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Flashback Stops Witch Trial of Assange

The elephant's getting too big. By Sweden's veteran news anchor Olle Andersson. From February.

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From the heights of Södermalm to the condominiums in Vasastan, the curses have showered over Flashback. The site has become a comprehensive evil our opinion makers scare small kids with, like the chimney sweep in years gone by. But without Flashback we'd still be fumbling in the dark about the Assange case. When the journalists let us down, Flashback came to the rescue.

Perhaps the most curious thing in the entire coverage of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are the recurring cries for transparency. What's WikiLeaks hiding? Why did he rape that woman? Op-ed page up and culture page down demanding WikiLeaks open up its guts and get Assange to sit quietly in the BBC studio when he's asked for the umpteenth time how many lovers he's had. People should be able to tolerate a little transparency!

The demands seem reasonable. Who's against more transparency? Who works for a more closed society? At the debate of the Publicist Club in Stockholm recently there were leading culture editors demanding WikiLeaks should be stripped naked, how do they work, who do they talk to, how do they make their decisions, who makes the decisions. Complete transparency. It sounds good. A whiff of civil courage.

But Karin Olsson at Expressen? You who in an op-ed wanted WikiLeaks to reveal their sources so they could be hailed as the real heroes: how is your own transparency? What were you thinking when you hung out WikiLeaks' Russian representative as an anti-semite and then refused to publish his reply? What editorial decisions were behind that? You should have answered at the debate.

What about the all more stubborn rumours about what Expressen is systematically doing with comments asking for a more nuanced debate about Swedish sex crime legislation? How do you choose the material you publish? Who decides what goes in the dust bin - you? Or someone else? If I come visit you at your department at Expressen and want to know how it turns out that some things end up in your newspaper and others don't, do you promise to turn on the 100 watt bulbs on your desk?

Who gave you the scoop on the Toblerone affair? Let's hail the real hero instead of the reporter who stole the applause.

These are the answers your readers want, Karin Olsson. They want complete transparency. Clear facts. If you have hidden agendas - then out with them! You should demand of yourself whatever you demand of others. Nothing else will do, Karin - otherwise you're just a hypocrite.

Åsa Linderborg said at the same debate Assange wasn't guilty of one rape - he raped that other woman too! I had no clue about that, most likely Marianne Ny had no clue either. So now I'm wondering like all the other readers of your Aftonbladet: how can a culture editor at our biggest newspaper claim such a thing?

What is it you people at the culture desk know that you're keeping from your readers? What are your morning meetings like? Should irrational conviction triumph over established facts? Your readers want to know, Åsa. Play with cards we all can see.

Do you have a guideline that tells you certain police interrogations are absolutely true and others are definitely lies? Then tell us about it and admit it. You've read the police documents - I know you have because I mailed them to you. Otherwise they're all over the Internet today. We readers want to know why your journalists write what they write, just like what is demanded of WikiLeaks. Put your editorial meetings on a video stream on the Internet. All the editors demanding transparency of WikiLeaks should do the same.

Now of course I don't think editorial meetings streamed live on the Internet are going to be very interesting to news readers. It's the raw demagoguery and the hypocrisy I'm after. For of course there's no editor who would open the doors to the readers, and definitely not so the competition could peek in. So why do you demand this of WikiLeaks?

Personally I think a more open WikiLeaks would represent an acute threat for the whistleblowers and the end of a unique whistleblowers central which in each and every document has meant more benefit for the public than a lifetime of deeds from my old colleagues from the heights of Södermalm to the condominiums in Vasastan.

Then we have the matter of Julian Assange himself and his 'aversion' to Swedish 'freedom of the press' - what's he bitching about anyway? We must be allowed to ask point blank questions of a rapist without him losing his cool. Of course we must!

The dilemma is that not a single Swedish news organisation has dared relate the sequence of events. That is: what the two women and Assange have said in their interrogations with the police. What we common news consumers have had access to are redacted excerpts from these interrogations, most often blatantly stolen from the British media. Looking at the facts, with the cat out of the bag, it's easy to see the redacting's been done to benefit the claimants and no one else.

A dubious journalistic methodology. The benefit - or the sacrifice depending on how you look at it - is that the media have been able to nail Assange as guilty of one of the worst crimes we know. On our retinas we still have physical assault, broken condoms, threats, coercion. Gone is consensual sex, the approval of all parties, the business of wayward condoms in the one case and a half asleep or fully asleep woman in the other one. The difference is of course wider than a mile, not in how those women experience what they've been a part of but in how the media report on those alleged assaults - that's to say what really happened between the people involved.

So what exactly are the questions Assange should have answered - whether he used violence, threats, and coercion on two Swedish women? Or is this about completely different things - things the women talk about in the interrogations the media in Stockholm refuse to publish?

Sweden's asked Assange what he did but no one's asked the women the same thing. When the redacted parts of the police documents were published, there wasn't a single influential journalist who wrote about secrecy crimes or persecution of the 'suspect'. Assange was instead pushed to the wall. It'll be interesting to see how this vocal minority handles the situation when all the police documents are released to the public. Perhaps they'll discover everything isn't black or white. And that the terrible things Assange is supposed to be guilty of also took place in their own beds with close and beloved friends.

The prosecutor on duty last 20 August gossiped to Expressen that Assange was arrested in absentia for rape. Three days later the British media published the names of the accusers. Flashback got the blame for that and it became the snake that poisoned everything about the 'social media'.

Simple people, shriveled pages, vulgar language, anti-semites, social paranoiacs, and outright misogynists. Here was vomit, a reminder of graffiti on toilet walls. That's the picture of Flashback they established.

The posts at Flashback took on an importance far beyond their original ambition. A handful of comments, where the women are named long after being published outside the country, became the fundament that the attacks on Assange and WikiLeaks would later stand on. A shit-site on the Internet got the established media to step forward as the spokesperson of the alleged victims. We got ourselves a media consensus. The more shit written about the women at FB, the harder the attacks on Assange in the five big dailies. Assault on the one side motivated character assassination on the other.

Debate columns, celebrity blogs, call-in programmes, the #prataomdet campaign, the Swedish television cultural coverage of the feminist lobby, Reinfeldt. The mobilisation became enormous. I haven't seen anything like this since the da Costa case in the 1980s. Flashback, which commoners didn't have a clue about, became an alibi for groups with specific goals. Intelligentsia chose their sides, and now afterwards we can wonder why no one raised an eyebrow when those opinion makers sang together rather than champion opinions of their own. something they're paid to do.

Flashback's the only alternative voice in the Assange case. Some of it's toilet graffiti, some of it's information I can't find anywhere else. Hundreds of links to the world's newspapers and influential blogs that would take me months to find on my own, jurists, social scientists, journalists who there will say what they can't say at their own places of work, politicians who've taught me all I need to know about the EAW, the prosecutor's handbook, the sex crime report, extradition agreements, and so forth. Legislation excerpts, court practices, our constitutional rights, all very extensive and with source references. Not to speak of all the new WikiLeaks revelations that the Swedish media no longer report on. No one reads the Telegraph or Der Spiegel at the Swedish media organisations.

It's really sad that I have to turn to FB to know what journalist organisations in other parts of the planet, not in the least in the US, think about Assange and WikiLeaks. My union and the periodical Journalisten should see such things as a self-evident duty to inform us about. In the latest issue they repeat the union mantra: most of the leaks are things they already know about.

OK - I understand that WikiLeaks stepped on tender toes when the mainstream media have been reduced to passive editors. But honestly now: if you already knew it all then why didn't you write about it?

There have been twenty five thousand posts so far in the thread about Assange and the criminal allegations. 80% support Assange no matter he's guilty or not. Why do they do that?

They have nowhere to go. There are no established media to trust when more and more new information is met by more and more compact silence. Where's the alternative?

The culture pages send up sparklers, just like the news pages. The gray weekday of journalism. Said it today, forgot it by tomorrow. Who repeats what's just been said? Who cares about the pissing contest about Egypt the other day between our two big names in cultural journalism?

Flashback's accomplished the diametric opposite. Thousands of participants have collated information in a common forum without compensation or pats on the back for six months. Because they say the ordinary social debate is lacking important information. And we others can cherry-pick, completely free of charge, from a mountain of accumulated knowledge.

Every crazy post is corrected in the following post, details are corrected, links are pasted in. For each week the posts get more stringent and expert. The Flashback thread on the Assange case is a formidable show of strength by people who our journalists would not shake hands with but who are doing their jobs for them. Voices from the floor below.

Flashback linked to the police documents. Not too cool perhaps. But those who speak of transparency in all kinds of weather will have to sharpen their argumentation now. If Flashback had existed 25 years ago, chief prosecutor Anders Helin would never have been able to take the da Costa case case to trial.

Now all our editors are sitting on copies of the police documents. Thanks to Flashback they can't hold back any longer. Flashbackers have been bombarding the decision makers in the media industry with the facts. This can lead to a more open debate but could still lead to a continued trench war from the culture pages and even more hatred against this cheeky asocial site that's dragged their faces in the dirt. We shall see.

Have you ever pondered the fact that no one sitting at the editor's desks of the major news organisations dares utter the word 'Flashback'? But instead mutters something about 'Internet haters' in general, as if the very name of the site is contagious? Soon the elephant will be too big for the room.

Rixstep commentary:

If the Internet represents the greatest cultural watershed since the printing press and in fact surpasses it; if WikiLeaks represents the greatest manifestation of this watershed; then the Flashback forum represents the first great instance of Rick Falkvinge's vision of a sharing of culture and information that's no longer controlled as a pyramid by 'the powers that be'.

Flashback is not a news organisation; it's a forum where anonymity, freedom of assembly, and above all freedom of speech are the most important concepts.

The members of Flashback are amongst the most agile found anywhere on the Internet in terms of taking care of matters themselves. There are no flame wars to speak of and the members possess an incredible eloquence and perspicacity in taking care of 'bad elements' when they infrequently pop up. People are invariably polite and considerate no matter the topic, whether the topic be digging into the Assange case or getting advice in computer matters, sexual matters, or anything under the sun.

True journalism exists in few places today and the past half year since the Assange case broke has proven the 'old media' is gone and the new collaborative system as practiced by Flashback is the only way to arrive at the truth. No one who frequents Flashback today can have any trust whatsoever in the old media anymore.

Consider this:

  • Sweden is a country of some 9.5 million residents, whereof 1.5 million probably do not share the same linguistic and cultural heritage;
  • This leaves about 8 million people who theoretically could be members of Flashback, all ages included;
  • Flashback today has over 500,000 members. Putting this in another context, this would mean a membership in France, Germany, Great Britain, or Italy of ~3.7 million; a membership in the US of ~18.75 million; or a membership in the EU of ~26.25 million.
  • The 'monster' thread on the Assange case has today nearly 3 million thread views with nearly 30,000 contributions.

Flashback did not post the police documents in the Assange case to the Internet; Flashback found the link and posted it. Almost all 'scoops' in the Assange case either originated at Flashback or were picked up almost immediately there.

Flashback didn't expose the identity of Anna Ardin but found the scoop at a Swedish news site. But within hours of the article about 'Ms W' at the British Daily Mail, and going only on the location and approximate age of 'Ms W' as related, Flashback were able to discover the identity of Sofia Wilén.

An 'H/T' is in order for the doyens of the Assange thread: Aleksanterinkatu, BaalZeBub, Callas, DeLorean, espressino, flashback979, MoLoK, skarlockholmes, stuxnet, and trenterx who've all given of themselves so selflessly in a concerted ambition to simply arrive at the truth. They put traditional journalism to shame and they provide optimism for the future.

I'm so sick of it all. Will it never end? At any rate I want to say the other girl's just as much to blame.
 - Anna Ardin

Apparently Swedish laws are unique. If you have a penis you're half a rapist before you even get through customs.
 - Scott Adams

If I am able to reveal what I know, everyone will realise this is all a charade. If I could tell the British courts, I suspect it would make extradition a moot point.
 - Björn Hurtig

I can tell you that the Swedish prosecution still hasn't provided copies of those SMS texts that have been referred to. Those texts are some of the most powerful exculpatory evidence. In Australia prosecutors have a very grave duty to disclose such evidence to courts when seeking the grave exercise of a court's power against an individual. Yet in Sweden in this case, in the first hearings to obtain an arrest warrant, those texts were not submitted to the Swedish court, which is highly improper.
 - James Catlin

The prosecutor could achieve this broadening of the law during Assange's trial so he can be convicted of a crime that didn't exist at the time he allegedly committed it. She would need to. There is no precedent for this. The Swedes are making it up as they go along.
 - James Catlin

Julian Assange will surely learn that considering what WikiLeaks has published, he's got a few enemies in the Pentagon, the CIA, and the White House. Sweden began an investigation into rape which was later dismissed. Assange was even denied residence in Sweden. One can only speculate to what extent the security agencies of the US were involved. And considering the obvious interest of the US to silence WikiLeaks, is it likely Assange will have an accident of the 'Boston brakes' kind in the coming years? Or will he be snared with compromising information of the 'honey trap' kind?
 - 'Drozd' at Flashback 23 October 2010

The truth will out, the truth wins out. Let no journalist ever again speculate into what the protocols say. Six months of digging and the people at Flashback have the actual documents. The sleaze printed by rags such as the Daily Mail, Sweden's Aftonbladet and Expressen, and perhaps above all the toxic Nick Davies of the Guardian, can stand no more. Yet more: these documents are an indictment of the 'news organisations' who've printed deliberate inaccuracies all along or even worse: refused to print anything at all. Nick Davies' account of the protocols was maliciously skewed; both Aftonbladet and Expressen had copies early on and printed nothing. Bloggers had copies but arrogantly kept the information to their Smeagol selves.
 - The Assange Police Protocol: Translator's Note

See Also
Rixstep Red Hat Diaries: 'Try Me for Rape Too, Marianne Ny!'
Rixstep Red Hat Diaries: WikiLeaks and the Gutless Swedish Media
Rixstep Red Hat Diaries: Assange/WikiLeaks: The Betrayal of Sweden's Cultural Elite

Radsoft Rants: Swedish Media Blackout on WikiLeaks
Newsmill: Flashback stoppade häxprocessen mot Julian Assange

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