Renowned political activist and MIT Emeritus Professor Noam Chomsky blasted Julian Assange’s recent arrest as “scandalous” and “deeply disturbing” for a number of reasons.
Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested on Thursday morning by London’s Metropolitan Police on the charge of skipping bail.
His looming court appearance for skipping bail is the least of his worries. Assange was holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years to avoid potential extradition to the United States for publishing classified military information.
Chomsky, who has been highly critical of America’s military policies and President Donald Trump, spoke to Amy Goodman from Democracy Now, explaining why the arrest is so concerning.
He explained what’s happening as follows:
“The efforts to silence a journalist who was producing materials that people in power didn’t want the rascal multitude to know about—OK?—that’s basically what happened,” Chomsky said.
“WikiLeaks was producing things that people ought to know about those in power. People in power don’t like that, so therefore we have to silence it. OK? This is the kind of thing, the kind of scandal, that takes place, unfortunately, over and over.”
Chomsky compared Assange’s arrest with former Brazilian president Lula de Silva, who was prevented from running in the 2018 Brazilian elections and is now serving time in prison.
Chomsky said these two cases are evidence of “soft coups” where individuals seeking to challenge modern day power structures are being “silenced” by those who benefit from the status quo.
“Under the Lula government early in this millennium, Brazil was the most—maybe the most respected country in the world. It was the voice for the Global South under the leadership of Lula da Silva. Notice what happened. There was a coup, soft coup, to eliminate the nefarious effects of the labor party, the Workers’ Party,” Chomsky said.
Chomsky drew a historical analogy with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s arrest of Italian philosopher and politician Antonio Gramsci, who was writing actively against Mussolini’s fascist government.
“Assange is a similar case: We’ve got to silence this voice. You go back to history. Some of you may recall when Mussolini’s fascist government put Antonio Gramsci in jail. The prosecutor said, ‘We have to silence this voice for 20 years. Can’t let it speak.’ That’s Assange. That’s Lula,” Chomsky said.
The linguistics professor also said Assange’s arrest demonstrated the US is comfortable overstepping its territorial boundaries to prosecute those who are critical of its government. He labeled the sudden Thursday morning arrest as “shocking” and a chilling warning to journalists around the world.
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