As Julian Assange remained jailed without charges in Britain awaiting a bail hearing this, the popular narrative regarding Wikileaks shifted massively.
While the previous week centered more on censorship and (in case you forgot) the content of the leaking diplomatic cables, the nature of the charges of which Assange has yet to be accused took center stage this week. Confusion about what the charges could entail reigned, and despite the absence of formal charges against Assange, lefty bloggers dissolved into two distinct camps.
1.) This is an OUTRAGE, Assange was accused of RAPE, and anyone who breathes a word in the opposite direction is a RAPE APOLOGIST;
and 2.) This is an OUTRAGE, Assange hasn’t been charged with anything and this whole brouhaha is a clear attempt to smear him/honeytrap/CIA/FREEDOM OF SPEECH!
…which, as you can imagine, hasn’t been all that productive. The latest casualty in the Julian Assange Rape Allegations Flamewar of 2010 is Keith Olbermann, who drew the ire of one of the most rabid subsets of bloggers- feminists- after allowing Michael Moore to speak on his show regarding his partial bailing out of Assange. I’m sure there’s a “bingo card” somewhere that will insult me for this, but engaging with this area of the blogosphere is particularly headache inducing. It’s a bit shoutier than most, and the rhetoric is peppered with an off-putting condescension that even for the internet is stunning and unique in its audacity. It also insists upon itself loudly, rapidly dismissing counterpoints with all caps usage of the words “DOUCHE” and “RAPE APOLOGIST.” (When noted feminist Naomi Wolf broke ranks in defense of Assange, she was lazily lambasted by Bitch Magazine as a “douche,” despite her reasoned critique of the use of women’s issues to pursue larger, unrelated political goals. Kind of proving that that strategy, as a whole, works.)
So it really comes as no surprise that when confronted with the accusation of being an all-caps RAPE APOLOGIST, Olbermann fled Twitter in heartbreak, shame and frustration. Part of the frustration surrounding the Julian Assange brouhaha is that it is impossible to defend Assange without being accused of defending rape, rapists or being a DUDEBRO. While it is possible, as many feminist bloggers point out, to defend Wikileaks and want to see Assange prosecuted, the opinion that the timing and motivation behind the charges is suspect is PATRIARCHAL RAPE APOLOGY and will not be tolerated.
Olbermann posted a brief Twitter explanation behind his flight, which only served to heighten the furor and prompt a mostly-inactive Salon writer to pen a piece titled- I kid you not- “Keith Olbermann quit Twitter because of me.” Which seems a bit high-handed and self-absorbed considering the amount of outrage spewing forth from both sides of the Assange supporter and detractor saga, not even considering the disgusting level of self-promotion into which the post happily, shamelessly descends. It seems pretty likely Olbermann left Twitter because of the sheer cacaphony and ugly accusations behind the campaign, not one user who managed to invent a hashtag that caught on. (I hate to break it to you, Sady Doyle, but 11-year-olds with Bieber fever do that every single day.)
In Olbermann’s measured and thoughtful five-tweet long response, he addressed himself but not Michael Moore (the original outrage target)- serving only to increase the clusterfracas:
Rape has touched my family, directly and savagely, and if anybody thinks I have addressed it without full sensitivity, then that assessment is the one that counts, and I apologize. But these accusations that I “revealed” an accuser’s identity by retweeting Bianca Jagger’s link, or that I ‘shamed’ an accuser by asking a question about the prosecution of a man governments are trying to bury, or that I do not ‘understand’ charges that have yet to be presented in their final form, reflect exactly the the kind of rushing to judgment of which I’m accused, and merit the same kind of apology I have just given.
If you’re interested in following the Moore/Olbermann Twitter saga, the anti-Olbermann and Moore tweeters have firmly latched onto the hashtag #mooreandme, and it continues. As for Olbermann, responding to the level of invective with which he is being pummeled is a herculean task, and I can’t blame him for taking a break from Twitter.
Have you been following the controversy on Twitter or any particular blogs? Do you fall into either outrage camp, or are you on Team Don’t Give a Fuck?