Vaxholm, Sweden, 26 August 2012:
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange's contribution to the Activism and Rights forum at FuturePerfect Ö Festival, August 26th, 2012. Because he was unable to attend the festival in Sweden or participate in a real-time video chat, Assange participated via recorded audio alongside John Manoochehri, Jennifer Robinson, Richard Reynolds, Tom Strömberg, Samuel Jarrick, and Blaine O'Neill.
For more context see this blog post: http://2012.futureperfect.se/activism-assange
To suppor the FuturePerfect project, which is pioneering the necessary conversations in Sweden and elsewhere, please see http://futureperfect.se/support
TRANSCRIPTION (by Selçuk Balamir):
Hey Ö Festival, my name is Julian Assange and I'm speaking to you from within the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. This embassy as well as being my temporary home is also a busy office. So you might hear some office noises in the background, and I do apologise if the audio is unclear. I am pleased that this festival is still a possibility in Sweden while it should come as no surprise to anyone that I am unhappy with some of the political changes that have occurred in Sweden over the past 20 years. I am heartened that festivals like this that represent the best part of the Swedish tradition are still possible. Today I don't want to talk about the difficulties that I face, there has been enough talk of that. Rather, I want to speak about the difficulties that we all face. If we are to change our society, to be a better society, a more civilised society, then we must first understand what are the principle ingredients of civilisation. By civilisation I don't mean industrialisation; I mean the 'civil' part that is in civilisation.
So I say if we look closely at this term 'media', and what this should really be, and what is it in its essence, we come to the conclusion that there is no civilisation, there is no society without media. That is: let's take away all media, let's take away all mediums, let's take away all ability for humans beings to communicate with each other in the present and also it will learn from past experiences to teach the future. If there is no communication between people, if every person is entirely isolated like a tree in a forest, then clearly there is no civilisation and there is no society. Presently we use the air to communicate with our friends when we meet with them in person, that is the medium of basic human communication; we use the internet to communicate over distances; telephone lines, the post, the printed press, TV stations, etc… and importantly, libraries for long-term communication. We can understand that clearly if all these communications are removed, society collapses completely and we are reduced to individual, isolated animals wandering a planet. We have no ability to learn from each other about how to deal with our world, and no ability to learn from the past, about how to deal with the world we live in, and the world we live in is the only one we have, and that is the world we must deal with.
So the quality of our media, the quality of our communication, the quality of our ability to learn from one another and learn from our past experiences, in order to better adapt ourselves to the world we live in, is that quality of media that needs to be maximised. With the best possible communication, with the best possible ability to learn from our experiences, we have a chance of not simply doing the dumb thing. We have a chance of being more civilised to each other, we have a chance of avoiding pitfalls that have been discovered in the past. So the media is tremendously important. Now of course the classical, frequently used description of media is referring to an industry, an industrial body, and an industrial lobby. All those people who make the living and profit from interposing themselves into the communications between one group and another. Now the media insofar as it is successful and is profitable and widely distributed, as an industrial body is inherently corrupt. And to understand where the corruption comes from, first of all see that an industrial body, an organisation that becomes powerful in influencing others, is able to manufacture consent and suppress dissent. As a result, the people who work within it, and those proprietors who own it, are invited to sit down at the table of power and are given certain concessions in their life and their business practices. They thereby become part of the very establishment that they are meant to be policing. This is inevitable, it is an unavoidable fact for all media organisations that become large and powerful and do so for several years. And they inevitably become part of the very establishment that they are meant to be policing.
So now because of the Internet, we can all publish for a moment the truth. Of course it may be taken down with time, it may be hard to do something that WikiLeaks does, which publishes hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents, but we can all publish one. The response to that threat is to bury the truth in ever-increasing quantities of propaganda. For media organisations to be influenced in such a way that they self-censor in terms of volume. For example, it is clear that most of the mainstream media outlets in Sweden are able to publish a truthful article on even perhaps the most controversial issues. But what they cannot do is show any sign of an institutional agenda to do so. They cannot publish in volume on those issues. Of course, when we are dealing with politics, we are dealing with perceptions en masse. And perceptions en masse are affected by communications en masse. It is not enough to simply reveal the truth in one isolated article or one isolated tweet; what is important is to have the truth revealed en masse, where people can see it en masse and where opinions can be affected en masse.
So that is the wall we are facing. It is like fighting a fire with a hose; it is the size of the hose that is important, it is not that you have a hose at all. What we need to do is to get together and create as strong hoses as possible where we can pump out the truth in a volume that is great enough to quench a fire. We must understand the gravity of the situation that human civilisation faces. We are rapidly approaching a global surveillance society, in fact for most states we are already there. We are rapidly approaching continuous war, in fact most of the Western countries have now been involved in war over 10 years and are being increasingly involved. We see a tremendous increase in the size of intelligence agencies; the border between police and military is starting to collapse, with the weaponisation of police; increasing amount of body armour that police have. Across the world we see a collapse in the rule of law, politicised and arbitrary justice, with U.S. assassination lists approved by the President in secret with no due process; the continued detention without charge of children in Guantanamo Bay for over 10 years with no prospect of release. Mass surveillance being introduced into every country with no effective oversight by the population. The linking up of international companies and networks of influential people of the banking people, all these people lifting up the democratic and electoral control of their respective population bases. When the law becomes arbitrary, there is nothing you can do, there is no position you can move to where your family is protected, where things you care about are protected, because of its arbitrary nature it can affect anyone. We are entering a state of permanent war, we have seen that most NATO countries have now been in a war for over 10 years, that war is increasing in scale, that other wars are starting, for example the push towards war with Syria, the involvements in Somalia, etc. In Sweden the war industry has reached a scale that Sweden is now the number one per capita exporter of bombs in the world, it is nearly the double of Israel that was the previous per capita arms manufacturer.
We face a serious global crisis, so we must understand that this is not a choice about doing the right thing, this is not a choice about whether we appear to be moral, this is not a choice about whether we make friends, or are approved as an effective member of society. We face a choice of whether we will have a civilisation that is civil or not. We face a choice of whether we can have something not just for our grandchildren but even something for ourselves. The approach of a global civilisation which is dystopian is rapidly approaching. One only need only to look at the technological advances that are being deployed by militaries and intelligence agencies and the legislative support. For every piece of legislation that we shoot down, another five are rising in its place.
So the question about what can be done, first of all we must understand the problem, we must understand the severity of the problem, we must tell the others the severity of the problem, we must explain that it is not a choice, that is not something we could get out of, that there is a very real chance of a global technological and political dystopia appearing, that key parts of that dystopia have already appeared and already affecting us in a negative way. Then we must link together with people with a similar understanding, we must invent new technological means to fight fire with our own form of fire, we must have absolute unity and determination in the response. If we look back at the previous resistance struggles, similar phenomenon that occurred in the past, that is what has held the day in the end. Unity, determination, understanding and creativity, looking for every possible venue where the forces of darkness can be held back, that is the only way that we are all going to survive that ongoing threat that is against everyone.