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Julian Assange on Why Calls for His Death and the McCarthyesque Crackdown on WikiLeaks Are Good Signs

Assange and renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek discuss the release of the largest trove of classified U.S. government records in history.

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And so, what again, what I want to say is let me begin with the, uh, the significance of what you—Amy started with, this shots, I mean not shooting, but video shots of those Apache helicopters shooting on...You know why this is important? Because the way ideology functions today it’s not so much that—let’s not be naive, that people didn’t know about it. But I think the way those in power manipulate it. Yes, we all know dirty things are being done, but you are being informed about this obliquely in such a way that basically you are able to ignore it.

Can I make a terrible, maybe sexually offensive, but not that dirty don’t be afraid, remark? You know, like a husband, sorry for making male chauvinist, uh twist—a husband may know abstractly my wife is cheating on me and you can say, okay I’m modern, tolerant husband, but you know when you get the thought of your wife doing things it’s quite a different thing. And I would say with all respect, something similar, it’s very important because it, just say no, I’m not dreaming here.

The same thing happened about two years ago in Serbia. You know, people rationally accept that we did horrible things in Srebrenica and so on, but you know it was just abstract knowledge. Then by chance all the honor who served media, to publish this, they got hold of a video effectively showing a group of Serbs pushing to an X and shooting a couple of Bosnian prisoners. And the effect was a total shock, national shock, although again, strictly saying nobody learned anything new.

So here, so that I don’t get lost, if you allow me just a little bit more, here we should see the significance of WikiLeaks. Many of my friends who are skeptical about it are telling me. So, what did we really learn? Isn’t it clear that every power in order to function you have collateral damage—you have to have a certain discretion? What you say, what you don’t say, but to conclude I mean to propose a formula, what WikiLeaks is doing and it’s extremely important. Of course, I’m not a Utopian. Neither me nor Julian believes in this kind of pseudo-radical openness—everything should be clear and so on. But what are we dealing with here?

Another example from cinema, very short, Ernst Lubitsch’s Ninotchka. You find there a wonderful joke where, I think towards the beginning of the film, the hero enters a cafeteria and says, "can I get some coffee with cream please?" And the waiter answers him, "sorry we run out of cream we only have milk. So, can I serve you coffee without milk?" That’s the trick here. When we learn something from the media, like, if I may repeat the metaphor, they behave as if they are serving coffee with cream. That is to say of course we all know they are not telling the entire truth, but you know, that is the trick of ideology, even if they don’t lie directly the implication is the unsaid is a lie. And you bring this out. You are not so much putting them, catching them, as they put it, with their pants down and lying on behalf of what they explicitly say, but precisely on behalf of what they are implying. And I think this is an absolutely crucial mechanism in ideology. It doesn’t only matter what you say it matters what you implied to say.

So, just to make the last point, I think that—are we aware that what an important moment we are living today? On the one hand, as you said information is crucial and so on. We all know that it’s crucial economically. I claim that one of the main reasons capitalism will get in to crisis is intellectual property. In the long term it simply cannot deal with it. But what I’m saying is just take the phenomenon that media are trying to get us enthusiastic for clouds. Like you know, computers getting smaller and smaller and all is done for you up there in a cloud.

 
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