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ANKEBORG (Rixstep) — The Duckpond had a piece on 'RISK' yesterday. One.
'RISK' concerns Julian Assange. It's a sort of documentary, made by Laura Poitras, following Julian Assange around, but not for minutes or hours as with Edward Snowden, but for days, weeks, months, and years.
'RISK' has its premiere this weekend in the US, after a hiatus of a full year since its presentation at the Cannes Film Festival.
The story behind this movie - and the intrigues associated with it - have garnered much media attention. But as per usual when it comes to Assange, WikiLeaks, and the Duckpond, the waters are very quiet - only Svenska Dagbladet - SVD - picked up the story. And for that they should be commended.
The documentary 'Risk' has followed WikiLeaks from the early releases which were seen as revolutionary for investigative journalism. But later years show a dark picture of founder Julian Assange who is no longer speaking with the director of 'Risk'.
LAURA POITRAS, who directed the documentary 'Citizenfour' on Edward Snowden, has even been following WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange since 2011.
In recent years Poitras has filmed Assange and his staff as WikiLeaks prepared great releases. But after having seen 'Risk', Assange is no longer speaking with her, she says.
For despite the film beginning as a depiction of a new player in the field of investigative journalism, it shows a side of Assange that is anything but flattering.
'I wasn't planning to focus on issues around gender', Poitras tells Variety. 'It's still very much about journalism, but that became a sub-theme that I had to deal with that I didn't think I'd have to deal with going in.'
According to Variety, Assange made several SEXIST and MISOGYNISTIC REMARKS in front of the camera. After having been accused of rape in Stockholm in 2010, he says that the women were goaded on by RADICAL FEMINISTS. He is filmed making SEXUAL INNUENDOES when speaking with his female colleagues.
'He didn't want that in the movie', Poitras tells Variety.
'Risk' was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016. It'll come to the cinema and television in the US this summer. It's unclear whether it'll come to Sweden.
There are several ways of imbibing this SVD piece. One is the traditional duckpond way: close your eyes, hold your nose, open your mouth, and stuff it the fuck down. Swallow hard, then put it out of mind. Allsång på Skansen will be on soon.
Another way involves a rather revolutionary approach called THINKING. Admittedly this is very 'duck-remote'.
Let's start by filling in all the blanks unknown or ignored by SVD.
1. Yes, the film premiered in Cannes last year. A whole swarm of WikiLeakers were on hand, including Sarah Harrison and Jake Appelbaum. The film was praised, and good friends Sarah and Jake praised it as well. In fact, it was mostly Sarah and Jake that the world media were interested in - not Laura.
2. Yet after that premiere, the film stopped. Nothing was heard for the longest time. No one knew what was going on.
3. What did happen in the interim was the faux attack on Jake. If ever there'd be an example of mob rule and trial without trial, that was it. Anybody following that saga from the beginning saw some incredible things - none of which pass the smell test. A succinct summary might be 'crazies goaded on by placed players'. Nothing of course came of it, and Jake's of course working on his PhD with Eindhoven, but Jake's influence in the free speech movement, and as a very outspoken supporter of WikiLeaks, was neutralised. And this is likely the ulterior motive for making that attack happen. Several luminaries came forward in support of Jake, knowing he's a 'good guy', but the smear had had its desired effect: to, by neutralising Jake, weaken the defences around Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
4. Yes, Julian saw a version of 'Risk' - but this was the initial Cannes version, not the mess Poitras later created. Not the best filmmaker ever, Poitras had still stuck to a good structural plan. And the prurient footage was interesting in itself, if not the type of journalism it targeted. But that was before the Jake Incident, before Poitras took a finished film and chopped it to bits.
5. Sarah Harrison figured heavily in the initial version, as she should. One of the great things WikiLeaks accomplished was getting Snowden out of Hong Kong and to safety. Assange pulled a few fantastic rabbits out of his hat for this, fooling the CIA at their own game, but a great part of the saga is Sarah's: she's the one who had to RISK everything. Jake initiated a minute-long standing ovation in her honour, and Sarah's response afterwards was to giggle. That's bravery, that's class.
6. But depicting Sarah taking such a RISK was going to undermine Poitras. Sarah is very much WikiLeaks, and for some, more of the face of the organisation than Assange. Certainly after Hong Kong.
7. But that's not all. For Sarah's rescue of Snowden inadvertently reveals a dirty truth about Poitras: WikiLeaks had to rescue Snowden because Poitras did not. Poitras surely could have: she's filthy rich, and her family must have some clout. And yet, just as with Glenn Greenwald, who shared the Oscars stage with her, she just packed away her camera equipment and left Snowden hanging. Greenwald got his big scoop and a multi-million contract with PayPal, Poitras got her Oscar-winning documentary, fuck Edward Snowden.
8. Poitras is a Clintonite who's been out in the cold. Reputedly lesbian but evidently 'bi', she's had her snowflake friends all along. Reconciling those friendships with last autumn's US election campaign, what with all the revelations from 'Russian WikiLeaks' as Hillary calls it, can't have been easy. Variety's coverage of the movie shows that Poitras wants to come in from the cold. It's OK to dabble in counterculture for a while, as Bill Ayers did, but at the end of the day, one wants to come home.
9. The Internet is ripe with reviews of RISK, written by people who've actually seen it. One of the better is by Nina Rothe, a true lover of the cinema, but it's one of a great many. Any publication like SVD that really wanted to give readers a nuanced view, inasmuch as they won't have a particularly long attention span anyway, would have shopped around and found Nina's piece in HuffPo.
Another piece for additional nuance is by another woman - another very 'womanly' woman - who knows Assange and WikiLeaks well, very well, perhaps better than Poitras: Hague permanent resident, International Court of Justice lawyer, Melinda Taylor:
But not SVD. Once a classy rag, the rag known for having fewer drunken typesetters than any of the rest, a rag that still has decent journos like Ivar Arpi and Per Gudmundsson, has descended. Owned today by the same conglomerate that owns the foul-smelling Aftonbladet, SVD is slowly but surely going the same way.
If you see RISKS, see it through Nina's eyes, and ignore the toxic twists Poitras injected after the fact.
Sweden's erstwhile national bard Ulf Lundell was once but a budding literary hero, along a career path astonishingly similar to that of Leonard Cohen. But whilst Cohen went off to Positano and Marianne for inspiration, Lundell holed up in the summer cottage of his girlfriend Maria-Pia. Maria-Pia read Lundell's book 'Jack' when it was finished, and saw a striking resemblance in a character there. Ulf admitted he'd taken things from her persona for a character, as all authors do, but nothing more. Mannerisms, yes, but nothing more, there was no connection to his Maria-Pia.
But Maria-Pia was not molliifed, and so: 1) went back to the cottage all alone in the autumn to write a really mean book where she directly attacked her (now-former) boyfriend; 2) went on a man-hating crusade against ALL MEN in an evening tabloid; 3) collected her pieces and reader responses into a book; 4) started protests against the sitting government and so ushered in the radical feminism that is crushing the country today.
All for a character in a work of fiction that in no way was meant to portray her.
Shakespeare was right.
And yes, the Swedish attack on Assange was propelled by the 'radfems'. Of course it was. They were in turn fired up by the real engineers behind it all. Anyone who doesn't see that, be it Variety or a surrogate at SVD, is either a fool or a knowing participant.
But beyond that visceral reaction another, perhaps even more ominous: the reluctance of the media mafia in the duckpond to submit to a comparison between their inexcusably lame efforts and those of the organisation run by Julian Assange. As long as Assange was a visitor to the country, he could be a hero, just like Will Smith or Lady Gaga. But the mere threat he might take up residence in their country was too much. Not only did 'Jante' start to apply, but Assange and his WikiLeaks made them look BAD. No way they'd keep covering him. And this is a sentiment shared from all the way at the top to the very rank and file. Give them an excuse - such as the sex story blasted across the world by Expressen - and they're set.
Smear the Messenger
The 'Assange in Sweden' story is a classic in its own genre. One doesn't murder messengers as much anymore - one smears them. Assange really asked for it by going public after initial WikiLeak releases. As Max Forte once observed, as soon as a head sticks out, decapitation becomes an issue. But look at the way they've gone about it - from Keller to Leigh to Ball to Davies, to DeeDeeBee and his Swedish Bonnier publisher, and from there to Karin 'Candypig' Olsson and so forth.
And don't forget the Revenge of the Grauniad: anyone remember how, at Logan, Jake disemboweled them and correctly proclaimed he'd thereby ended his journalistic career only weeks before the attack on him began? No connection there?
But that's the messengers. That's public perception. That's how shallow vox populi really is. They have nothing to do with their actual services.
The persona of Julian Assange is actually immaterial, and the Poitras documentaries actually give us nothing. Even a White Helmets documentary is better - even though we know today that the White Helmets are the 'bad guys' and full of shit. At least their documentary tried to give us something. Poitras documentaries give us nothing.
We don't need any more attention brought to Assange and WikiLeaks: they're already famous enough, and Poitras adds nothing to that. She instead capitalised on it - exploited it.
We don't need to know anything about the persona of Julian Assange to know that the truth is a powerful medicine, that WikiLeaks publishing is error-free (no 'fakes news', not even once) over a ten-year period. People want the truth, and it's only the enemies, the 'detractors', that want to distract us with meaningless personal anecdotes.
A lot of people are getting filthy rich off the efforts of one isolated man and a small coterie of like-minded. The maggots of the Grauniad, of course, too numerous to mention. To that shame list we today need to add at least one more.
Footnote 1: it should be pointed out that Jake Appelbaum, in his now-famous speech at Logan, defended Poitras against attacks by the Guardian.
Footnote 2: as a sort of mens rea, the SVD piece has no byline.