run of things, but what about violence that has to be here in order for things to function the way they are?
So, I think, if – I’m very skeptical about it – in my provocative spirit we should use the term “terrorism”, it’s strictly a reaction to a much stronger terrorism that is here. So, again, instead of engaging in this moralistic game “Oh, no, he’s a good guy”. Like Stalinists said of Lenin “You like small children, you play with cats, you wouldn’t . . .” – as Norman Bates says in Psycho – “you wouldn’t hurt even a fly”. No, you are, in this formal sense, a terrorist. But if you are a terrorist, but then, by God, what are then they who accuse of you terrorism?
AMY GOODMAN: Renowned Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, author of “Living In the End Times,” and Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, in conversation this weekend in London. We’ll return for another part of the conversation in a minute.


The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

AMY GOODMAN: We return now to our conversation with Wikileaks Editor in Chief Julian Assange and the Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Žižek. These next highlights feature Assange.
Again, 1,800 people gathered this Saturday for this unusual discussion moderated by Democracy Now!, about the impact of Wikileaks on world politics, the release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, and Cablegate — the largest trove of state department documents released in history.
I asked Julian Assange about Wikileaks’ anouncement that its filing suit against credit card companies Visa and Mastercard.
JULIAN ASSANGE: You know, when Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, actually I spoke to Daniel Ellsberg last night, he told me an incredible story about that, but did you know the New York Times had a thousand pages of the Pentagon Papers one month before Daniel Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times? Fresh news. Amazing stuff. Uh, yeah. I’ll leave that aside.
AUDIENCE: (Laughter)
JULIAN ASSANGE: Um, sorry, what was the question? Oh yes, MasterCard. So, when Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, did they suddenly change things? Actually, Nixon was re-elected, after Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, the Vietnam War didn’t stop, the information was very important in all sorts of ways, and its importance over time was very important. The most important thing to come out of the Pentagon Papers was the reaction to the Pentagon Papers, because the Pentagon Papers described a situation in the past, what the past was like, but the reaction to the Pentagon Papers described what was going on right now, and, it showed a tremendous overage by the Nixon administration, various attempts to cover things up, and actually the New York Times actually probably really wouldn’t have published the Pentagon Papers unless they thought it was going to be published anyway, which they did, it was scheduled to be published, um, in four months time, in a book, very, very interesting.
So, on December sixth last year, these, uh, MasterCard, PayPal, The Bank of America, uh, Western Union, all ganged up together to engage in an economic blockade against Wikileaks, and that economic blockade has continued since that point. So it’s over six months now, we have been suffering from an extrajudicial economic blockade that is occurred without any process whatsoever. In fact, the only two formal investigations into this, one was on January thirteen last year, by Timothy C. Geithner, the Secretary of the Treasury, who found that there was no lawful excuse to conduct an economic blockade against Wikileaks. And other, was by a Visa subsidiary, who was handling our European payments, Teller, who found that we were not in breach of any of Visa’s bylines or regulations.
Those are the only two formal inquiries. And yet, the blockade continues, it’s an extraordinary thing, that we have seen that Visa, MasterCard, Western Union, and so on, are, instruments of U.S. foreign policy, but, instruments of U.S., of not U.S., as in a state operating under laws foreign policy, but rather instruments of Washington’s patronage network policy. So there was no due process at all.
And so, over the past few months, you know we have a number of cases on, so we’ve been a bit distracted, but over the past few months we have build up the case against Visa, and MasterCard, under European law. And, Visa and MasterCard together own about ninety-five percent of the credit card, um, payment industry in Europe, and therefore they have a sort of market dominance, and that means, under European law, they cannot engage in certain actions to, uh, unfairly remove people from the market.


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AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, I want to ask you about the Arab Spring and what you see as Wikileaks role as what started in Tunisia, and Egypt, what we’re seeing in Bahrain and Yemen, Syria, Libya. What role did Wikileaks play
JULIAN ASSANGE: It’s hard to disentangle, but the story that we have back from people who are back in Egypt and from the newspaper al-Akbar, one of the great newspapers published in the Middle East out of Lebanon.
AMY GOODMAN: You lived in Egypt for a time
JULIAN ASSANGE: I lived in Egypt during 2007, so I’m familiar with the Mubarak regime and the tensions within the Egyptian environment. Actually, I was staying at the time, rather unusual circumstance, I was staying in Ms. Egypt’s house.
And, Ms. Egypt’s house – other than having paintings of Ms. Egypt all throughout – was clustered right between the U.S. Embassy and the U.N. High Commission with a van outside fueled with 24 soldiers in front of my front door. So, for the type of work we were doing, this seemed to be the ultimate cover to be nested right amongst this. But, you know, Egypt’s a very interesting place. At that time, you didn’t feel in most areas of Cairo the presence of a dictatorship.
JULIAN ASSANGE: Um, when I lived there, later on, when we worked on Cablegate, we selected a French partner, Le Monde, in order to get the cables into, into French, because we knew they would have an effect in Francophone Africa.
Also, cables were published in early December by Al Akbar in Arabic from Lebanon, and also Al-Masry al-Youm, uh, in Egypt, although the material that was published in Egypt, back in December, under Mubarak, was pretty soft, uh, because of the threats that that newspaper was under. But, Al-Masry al-Youm pushed hard, and there was, a number of critical cables came out about the Tunisian regime, and about Ben Ali. Now, of course, the, the argument that has often been used, including, for example, in the electoral result that we were involved in in Kenya in 2007 is you just tell the people what’s going on, and then they’ll be angry about it and they’ll oppose it.
But actually the real situation is much more rich and interesting than that. Rather, yes, the demos knows, the 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.
Also, in our strategy in dealing with this region, uh, and, uh, our survival strategy for Cablegate, was to overwhelm, that is, we have Saudi Arabia, for example, propping up a number of states in the Middle East, and in fact invading Bahrain, to do this. But, when these states have problems of their own to deal with and political crises of their own to deal with, they turn inwards, and they can’t be involved in this proper.
So, Cablegate as a whole caused these elites that prop each other up into region within the Arab speaking countries, and, within, between Europe and these countries and between the United States and these countries, to have to deal with their own political crises, and not spend time giving intelligence briefings on activists, or sending in, um, the SAS, or other support, and activists within Tunisia saw this, very quickly, I think they started to see an opportunity, and that information, uh, our site, a number of Wikileaks sites, were then immedietly, um, banned by the Tunisian government, Al Akbar was banned by the Tunisian government, a hacker attack was launched on Al Akbar, many had been launched at us but we had come to defend against them. Al Akbar was taken down, their whole newspaper was redirected to a Saudi sex site, believe it or not, there is such a thing as a Saudi sex site, and they rested it back through involvement to the foreign, the foreign ministry back in Lebanon, and then, what I believe to be state-based computer hackers, cause of the degree, the sophistication of the attack, came in and wiped out all of Al Akbar’s cable publishing efforts.
The cables about Tunisia were then spread around, um, online, um, in other forms, uh, translated by a little internet group called Tunis Leaks, and, so, present, presented, a number of different f-facets that everyone could see and no one could deny that the Ben Ali regime was fundamentally corrupt, um, 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, 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.
So that gave activists and the army, uh, a belief that they could possibly pull it off. But this wasn’t enough. So all that was intellectual. And, was, was making a difference and was stirring things up in Tunisia. Uh, and then, you had this action by a twenty-six year old, uh, computer technician, who set, um, afire, who self immolated, uh, on, er, in December, um, sixteenth, um, last year. (mumbling) Yeah. And was hospitalized and died on January fourth. And that taking a sort of intellectual frustration and irritation and hunger for change and undeniably to an emotional, physical act on the street, is then what changed the equation. There’s other things that sort of, uh, more of a systemic issue that was gradually breeding up, which is, you had aging rulers in the middle east that, who’s regimes to that extent were becoming weaker, that the intellectual management of them was decreasing, um, you also had the rise of satellite TV, and, the decision of Al Jazeera staff to film and broadcast protest scenes on the street.
So most revolutions kick off in a crowd situation like this one, where everyone can, you know, all the time the regime is saying, this voice is an outcast voice, this a minority, this is not popular opinion. And what the media does is censor those voices and prevents people from understanding that actually, that what the state is saying is in the minority is in the majority. 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 then in some kind of public square, which is why Tahrir square in, uh, Egypt was so important, because everyone could see that they had the numbers.
Um, and that’s, you know, I often perceive that there are moments like that, politically, um, yes the Middle East was one that we might be going through, you know, you saw just before the Berlin Wall fell, everyone thought that it was impossible. Why? I mean, if, if it’s not that people suddenly received a lot of new information, rather what the information that they received is that everyone, a large majority of people, had the same belief’s that they’d had, and people became sure of that, and uh, and then you have a sudden switch, a sudden state change, and then, then you have a revolution. 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 others’ beliefs are, is something that introduces that truly democratic shift.
I’ve, 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, uh, when we release original documentation on many things, although the situation is, very interestingly, improving. Uh, 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, um, but not actually doing the work is something that has angered me.
But, it does serve an important function. The function that it serves is the function of the square. It is to show the number of voices that are lining up, on one side or another.
AMY GOODMAN: Before you respond, I just wanted to ask, since you talked about what you released today, you also have just sued MasterCard and Visa, can you explain this weekend why you did that?
AUDIENCE: (Applause)
JULIAN ASSANGE: You know, when Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, actually I spoke to Daniel Ellsberg last night, he told me an incredible story about that, but did you know the New York Times had a thousand pages of the Pentagon Papers one month before Daniel Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times? Fresh news. Amazing stuff. Uh, yeah. I’ll leave that aside.
AUDIENCE: (Laughter)
Um, sorry, what was the question? Oh yes, MasterCard. So, when Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, did they suddenly change things? Actually, Nixon was re-elected, after Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, the Vietnam War didn’t stop, the information was very important in all sorts of ways, and its importance over time was very important. The most important thing to come out of the Pentagon Papers was the reaction to the Pentagon Papers, because the Pentagon Papers described a situation in the past, what the past was like, but the reaction to the Pentagon Papers described what was going on right now, and, it showed a tremendous overage by the Nixon administration, various attempts to cover things up, and actually the New York Times actually probably really wouldn’t have published the Pentagon Papers unless they thought it was going to be published anyway, which they did, it was scheduled to be published, um, in four months time, in a book, very, very interesting.
So, on December sixth last year, these, uh, MasterCard, PayPal, The Bank of America, uh, Western Union, all ganged up together to engage in an economic blockade against WikiLeaks, and that economic blockade has continued since that point. So it’s over six months now, we have been suffering from an extrajudicial economic blockade that is occurred without any process whatsoever. In fact, the only two formal investigations into this, one was on January thirteen last year, by Timothy C. Geithner, the Secretary of the Treasury, who found that there was no lawful excuse to conduct an economic blockade against WikiLeaks. And other, was by a Visa subsidiary, who was handling our European payments, Teller, who found that we were not in breach of any of Visa’s bylines or regulations.
Those are the only two formal inquiries. And yet, the blockade continues, it’s an extraordinary thing, that we have seen that Visa, MasterCard, Western Union, and so on, are, instruments of U.S. foreign policy, but, instruments of U.S., of not U.S., as in a state operating under laws foreign policy, but rather instruments of Washington’s patronage network policy. So there was no due process at all. And so, over the past few months, you know we have a number of cases on, so we’ve been a bit distracted, but over the past few months we have build up the case against Visa, and MasterCard, under European law. And, Visa and MasterCard together own about ninety-five percent of the credit card, um, payment industry in Europe, and therefore they have a sort of market dominance, and that means, under European law, they cannot engage in certain actions to, uh, unfairly remove people from the market.


Posted by The Editors at 6:34 PM
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