Sunny Hundal has published an important piece at Liberal Conspiracy today – one that Benjamin Gray has contributed to, as have I, a bit – arising from Ben Goldacre’s frustration that the mainstream media didn’t seem to be fact-checking the claims and implications of unfairness being made by or on behalf of Julian Assange over the last couple of weeks.
I share the frustration that the media hasn’t seemed to be examining the claims that have been made. Last week I felt I was beginning to understand how a story can begin to take a particular shape because most of what we’re told about it comes from one, interested source. I’m not of course accusing Julian Assange or any of his lawyers of misleading us. But he’s naturally defending himself, and they are doing their job of courtroom and public advocacy for him. What they say is obviously one side of the story. It should not merely be accepted uncritically by journalists or bloggers, any more than what’s said by any official source.
I agree with Ben Goldacre too that this is the digging people can sensibly do. It’s not only pointless for anyone to try to get to the bottom of the Swedish criminal suspicions against him – it’s wrong. He’s entitled to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial by a proper court if the matter gets that far; he shouldn’t have to face an ignorant mob-trial by television, blogpost or tweet. I also think it’s wrong for anyone who’s not seen the evidence simply to dismiss or disparage allegations of rape and sexual assault. The women who’ve apparently made accusations in this case are entitled to have what they’ve said properly investigated and evaluated by the Swedish authorities, and to privacy beyond that.