On Not Shaming Rape Victims

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by Joshua Foust on 8/21/2012 · 5 comments

It would probably surprise no one that Craig Murray — everyone’s favorite failed former ambassador to Tashkent — is an ardent defender of Wikileaks demagogue Julian Assange. Last night, however, in the course of defending Assange on BBC2′s Newsnight, he actually names the supposed name of one of the women who have accused Assange of rape and sexual molestation. Naturally, Murray’s companions and the show’s host were unhappy about it.

Murray, however, takes this a step further: “I am married to a rape victim,” he says, “I take the charge of anything to do with rape extremely seriously.”

It’s a curious charge: his wife was raped, so now he’s allowed to say whatever he wants about new rape victims as a result. It’s the “I can’t be racist because I have a minority friend” defense. Only with Murray, of course, it’s much more complex.

Long time readers know several bloggers here were not particularly impressed with Murray’s attempt to whitewash his tenure as British ambassador in Tashkent. In particular, his decision to cheat on his wife with a stripper he met at North Korean nightclub seemed especially galling — especially given how unrepentant he was about it in his own memoir.

Indeed, in Murray’s own writing, women rarely have agency or personhood. They are props for his torture crusade, or for his sexual appetite (almost all women are described in overt sexual terms, and with disgust if they’re old or ugly), or for his career. He met his wife Nadira, at a strip club where he handed her a wad of cash and his business card, along with an invitation to be his mistress (she was already dating a 19-year old American serviceman at the time).

So it’s no real surprise that Murray took to the news to not only name the women who have accused Assange — their names have been made public before but that’s so inappropriate for a rape case it’s hard to know where to begin — but that it couldn’t have been rape so why are people even up in arms about it? Yuck. Maybe we can begin with knowing newspapers get sued for exposing rape victims (it is that screwed up a thing to do). Or perhaps we could think that the women’s allegations are considered rape not just in Swedish but in UK law as well — so Murray is on non-existant moral and legal ground.

Murray took to his blog to repeat one of the names of the women who have accused Assange, and to further his argument that what she claims isn’t really rape because she was with Assange afterward and it’s all probably a conspiracy anyway. I won’t link to it — that doesn’t warrant direct attention.

And Murray isn’t alone. George Galloway has also gotten into hot water trying to accuse the Assange’s accusers of not really being raped — though now he’s also walking back his comments.

What’s so fascinating here isn’t that a man who frequents strip clubs and cheats on his wife might not be very respectful toward women, or even that a man like Galloway (who whitewashes the torture and execution of gays in Iran as western propaganda) would stand up for Assange. It is how much airtime they are given simply for having an opposition view, that Assange is the victim of some transnational American conspiracy to subvert the Swedish and British justice systems as well as Interpol, so he can be spirited away to America where he’ll be waterboarded and then executed.

Conspiracies exist wherever fringe activists exist, and Murray and Galloway seem to enjoy both. But that’s no reason to give them so much air time. I assume — I hope — there are sober defenders of Julian Assange and Wikileaks out there who aren’t such horrible people… but the media doesn’t seem able to find them for comment these days. That’s too bad. The Wikileaks case does raise legitimate questions of media and government, but tying them all into the personage of Julian Assange — and pretending a rape investigation in Sweden is anything but a rape investigation in Sweden — cheapens all of them into pedantry.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1849 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 5 comments }

amanda August 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Murray maybe shouldn’t have named the alleged victims on newsnight, but if your going to condemn him you have to condemn everyone who’s done it, and that includes the prosecutors who leaked the names of the two women to a Swedish newspaper

Nathan Hamm August 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm

but if your going to condemn him you have to condemn everyone who’s done it

Is that a law or something now? Because if we just get to make up rules, I call for one invalidating criticisms delivered with misspelled words in run-on sentences.

Joshua Foust August 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm

That’s definitely not true. “Some other people did it too” is not really an excuse for being an asshole.

HighburyJD August 22, 2012 at 2:53 am

Didn’t the ‘lead’ of the two, let’s call her accuser AA, reveal her identity by giving her story to a Swedish tabloid? You, me, every single member of Newsnight staff, all of the invited panel members and anyone interested enough in the case to google it knows their identities. Reminds me of that great Lady Chatterley’s Lover quote “Is it the kind of book you would wish your wife or servants to read?”

oldschool boy August 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm

“What’s so fascinating here isn’t that a man who frequents strip clubs and cheats on his wife might not be very respectful toward women, or even that a man like Galloway (who whitewashes the torture and execution of gays in Iran as western propaganda) would stand up for Assange…” sounds kinda pathetic. Man up Dude.

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