Julian Assange in Ithaka
“Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is where you’re destined for.” (P. Cavafy, trans. Edmund Keeley.)
John Shipton, despite his size, glides with insect-like grace across surfaces. He moves with a hovering sense, a holy man with message and meaning. As Julian Assange’s father, he has found himself a bearer of messages and meaning, attempting to convince those in power that good sense and justice should prevail over brute stupidity and callousness. His one object: release Julian.
At the now defunct Druids Café on Swanston Street in Melbourne, he materialised out of the shadows, seeking candidates to stump for the incipient WikiLeaks Party over a decade ago. The intention was to run candidates in the 2013 Senate elections in Australia, providing a platform for the publisher, then confined in the less than commodious surrounds of the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Soft, a voice of reed and bird song, Shipton urged activists and citizens to join the fray, to save his son, to battle for a cause imperishably golden and pure. From this summit, power would be held accountable, institutions would function with sublime transparency, and citizens could be assured that their privacy would be protected.
In the documentary Ithaka, directed by Ben Lawrence, we see Shipton, Assange’s partner, Stella, the two children, the cat, glimpses of brother Gabriel, all pointing to the common cause that rises to the summit of purpose. The central figure, who only ever manifests in spectral form – on screen via phone or fleeting footage – is one of moral reminder, the purpose that supplies blood for all these figures. Assange is being held at Belmarsh, Britain’s most secure and infamous of prisons, denied bail, and being crushed by judicial procedure. But in these supporters, he has some vestigial reminders of a life outside.
The film’s promotion site describes the subject as, “The world’s most famous political prisoner, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange” a figure who has “become an emblem of an international arm wrestle over freedom of journalism, government corruption and unpunished war crimes.” But it takes such a moment as Stella’s remarks in Geneva reflecting on the freshly erected statue of her husband to give a sense of breath, flesh and blood. “I am here to remind you that Julian isn’t a name, he isn’t a symbol, he’s a man and he’s suffering.”
And suffer he shall, if the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel decides to agree to the wishes of the US Department of Justice. The DOJ insists that their man face 17 charges framed, disgracefully and archaically, from a US law passed during the First World War and inimical to free press protections. (The eighteenth, predictably, deals with computer intrusion.) The Espionage Act of 1917 has become the crutch and support for prosecutors who see, in Assange, less a journalist than an opportunistic hacker who outed informants and betrayed confidences. Seductively, he gathered a following and persuaded many that the US imperium was not flaxen of hair and noble of heart. Beneath the impostor lay the bodies of Collateral Murder, war crimes and torture. The emperor not only lacked clothes but was a sanctimonious murderer to boot.
Material for Lawrence comes readily enough, largely because of a flat he shared with Shipton during filming in England. The notable pauses over bread and a glass of wine, pregnant with meaning, the careful digestion of questions before the snappy response, and the throwaway line of resigned wisdom, are all repeated signatures. In the background are the crashes and waves of the US imperium, menacing comfort and ravaging peace. All of this is a reminder that individual humanity is the best antidote to rapacious power.
Through the film, the exhausting sense of media, that estate ever present but not always listening, comes through. This point is significant enough; the media – at least in terms of the traditional fourth estate – put huge stock in the release of material from WikiLeaks in 2010, hailing the effort and praising the man behind it. But relations soured, and tabloid nastiness set in. The Left found tell-all information and tales of Hillary Clinton too much to handle while the Right, having initially revelled in the revelations of WikiLeaks in 2016, took to demonising the herald. Perversely, in the United States, accord was reached across a good number of political denizens: Assange had to go, and to go, he had to be prosecuted in the United Kingdom and extradited to the United States.
The documentary covers the usual highlights without overly pressing the viewer. A decent run-up is given to the Ecuadorian stint lasting 7 years, with Assange’s bundling out, and the Old Bailey proceedings covering extradition. But Shipton and Stella Moris are the ones who provide the balancing acts in this mission to aid the man they both love.
Shipton, at points, seems tired and disgusted, his face abstracted in pain. He is dedicated, because the mission of a father is to be such. His son is in, as he puts it, “the shit”, and he is going to damn well shovel him out of it. But there is nothing blindingly optimistic about the endeavour.
The film has faced, as with its subject, the usual problems of distribution and discussion. When Assange is mentioned, the dull minded exit for fear of reputation, and the hysterical pronounce and pounce. In Gabriel Shipton’s words, “All of the negative propaganda and character assassination is so pervasive that many people in the sector and the traditional distribution outlets don’t want to be seen as engaging in advocacy for Julian.”
Where Assange goes, the power monopolies recoil. Distribution and the review of a documentary such as Ithaka is bound to face problems in the face of such a compromised, potted media terrain. Assange is a reminder of plague in the patient of democracy, pox on the body politic.
Despite these efforts, Shipton and Assange’s new wife are wandering minds, filled with experiences of hurt and hope. Shipton, in particular, gives off a smell of resignation before the execution. It’s not in the sense of Candide, where Panglossian glory occupies the mind and we accept that the lot delved out is the best possible of all possible worlds. Shipton offers something else: things can only get worse, but he would still do it again. As we all should, when finding our way to Ithaka.
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A whole lot of us saw a balcony scene from Buck House, where there was a notable absence of one of the royals. He was just so disgusting to the family that they needed to demonstrate the distance they created.
We stand on the world stage alongside big bad evil Uncle Sam, and applaude him. He tortures our award winning jounalist, he forces us to buy his weapons of war, he confuses the hell out of all of us with his daily displays of gun violence, and weakens our culture to make way for the elusive American dream.
If Uncle Sam ran a true democracy, and if we did, then these examples of obscene behavior would not be tolerated
Julian Assange would make an excellent head of The ABC.
Dr Kampmark: What was the point you were trying to make. I read it several times and nothing leaped out. As for a “movie” review, well… I’m waiting for Margaret Pomeranz to give it a “star” rating. You make no comment on whether or not Julian is a “journalist” and therefore entitled to protection (First Amendment) – a matter not lost on the journalists. The movie focused on the potential for Julian to commit suicide and suggested this would almost certainly happen if extradited, the USA argue they will prevent this while revelations surface that they were going to bump him off and therefore a duty of care supposedly applies that precludes extradition…
I really think that the evil,. toxic show trials demonstrated the reality of “Democracy” and Justice” in our society.
Why is it that people seem so willing to gloss over the fact that Assange’s leaking of Clinton’s emails at the death knell of the 2016 election campaign delivered the presidency to Trump.
Thanks Julian (and Putin)
AC, I admire the way you back Putin in this era filled with false information.
Julian tends to dish out the truth, and this is so much better.
But it does not help the fact that Bush, Blair, and Howard are free to roam while JA is locked up and being tortured by the very governments that delivered us the illegal invasion of Iraq, and so much more.
For weeks/a month in advance of the release of Clinton’s emails there were lots of reports that it was imminent.
The media was being manipulated by Assange/Putin to create the expectation.
They were clearly in the possession of Assange for a lengthy time.
But they were released just days before the vote, preventing Clinton from mounting an effective response.
This was the greatest single factor that delivered the presidency to Trump.
Why gloss over the fact that Assange conspired with the fascist Putin to get Trump into the Whitehouse?
I suppose, when it comes down to truth and transparency, you cannot afford to be selective in what is leaked if you are to maintain integrity.
The Manning leaks and particularly the tape of the helicopter gunship targeting civilians was certainly in the public interest but I’m not so sure of the emails.
Wasn’t it the FBI reopening investigations into Clinton days before the election that cooked her goose ?
Yes, it’s entirely arguable that the leaking of the emails was in the public interest.
But the fact is that they were in the possession of Assange for a long time before they were released.
The objectionable actions of Assange were-
* Time the release to cause maximum damage to Clinton
* Co-operate with Putin to get Trump elected
Assange doesn’t warrant admiration
You make one dreadful mistake in thinking that a population preoccupied with guns and god gives a hoot about Clintons emails, and attache any rational thought process to it.
These guys and gals have to dragged, screaming and shouting to the ballot box.
The outcome of a USA is election is determined by who can shout loudest, who will buy you a T shirt or a cap. Its always MONEY.
Trump just stands there shouting “Jarbs….Jarbs…….Jarbs”
AC, you credit Americans with more serious involvement in their elections, than most of them would admit to.
You make a dreadful mistake thinking I’m not entirely familiar with US culture and politics.
Hillary Clinton is a dreadful person; simpy unassailably awful, and there’s no shortage of data freely available on the web to support that assertion.
She epitomises the endless capacity of people in high office in the USA to become complete and utter corrupted beings; stooges to big business, slaves to the conveyor belt of endless amounts of easy cash, and in the process of becoming so, to become liars in their own defence of their indefensible behaviour.
Google ‘scandals associated with hillary clinton’ and be appalled by the character and behaviour of this harridan. To suggest that she would have been a better president than Trump is a triumph of naive hope over reason. Assange did the right thing in releasing the email trove.
And therefore Trump was entitled to the presidency?
And therefore Assange was entitled to conspire with the fascist Putin to deliver the presidency to Trump?
And since when has being a “dreadful person” been a disqualification to high office in the USA, or here or in Russia?
…Trump was a disaster for the USA, and for international stability, and Assange deliberately helped him
There’s no suggestion that Trump was entitled to the presidency. Neither was she. In an ideal world both of them should never have gained their party’s nominations, and it’s testament to how broken American politics is that they did.
What goes round comes round, as the saying goes. Or, more pithily, karma’s a bitch.
America has demonstrated for close to the last 50 years its incapacity to put decent right-thinking humane and ethically appropriate people into the top political office in the land. Given the almost complete capture of the political class by corporate and military interest it’s no surprise that that’s that case, and to suggest that politics serves the people is an outright absurdity.
I disagree the Assange conspired with Putin. Wikileaks was always transparent in its position that it was open to information from whatever source and that they would release such information if they believed it to be in the public interest. The Mueller enquiry stated that the GRU hacked the Clinton servers, and it was their decision to forward that trove to Wikileaks. Assange wouldn’t be engaging directly either with Putin, a ludicrous notion, or the GRU.
And yes, unfortunately, in these degraded times, it seems being a dreadful person is no bar to high office, as recently witnessed here, and currently in Britain and a number of European countries, South American, Central American, Middle Eastern and no doubt more. Funny old world, when we live with such immediate access to the historical records of what happens when aresholes are put in charge of the politics of countries, that we continue to do so. Such a stupid creature, poor bipedal thinking ape man is.
I`m planting a “like” with Canguro on this subject.
The USA is a flawed democracy, and I’m not in favour of superpowers. But if they exist, I’m glad one is a western democracy.
The world would be a miserable place if it was left to the CCP and Putin to carve up their spheres of influence.
Assange shouldn’t be admired, he should be condemned for his partisan actions in helping Trump into the Whitehouse.
It was clearly connivance with Putin. Assange isn’t “left” even though the left appear to admire him. He’s anti western democracy
There has been no US president as damaging for international stability as Trump, and that’s the legacy of Assange
I object to AC commenting on AIMN. I believe he is a Liarbral Party troll intent upon promoting all that is/was bad about the Liarbral Nazional$ COALition misgovernment. Their departure has made the evening television news almost watchable.
Now removing AC from AIMN has to be the objective ….. keeping the rubbish out of all independent media in Australia.
What a compliment!
A demand to be banned by someone who has supported –
✓ Putin’s fascist regime and it’s invasion of Ukraine
✓ the Shooters Party, Austria’s very own mini NRA
(and that’s just this month!)
I was appalled that those emails were released just prior to the election – a decision made by Comey, the FBI chief. I’m also suspicious as to why Trump’s buddy Roger Stone visited Assange shortly before then. I’m also ‘humoured’ that on 14 known occasions before the election that Trump publicly praised Assange.
Did Assange collude with Putin? I doubt it. It’s only speculation. If you swapped Assange with Stone, Mannafort or Trump I would find that much more credible.
But true, Assange/Wikileaks were wrong in obtaining those emails. But I strongly oppose the way that Assange has been treated over it. If it were up to me I’d have him released and sent home to Australia. His punishment does not fit the alleged crime.
NEC, don’t worry too much about AC.
I’ve been putting up with him for about 15 years and I’ve deduced that his sole purpose in life is to annoy people. He’s only doing this to stir people up. He hates being ignored, which I’m convinced sends him into blind rage.
It seems (to me) that most credible sources agree that the emails were hacked by Russian intelligence. Then provided to Assange.
I’m not suggesting he deserves more incarnation, he’s had enough. But I’ll stick to my original point- his role in getting Trump into the Whitehouse is often glossed over.
Arguably, this was the most significant consequence of Wikileaks.
Congratulations Julian (and his political running mates)
…and yes MT, it’s quite a long time that I’ve tolerated your barbs! I’d suggest 16 years!
My forbearance is well known!
Barbs?! That’s an odd response to my pearls of wisdom.
The commentator is surely an itinerant or nomadic manifestation of an outburst in incredulous swelling inner pomposity, irritation and imbalance, caused by the same range we all feel in the ribs of our awareness. Focus and relavance and honesty count.
AC: Blaming Assange for Trump’s election is a really long bow. The USA would rather a black than a woman as a president. Assange didn’t release her emails in 2008 when Obama won. Trump won because he just managed to get enough GOP backing despite his disgusting behavior/attitude towards women (as played a part in the dumping of ScoMo in Oz). We all knew that Trump was going to be a “different” President, but hey they’ve had Nixon, Reagan and the total nut job “Bush Jr” who got a lot of votes simply because of his name. Do not underestimate the stupidity of the US voters. Given the lead up to the election and the daily lies/utter BS that unka Don tweeted any rational human would have voted for a statue or anybody else, but not in America! Trump has trumped all before as being the worst ever president, but still has a 41% favorability rating. Go figure, but leave JA out of it.
Canguro, a marvelous being indeed.
Long may you soar.
Just in: the UK govt has approved Assange’s extradition to the USA.
That’s bad. Real bad.
This thing can roll on forever, and I really do feel sorry for Juian who is the innocent victim here.
On my ABC news the fact that the extradition has been been approved, is (again) being qualified by talk of a further legal challenge.
Apparently another appeal is on the cards.
Albo could be a real superstar here?
US HYPOCRISY AND SHAME
No words express my disgust with both the British justice system and government and this American government witch hunt more than unbridled vengeance, bastardy and hypocrisy aca human rights, freedoms, truth, integrity and justice – utter corrupt bastardy.
How can the world take either of these two countries seriously or at their word. And look how Australia treats its own citizens – utter abandonment.
We are all diminished and nationless as a result of this sordid shameful corrupt affair to these global bullies, Australia included.
Neither Morrison nor the Liberals could have been trusted to do what’s right, we knew that all along, but Labor should know better. Albanese and Wong pull your goddamn finger out!
Ask yourself would the US allow this in reverse with a citizen of theirs? Would that even make it right? Shame on all of you!
I will be very surprised if Labor does anything…don’t want to upset the Yanks do we.
GL, Did you just wake the biggest elephant in the room?
We say that we run our own proud democracy, yet we only do that with permission from London and Washington.
Meaning that we succumb to intimidation tactics from both our “friends”.
When its boiled down we only join with these 2 sources of evil because in the back of our mind they may feel like treating us like other countries they have plundered.
And that’s because they have have the most bombs and bullets.
In 2022 this is what our democracy comes down to, and a journalist, an Australian, presenting us with the real truth is being tortured to death under our very noses.
It really does stink.