Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Canadian Academic Calls for Assassination of Julian Assange

The Subtle Roar of Online Whistle-blowing: Jul...Image by New Media Days via FlickrConservative political scientist Professor Tom Flanagan has publicly called for the assassination of Julian Assange, director of wiki-leaks.

The University of Calgary professor made his remarks during an interview with CBS yesterday (November 30th) in response to information that Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper had been mentioned in US diplomatic cables leaked through the wikileaks site, which was continuing to experience co-ordinated denial of service attacks over the weekend.

Professor Flanagan has worked in recent years to support the election of Stephen Harper, and is frequent commentator on political issues in Canada, from a conservative perspective.

Whatever one's views on the wisdom of the Wikileaks project, it is surely unacceptable when public figures are now increasingly given a platform to call for the assassination of foreign nationals who are not military combatants. The assassination of journalists may, tragically, be a regular part of life in Russia, but in a democratic society that values human freedom and the freedom of the press, such calls are simply outrageous.

Actions that could be taken against Professor Flanagan and others who call for the assassination of non-combatants could include:

  1. Investigation by the Canadian authorities as to whether Professor Flanagan has committed a criminal act when making his remarks. I am no legal expert, but I believe that here in the UK, incitement to murder is a criminal offence.
  2. Public protests against professor Flanagan on the University of Calgary campus where he teaches.
  3. Protests against his stance during any overseas visits he may make in a professional capacity.

For all his tough talk (the professor says he is feeling "manly" when he makes his call) Professor Flanagan seems to have failed to grasp several political realities:

  1. Revealing the secret actions of those in power who would rather their secrets remain hidden is an important aspect of investigative journalism and a bulwark of a free and open society.
  2. There are others around the world apart from Julian Assange who will fill the gap left should he meet an untimely end
  3. The wikileaks phenomenon is part of a large and growing grass roots movement that is opposed to the nexus of power between global elites in the military and corporate business communities. Removing a leading spokesman such as Assange will merely give fuel to a riot of anger on the part of progressively-minded citizens, with consequences for the political establishment that are unimaginable at the present time.

Stop Press

Professor Flanagan has today issued a statement to CBS news expressing regret for his assassination comment: "I regret that I made a glib comment about a serious issue."

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