Two years ago this day, Julian Assange has been dragged off the equatorian embassy in London, and since then he is imprisoned with high level terrorists in Belmarsh prison. What happened from the time of his war crimes revelations to the situation he finds himself in today tells a story of dehumanization, and tell us that it could now be extended to potentially anyone.
5th April 2010, WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting three airstrikes from a US Apache helicopter on July 12, 2007 in New Baghdad, Iraq. At least eighteen people were killed in the airstrikes, including two journalists working for Reuters, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen.
This video shocked the world, but why?
Would this video have been so shocking if it had not been specified that among those targeted were two journalists from Reuters? What if it was only Iraqi citizens being killed and none of them was a journalist?
It often happens that Western armies broadcast this kind of video on their own, picturing those targeted as terrorists, most of the time without presenting any evidence, systematically bypassing any form of trial and countless times killing civilians. If the armies can broadcast this type of video themselves, it is in the form of the culmination of the long work of dehumanization targeting certain populations, to the point that the distribution of this type of images completes this dehumanization enterprise. We get used to seeing these populations being bombarded and their essentialization as terrorists is no longer questioned at all.
What changes with this video revealed by Wikileaks is the caption of the images. The journalistic work was not only to reveal these images but to inform us about what we see in them : civilians and journalists being killed.
Julian Assange is dying in prison. Suffering from all kinds of illnesses, isolation, torture, denying him all his rights, even the possibility of speaking in defense in his own trial, tracked around the embassy and spied on inside it — here for ten years and now locked for two years in the worst British prison without ever having been convicted of any crime, there is no doubt that they are trying to kill him. Just look at the way Chelsea Manning, who leaked the video to Wikileaks, was tortured too.
They may want to kill Assange but above all destroy his image.
The fact that the arrest of Assange was subtly announced a few days before it took place had undoubtedly made it possible to produce images of it, with a double meaning. The fact of having conscientiously allowed a Russian state TV channel to portray it means at the very least that the West no longer suffers at all from offering the image of its contradictions between the values it prides itself on and the reality of its practices. It is both a culmination and a turning point.
First it is the culmination of a ferocious propaganda against him for ten years, in which the mainstream media which had yet associated with him for his revelations largely took part, accusing him of all vices, depicting him as an authoritarian, selfish, tyrannical man, denying him the right to defend himself from any allegation against him, including rape allegations and most of all: of being a Russian asset. Unable to deny the truth of all the information he has revealed, he is overwhelmed with all imaginable lies to drown his actual revelations in a ceaseless conspiracy theory. The efforts to prevent him from defending himself show the lack of confidence his accusers have in their allegations. At last, the fact that the image of his arrest was generously offered on Russian television by the British police is only the height of this cynical and methodical destruction of the representation of Julian Assange in public eyes. The objective is in no way mysterious; reduce his support among the general public.
Then, it is also a turning point.
It will soon be made acceptable to kill journalists in broad daylight.
This is where the long task of demolishing Assange‘s image takes on its full meaning. A journalist being arrested in an embassy in broad daylight, in defiance of countless international laws and of all democratic values, is a turning point in the extension of dehumanization applied to Iraqis, Yemenis, and all other populations in the region for years, if not for centuries. This was to be filmed, not for documentation but for propaganda purposes.
Think of the “collateral murder” video, which only caused a scandal because journalists were shot there, the process of dehumanization that has served as the justification for countless wars now applies to journalists who denounce them, then potentially applies to any journalist of any kind, and the next video in which we see journalists again being killed may be shown not as revelation by journalists but as an instrument of terror by the murderers themselves.