You would think the bombings at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome last Thursday would have a sobering effect on some of Julian Assange’s most vocal American critics, especially those who have styled him a “terrorist” or “anarchist.”
The bombers in Rome identified themselves — in a note vowing to “destroy the system of domination” — as belonging to the Lambros Fountas cell of the FAI, the Federazione Anarchica Informale (not to be confused with the Federazione Anarchica Italiana). The parcel bomb they mailed to the Swiss embassy seriously injured a mailroom worker’s hand. A member of the Chilean embassy staff lost two fingers and may not regain vision in one eye.
We are told that the anarchists were striking back after a recent joint Italian-Swiss anti-terror operation led to the arrest of their Swiss and Italian cohorts. The group also aimed to avenge the death of Chilean anarchist Mauricio Morales, who died, in 2009, when a bomb in a backpack he was carrying exploded in downtown Santiago. At least that is the story “according to the bourgeois press”; some of Morales’ supporters counter with the explanation that “the device exploded unexpectedly, and our comrade died in combat” and they point to widespread arrests after Morales’ death to suggest some conspiracy of the authorities against them.
There is no doubt such a conspiracy, but most likely not the one the anarchists imagine. Be that as it may, we are being asked to entertain the idea that these embassy bombings are acts of vengeance, rough justice meted out for perceived injustices, and that these are as it were symbolic or at least significant acts, the Federazione Anarchica Informale having decided “to make our voice heard with words and with deeds.” The allusion here to the “propaganda of the deed” is supposed to dignify or elevate these acts, and accord them some historic significance.
Of course it would be absurd to compare Julian Assange to these anarchists and Wikileaks to the Federazione Anarchica Informale. Anarchists do not always or even usually advocate violent overthrow of government; not all anarchists are terrorists, and most terrorists are not anarchists. These distinctions matter, and it’s not sufficient to use terms like “anarchist” or “terrorist” loosely.
Julian Assange and his supporters have gone to great lengths to distance Assange from the charge that he is an anarchist and to emphasize that no one has been physically harmed by the leaking of diplomatic cables. And — as I noted in a previous post — Assange himself is right to point out that what he is doing is “civil” if not obedient, and certainly not anarchic or violent or a form of terror.
He has also rightly understood the agenda of those who play the terror card when talking about Wikileaks. So when Cenk Uygur recently asked Assange to respond to this loose talk – which we’ve heard from Pete King, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Joe Biden, and a host of other fear mongers and demagogues – Assange didn’t hestitate to call them the real anarchists:
Uygur: Now, I want to give you a chance to respond personally, though, because here Mike Huckabee is making it very personal. You saw that quote we had up. He says, I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty for you. Sarah Palin is saying that you are like al Qaeda and the Taliban and he — you should be pursued with the same urgency.
So how would you respond to Mike Huckabee, who is a top Republican leader, who’s likely to run for president again?
How do you respond to Sarah Palin, a top Republican leader who might run for president again?
Assange: Oh, it’s just another idiot trying to make a name for himself. But it’s a — it’s a serious business. I mean if we are to have a civil society, you cannot have senior people making calls on national TV to go around the judiciary and illegally murder people.
That is incitement to commit murder. That is an offense. You cannot have senior people on national TV asking people to commit an offense.
That is not a country that obeys the rule of law.
Does the United States obey the rule of law?
Because Europeans are starting to wonder whether it is still obeying the rule of law?
And it needs to be very careful.
Is it going to descend into an anarchy where we don’t have due process, where those great Bill of Rights traditions about due process are just thrown to the wind, when — whenever some shock jock politician thinks that they can use it to make a name for themselves?
There may be anarchists among us, but they may not be who we think they are.