Some of the comments I received in response to yesterday’s post seem to suggest that there is some legitimacy to what WikiLeaks is doing to the SONY employees, given that some of those employees may have engaged in unethical behavior.
To me, this seems to be not only a highly flawed argument, but precisely the slippery slope to fascism. If somebody at SONY is doing something that might be illegal, that is certainly of potential interest to our law enforcement system. But we do not have rule by mob in this country. A citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
I know it can be tempting to think of “due process” as a mere nicety, but it is actually the bedrock of a functioning democracy. Just because I happen to think that you did something wrong, this does not mean that I get to punish you. If you can simply be dragged out on the street in the middle of the night and branded as a witch, then you effectively have no rights as a citizen.
And it is absurd to say that SONY employees should have known better than to use company emails for personal conversations. I defy you to show me even one individual, among all the people you know, who has never used their company account to write an email with some personal content.
This sort of pretense — that a patently absurd fiction is the truth, and then to attack entire groups of people based on that absurd fiction — is precisely the precondition for fascism. It is what Kafka was writing about. It was also the game plan for a certain ambitious Chancellor in Germany.
It would be a mistake merely to dismiss Julian Assange as an insensitive asshole. He is something far worse: He is the destroyer of discourse, the bringer of fear, the troll who shuts down all useful conversation because everyone is afraid of him.
Sure, some people at SONY have made unethical decisions. As have some people at Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Facebook, the U.S. Government, the Spanish government, the Canadian government, the State of Delaware, and pretty much every single organization of significant size throughout history.
That is certainly something we should be concerned about. But it is no excuse to commit an act of violence against entire large groups of people, which is what Julian Assange has done here.
To put it simply, what he has done to these people is disgusting, and violent, and an act of pure terror.