Monday January 11, 2021
Just before the madness at the Capitol broke out Wednesday, news came from London. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who seemed Monday to be the luckiest man alive when a judge denied an American request to extradite him, was now denied bail on the grounds that he might “fail to surrender to court to face” the inevitable US appeal. He goes back to legal purgatory, possibly a worse outcome than extradition, which might be the idea.
We sell politics in American media as a soap opera, and the personalities make for lively copy, but properly following the bouncing ball means watching institutions, not characters. Where are armies, banks, central banks, intelligence services, the press? Whose money is talking on the floor of the House and the Senate? How concentrated is financial and political power? How do public and private institutions coordinate? When they coordinate, what are their collective aims? How transparent are they or aren’t they? How accountable?
Assange became a celebrity at a time when popular interest in these questions was at its zenith in the United States. Eight years of the Bush administration inspired profound concern about the runaway power of the state, especially a new secret state-within-a-state the Bush administration insisted 9/11 gave them the moral mandate to build.