Noam Chomsky Blasts Julian Assange’s ‘Scandalous’ Arrest, Calls It Deeply Disturbing On Many Levels

William B. PlowmanGetty Images

MIT Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky blasted the arrest of Julian Assange as being “scandalous” on many levels, according to Democracy Now.

Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested on Thursday morning by London’s Metropolitan Police. While it was initially believed that he was arrested by British authorities for skipping bail on a separate charge, it soon became evident that they had acted on the direction of the U.S. government keen to extradite Assange for publishing classified military information.

The Department of Justice released the indictment document, which pointed out that Assange had been charged for assisting former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in helping hack a military computer to gain access to classified information. The prosecutors, however, did not mention that their effort was eventually successful, leading many journalists around the world to call Assange’s arrest arbitrary and an act of retribution against press freedom. Critics argue that if Assange, who merely published information gained through a source, can be prosecuted by the United States, any journalist can be tried using the same parameter in the future.

Noam Chomsky, who has been critical of America’s military policies and President Donald Trump, said that Assange’s arrest was deeply troubling on many levels. Speaking to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Chomsky said that the primary reason that the WikiLeaks founder had been arrested was that he was publishing information critical of the establishment.

“WikiLeaks was producing things that people ought to know about those in power,” Chomsky said.

“People in power don’t like that, so therefore we have to silence it. OK? This is the kind of thing, the kind of scandal, that takes place, unfortunately, over and over.”

Comparing Julian Assange’s arrest to former Brazilian president Lula de Silva, who was barred from running in the 2018 Brazilian national elections and is now serving time in prison, Chomsky said that the two cases were evidence of “soft coups” by anti-people powers to dispose of elements threatening a change in power dynamics.

“Under the Lula government early in this millennium, Brazil was the most—maybe the most respected country in the world. It was the voice for the Global South under the leadership of Lula da Silva. Notice what happened. There was a coup, soft coup, to eliminate the nefarious effects of the labor party, the Workers’ Party,” Chomsky said.

Drawing more analogy from history, Chomsky also compared Assange’s arrest to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s arrest of Italian philosopher and politician Antonio Gramsci, who was writing prolifically against Mussolini’s fascist tendencies.

“Assange is a similar case: We’ve got to silence this voice. You go back to history. Some of you may recall when Mussolini’s fascist government put Antonio Gramsci in jail. The prosecutor said, We have to silence this voice for 20 years. Can’t let it speak.’ That’s Assange. That’s Lula,” Chomsky said.

The linguistics professor said that Assange’s arrest was also worrying because it showed that the United States does not mind overstepping its territorial boundaries to prosecute those critical of its government, calling the sudden Thursday morning arrest and subsequent extradition effort as “shocking” and a warning to journalists everywhere in the world.