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Professor Ferrada-Noli: Historical Meaning of WikiLeaks, and Swedish Myths on Julian Assange

NewsVoice is an online news and debate channel that started in 2011. The purpose is to publish independent news, debate articles and comments as well as analyzes.
publicerad 21 december 2011
- News@NewsVoice
Julian Assange den 21 okt 2019 i London efter ett förhör om utlämning till USA. Foto:

In discussing “Julian Assange”, the main stream media – particularly in Sweden – have seemingly neglected informing the public concerning a most relevant fact: Wikileaks – the organization founded and led by editor and journalist Julian Assange has inspired an international movement probed effective in questioning power or even managed changing governments.

By Marcello Ferrada-Noli, 21 December 2011 | The article was originally published in Newsmill 2011

This new social force, armed with a distinct liberationist political philosophy, has now converted into a political force and thus played a determinant role in the catharsis of the North African revolutions and the various unrests in the Middle East. Also, this modern equation (Cyber-media and communication in conjunction with a re-emerging questioning for democratic rule, across borders) had a pivotal influence in the Occupy movement in Western Europe or the US, and in the re-emergent student movement in Latin America.

This wave will sooner or later reach Sweden, as it finally was with the 68’s world’s movement that hit Sweden in the 70’s. However, instead of taking up this vital discussion, Swedish readers have been depleted with a negative myth building around his personality and often-deceiving information on the “legal” case.

“It is dangerous to be right in matters on which those in power are mistaken” – François-Marie Voltaire. (Voltaire was subject to extradition trial in the Free City of Frankfurt, as requested by the Prussian authority instigated by two “offended” militant Christian women, Madame de Pompadour and Empress Marie Therese). [1]

To be radical (from radix = root) is to understand and solve problems in the roots of society. For humanists, the root of society is man himself [3].  Radicals in the history of mankind have acted upon progress in numerous societal spheres. Classically considered, these have been mainly science and philosophy, religions issues, and politics.

I would say that the first great radical I was aware of in my upbringing is Prometheus, the one who stole the secret of Gods’ domination upon men, the fire, and exposed such revelation to humans on earth. When the liberation fighters appealed to Prometheus during the Greek War of Independence 1821-1832 they did so thinking in his great political action, not in his personal attributes such as his white or long hair, as depicted by the artist.

Reflecting on such determinant impact of Prometheus’s action for the progress in history (he made possible dēmokratía on earth, says the legend), I would say his symbolic deed set the path for what progressive radicalism is, and that is the kind of relevant role which in this very epoch has assumed the WikiLeaks organization founded by Julian Assange, an by extension whistle-blower hero Bradley Manning and all those that actively pursue the rescue of democracy by means of making governing transparent.

In both cases – the mythological hero depicted by Hesiod’s poem Theogony [4] and the ones of the real, vivid drama of our days – their mission has been to reveal to the individuals of the demos the secrets of a deceiving rule (kratos). And this empowerment was brought about concretely for the purposes of combating cruel wars, political oppression, and social injustice. In other words, it is their actions, the societal consequences of such political behaviours what makes the historical stature, beyond the personalities per se.

These accomplishments have however been in Sweden ostracized to the forgotten realm. Or they have hardly been mentioned. At the contrary, the main theme in the Swedish mainstream media has been to treat the personality of Julian Assange and indulge interpretations – more than facts – around the legal case for which Sweden has nominally asked the WikiLeaks founder extradition.

In other words, what the political establishment and their media have neglected to inform the public is the most relevant fact: The progressive political movement it has inspired, internationally. How come that neither the Swedish press nor political analysts have cared to elaborate on the significance of such international movement represented by WikiLeaks? Or attempt to describe its worldwide dynamic?

Social force and political force in nowadays radicalism

Any organization (political party, lobby, altruistic, etc.) acting upon the political phenomena would have the potential– by design or without – for eventually develop a movement. This embryonic movement is not necessarily equated with the inspiring organization’s primary goals neither with the ideology of its leaders or members. This “political mutation” – the transition of an organization towards an ample political movement – is phenomena actively sought by such organizations (such as our old revolutionary organizations that pursued the formations of fronts) or simply are brought about spontaneously thanks to  “objective premises”; meaning, when a new  “social force” has grown in the political arena. These are often social groups or individuals disengaged from traditional political parties insofar those parties are not any longer considered to represent their interests. Eventually, they would identify the strategic goals of a given emergent (inspiring) organization with the tactical goals corresponding to their crucial every-day needs and experiences.

For instance, inquiring into the Swedish panorama, we find vast number of individuals that experience grievances against their private and civil rights from the part of the government and state institutions. These measures may have a base in legislation. However, it is highly discussible whether the citizens’ opinions in some concrete issues (for example, respect of privacy in cyber communication) are taken into account during the legislation processes.

In fact, the Swedish praxis may consist rather in the searching of consensus by all political parties. However – as I have expressed elsewhere – “consensus” in Sweden is not the searching for homogeneity of opinions, but a bargaining of interests. And when economic or geopolitical interests are – as they are often – entangled in such political trading, the “positions” of the political parties appear further alienated from both their ideological principles (for which they got their votes) and the interests of the individuals or consumers. All this was exemplary demonstrated by all the political actors in the Swedish Parliament during the discussion and promulgation of the surveillance legislation (FRA-lagen), the IPRED discussions, etc. See “Debating Sweden’s surveillance legislation.  FRA-lagen against civil liberties“. [4]

This modern equation (Cyber-media and communication in conjunction with a re-emerging questioning for democratic rule, across borders) had a pivotal influence in the Occupy movement in Western Europe or the US, and in the re-emergent student movement in Latin America. And it will come sooner or later to Sweden, as it was with the 68’s world’s movement (arriving in Sweden in the 70’s). The question is also what organization, or what type of movement will be the channel. Internationally considered, the protesters have sought inspiration in the organization WikiLeaks and its main demand for transparency in governing. In Sweden, in those regards there is a political vacuum and the political scenario looks more like an open question. Perhaps the Green parties could have taken such leading role, but they missed it. Yet more incomprehensible is that the Swedish Pirate Party also missed that historical momentum. [6]

Some myths in Sweden on Julian Assange

The absolutely main question in this context is this “What Julian Assange represents”. The answer of this query will be often the ideological self-portrait of a given medial culture, of the powers behind, or of the own article’s author.

In Sweden, in most of the cases, instead of this vital discussion on the impact of Julian Assange’s organization Wikileaks, the readers have been depleted with a negative myth building around his personality and often-deceiving information on the “legal” case. Here follows a sample:

Radical feminists or feminist opportunists?

One of the main myths spread refer to Julian Assange as “enemy of feminism”. The statement cannot be more far from truth. His Liberationist platform clearly comprises the struggle for equal rights as identified by the international feminist movement. Conspicuous feminists, such as Naomi Wolf or in Sweden Helene Bergman have expressly given their support to Julian Assange’s struggle for justice in the context of the Swedish case against him. Recently, a letter sent by distinguished intellectuals, professors and culture personalities in Australia to the Foreign Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, included notable feminists of that country.

In strict ideological sense, left radical-feminists would find in true an identification of their societal purposes for justice and equality for all genders in the liberationist message of WikiLeaks as well as the actual statements of Julian Assange. Radical-feminists should not permit their spirit been kidnapped by right-wing opportunists, which in the base defend a political system opposing equality of all kinds.

What has happened in Sweden is that a limited number of self-proclaimed “radical feminists”, for the most part right-wingers, have initiated or participated in campaigns ad-hominem against the WikiLeaks founder, for instance the “Prataomdet” campaign and a series of articles in the mainstream media. And that in my opinion is NOT left radical feminism; it is simply opportunism. In my article “So called Swedish ‘radical feminists’ declared Julian Assange a symbolic issue” I show among other the public participation of lawyer and politician Claes Borgström – the instigator of the prosecution in Sweden against the WikiLeaks founder –  in paying homage to the anti-Assange  “Prataomdet” campaign.

The myth on “Paranoia”

Another myth is centred in supposedly negative features of the personality of Julian Assange, as they have been invented by his detractors and repeated in the tabloid press and even by the Swedish National Television, as it was the case recently in the program Agenda of 23 October 2011 which repeated without further qualification Assange is “much paranoid in his behaviour” and authoritarian towards his collaborators. [6]

Previously, a notable columnist of Aftonbladet, Johanne Hildebrant, had written on Assange, he is “a paranoid idiot who refuses to come to Sweden to stand trial”. [8]. Parallel, the tabloid Expressen described in detail Julian Assange supposedly “severe compulsive needs. . .” [9]. And the list is long. My research shown (See Newsmill article “Medierapporteringen om Assange är osaklig och likriktad“) among other that the articles with hostile content published in the study period by the Swedish press exceeded significantly the articles with positive or objective/neutral content. And that among the articles referring to his personality features 72 per cent did so by using hostile, aggressive or detrimental terms.

Needles to say that no professionals have ever been quoted of having such assessments, that, astonishingly, are freely reproduced in the Swedish mainstream media.

When I submitted my Witness statement to the London Courts, based in the above investigation, I had not met Julian Assange personally. My first personal encounter with the Wikileaks founder occurred only recently, in London December 2011. The meeting centred around a book project on contemporary political philosophers, but it prolonged long in the day.

And I can say that I would be happy to extent my witness statement in order to strongly contradict the nonsense published about his allegedly behaviour.  For I guess – it is only my belief – that my opinion would be the closest to what scientific-research psychiatry have been in some position to assess.  And my opinion is that Julian Assange, apart of demonstrating being intellectually brilliant, is psychologically speaking among the most normal among the normal political leaders or cultural personalities, or journalists, I have ever met (and I have met some deal of weird ones too). Besides, I was also in position of witnessing for hours the gentle fashion in which Julian Assange addressed his colleagues and staff, and also the reciprocally respect and care.

And regarding the “paranoia” issue, I say, that is definitely purely smearing. An invented thing attributed to the personality of the WikiLeaks founder by his political enemies, and repeated by people who have never met him personally. It is just one among other lies they have sold about WikiLeaks. Further, I personally think that the so much told (by the tabloid media) security arrangements around the WikiLeaks leader is another exaggerated description. As and old Resistance combatant I would say that it is unfortunately the opposite, that their security arrangements seems rather precarious for a person whose execution has been suggested by some prominent US politicians (and that is not a myth). In fact, I personally could not see or experience any difference in those regards between Assange’s meeting-arrangements and those of any other cultural personality living in the open. In other words, the notion of Assange as a “scare” or “paranoid” personality seeing “enemies” all around is absolutely a falsehood. I put entirely my Swedish academic-doctoral qualifications in the field (Psychiatry, from the Karolinska Institutet) at the stake, as base for my asseveration.

The myth of “fearing to stand interrogation”

In conclusion, the smearing based on the “paranoia” issue fits too well with the next myth, on Julian Assange’s “fear” of coming to Sweden “to stand trial”. I have strong reasons to believe that this might have been created as a deceiving “smoke curtain” with the purpose of play down the real risk of an eventually extradition from Sweden to the US. By repeating over again in the media the mantra of his supposedly “exaggerated” and “unfounded” fear of merely being interrogated by some prosecutor just “because” he would be “paranoid”, the real peril of an extradition to US it makes sounding as unreal. In fact it is very real: according to figures by the Swedish Ministry of Justice, regarding the open extradition requests from the USA since 2000, Sweden has granted such extradition in the total of cases in which the prisoner was in Swedish territory.

Epilogue. A woman named Pandora, the first ever known honey trap

When the Olympus gods faced the fact that Prometheus had stolen the secret fire, Zeus ordered Hephaestus to create a woman empowered with a box containing plagues, and that she should be sent to Prometheus as punishment. She was given the name Pandora. She was deliberately conceived as a resourceful nasty woman and with mission that in the appropriate moment opening the famous Pandora box – which so many plagues caused to the radical Prometheus. All this as told by Hesiod in Theogony about ten centuries ago. Pandora’s programmed action against Prometheus was the first ever honey trap known to humankind.

After I met Julian Assange in London, recently in December 2011, I twittered that, meeting him personally reminded me vividly my encounter with Commander Che Guevara in February 1964. This comparison was instantaneously, and highly, shared by numerous re-tweets, which indicates the widespread notion outside Sweden of the historical impact of the activities deployed by the organization founded by Assange.

For it, I will finish with these remarks of Che Guevara, which I first reproduced in my inaugural lecture “El Sepulcro de Don Quijote” [10] when I became professor for the first time back in 1970. Guevara’s words bear a remarkably reference to the role of the new Cyber technique used by both WikiLeaks and the Cyber-connected democratic fighters all along the world:

“Y Ustedes, estudiantes del mundo, recuerden que detrás de cada técnica hay una sociedad que la empuña, y que respecto a esa sociedad, o se está con ella, o se está en contra de ella”

“…You, remember that behind every technique there is a society that hold it with their hands, and either you fight for that society, or you fight against it”

By Marcello Ferrada-Noli, 21 December 2011

Notes and References

[1] Christopher L. Blaskesley,  The Practice of Extradition from Antiquity to Modern France and the United States: A Brief History. Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, Vol 4, Issue I, Article 3. (“Conclusions I” in page 56)

[2] Disclaim: Analyses on media campaigns or psychological-war exercise are highly the domain of social psychiatry, my original research subject at the Karolinska Institute. Secondly, scientific (empirical) epidemiology is also fundamental for the study of the distribution of given myths in a population, such as attending to risk factors, issues of vulnerability, culture and others. “Qualitative” studies – in which media and so-called gender (pseudo radical feminist) research is based – are not scientific and their conclusions not reliable. The popularity of these bogus academic procedures in official Sweden is grounded in yet another myth.

[3] A Sanchez Vázquez. “Filosofía y Cirscunstancias”. ANTROPHOS, México, 1997. Quoting early Marx’s writings in context of Alienation Theory.


[5] M ferrada-Noli,“”Debating Sweden’s surveillance legislation.  FRA-lagen against civil liberties“. The Professors blogg, 22 September 2008

[6] To give an illustration, the Swedish Pirate Party (PP), in spite of being the first and at a time the most influent in Europe, refused to integrate the International PP organization based in that their economic contribution to such organization, as stipulated it should be “proportional” to the number of party-members, would have “impoverished” the Swedish PP’s resources (explanation was given to me by the Swedish PP office (kansliet) in January 2011. It was  an answer to a direct consultation on why the Swedish PP does not participate in the international coordinated activities in solidarity with Assange and WL organized elsewhere in the world by the Pirate parties.

[7]  Swedish National Television, Program “Agenda” 23 October 2011. The quote-exerpct in Swedish was “väldigt paranoid I sitt uppträdande”

[8] Johanne Hildebrant, “Assange has become one of those he wanted to fight against”. Aftonbladet, Stockholm, 13 February 2011

[9] “Mister Assange’s defense” Expressen, Culture. Stockholm, 13 February 2011

[10] M Ferrada-Noli. “El sepulcro de Don Qujote. Clase Magistral”. Documentos Universitarios, Universidad de Chile – Arica, No 1, 1970

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