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15 April 2019 | Draft

Trial of Julian Assange -- Who is the Pontius Pilate of Easter 2019?

In dramatic anticipation of emergence of a Church of Julian

-- / --

Produced to commemorate the arrest and indictment of Julian Assange (London, 11 April 2019). The subsequent development of the argument is presented separately (Crowdsourcing Just Punishment for Julian Assange -- in faithful Christian retribution for daring to speak truth to power, 2020) with a separate indication of web resources (Extradition and Trial of Julian Assange: web resources, 2020).


The ejection of Julian Assange from his refuge of seven years in the Embassy of Ecuador in London in the Easter week of 2019, followed immediately by his arrest by UK authorities, offers the occasion for extensive commentary. Many will celebrate that event in terms of due legal process, many will deplore it as inappropriate -- given the truths of global significance whose dissemination he enabled through WikiLeaks (Explainer: what charges does Julian Assange face, and what's likely to happen next? The Conversation, 12 October 2019; John Pilger, The Assange Arrest is a Warning From History, CounterPunch, 12 April 2019; Ylenia Gostoli, What the 'pursuit of Assange' means for press freedom. Al Jazeera, 13 April 2019; The Observer view on extraditing Julian Assange, The Guardian, 14 April 2019).

How better to complement these more conventional commentaries than with a reflection on the drama of the situation in the light of the inspiring story for Christians associated with Easter -- with which the arrest has been so coincidentally timed? One justification for that framing is offered by the perspective of an international lawyer (John Whitehead, From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: when Dissidents become Enemies of the State, Information Clearing House, 17 April 2019). The argument here is also supported by the view of Church leaders (Patsy McGarry, Current attitudes to truth are similar to those of Pontius Pilate, church leaders say, The Irish Times, 10 April 2017).

How then to consider the dynamics of the situation as a drama? Who is taking on the Easter roles -- as periodically considered in Oberammergau, known for its 380-year tradition of Easter Passion Plays every ten years, and for its NATO School? Could Assange's legal difficulties in Sweden be understood to derive from a "passion play"? Who are then the dramatis personae, as in any play? Clearly in revisiting the original Christian drama, there is a case for imaginative creativity and poetic licence. The elements of the narrative, and its actors, call for reinterpretation, however controversial -- to engender a new story with elements as offensive to the practice of human values as that of Easter.

Pontius Pilate? If it is Julian Assange who is the focus of the legal process, who then is to be understood as taking on the key role of Pontius Pilate in service to that process? Potential Christian candidates positioning themselves for that role, are the following -- especially in light of the comments they have already made:

Rhetorical framings as a drama: From the start, others have referred rhetorically to WikiLeaks events as a "drama", but without framing its dimensions as such:

Exploration as a psychodrama? Previous reflections in more specific dramatic terms, to elicit more fundamental learnings, include:

As previously argued, myth provides a degree of coherence for many which "rational" discourse can no longer provide for any but the few (Relevance of Mythopoeic Insights to Global Challenges, 2009; The "Dark Riders" of Social Change: a challenge for any Fellowship of the Ring, 2002; Enacting Transformative Integral Thinking through Playful Elegance, 2010). Understanding the fall of the USSR merits exploration in dramatic terms (Gorbachev as Dramaturge: lessons on social transformation for international organizations, 1992).

Justification from an imperial perspective? As with Imperial Rome, the USA proudly defends many disputed official initiatives as being lawful. These include extraordinary rendition, imprisonment without trial, enhanced interrogation, targeted assassination, and invasive surveillance of privacy. They are all framed as legitimate measures of self-defence.

Their legitimacy has been questioned from a wider perspective, notably by Larry Siems (The Torture Report: what the documents say about America's post-9/11 torture program, 2012) and by Philippe Sands (Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules, 2005; Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values, 2008). The matter has been considered before the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, based on the Nuremberg Charter (Deborah Dupre, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld war criminals verdict Enforcement Phase begins US War Crimes,, 15 May 2012; Yvonne Ridley, Bush Convicted of War Crimes in Absentia, Foreign Policy Journal, 12 May 2012).

Given the possible fate of Julian Assange within the US legal system for having allegedly endangered the lives of agents worldwide, it is appropriate to compare that eventuality with the house arrest of Lieutenant William Calley Jr, the only person convicted for the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. Between 347 and 504 unarmed people were killed by a U.S. Army platoon.

The previous effort to imagine the Historical legacy of Barack Obama: Pontius Pilatus XXI? (2013), as mentioned above, considered how Barack Obama was embodying the role of Pontius Pilate in the ongoing drama regarding the higher truths to which Manning-Assange-Snowden appeal and give expression. Given that Donald Trump might now be understood to have token on that role, he can clearly best play out the role of Pilate by maximizing the sense of injustice through emphasizing the legality of the proceedings deployed. The vindictive pretrial initiatives with respect to each of them already makes ever more clearly evident the vacuous nature of the appeals to the letter of the ("Christian") law by which it is hoped to prosecute them -- if their assassinations are not otherwise ensured.

Envisaging other elements in the dramatic tale? Given its potential global symbolic significance, possibilities might include:

Requisite iconic "special effects"? As considered in greater detail in the earlier argument, in the light of the universal Christian appreciation of the cross as an appropriate symbol of the pain inflicted by authority on Jesus as a truth-teller, the question is what contemporary technology could now best embody the official attitude of the USA to emergent truth. Use of an electric chair might be seen as resembling too closely iconic images of the seated Abraham Lincoln. Some configuration of needles used in that mode of execution might resemble too closely a daily habit of too many American voters.

Inspiration for the central symbol of environments in which truth is celebrated in the future might be more imaginatively associated with a combination of the iconic imagery of the popular Star Wars series and the use of waterboarding -- as a seemingly painless preferred modality in the official quest for truth in the USA. As with Jesus on the cross, a degree of elegance needs to be embodied in the imagery for purpose of display.

A basis for reflection on the possibility is offered by the character Han Solo, appropriately described by Star Wars creator George Lucas as: a loner who realizes the importance of being part of a group and helping for the common good. The series is widely known for its celebration of a transcendent "Force" -- a binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power. The widely known Star Wars drama has been used by John Ringland in a tabulated comparison as reproduced below

Two Perspectives on the US / Assange Issue (2019)
(reproduced with permission from John Ringland)
Truth Wars: the Empire strikes back Security Wars: protecting the Homeland
There is a disturbance in the Truth! There is a disturbance in our Security!
The Empire has launched operation Neo McCarthyism and dispatched Darth Trump to destroy Julian FactLeaker and the order of the Wiki Knights. The Homeland has launched operation Restore Order and dispatched Emperor Trump to neutralise the threat from Julian Traitor and the Espionage Cult

The whole galaxy is in peril!

The galaxy will be restored to order!
Our hero has been captured by minions of the Empire on a compliant planet called Neo Britannia. The criminal has been detained by friends of the Homeland on an allied planet called Neo Britannia.
Soon their arcane rituals will be complete and he will be delivered into the clutches of the Empire and a dire fate. Soon their due process will be complete and he will be delivered into the custody of the Homeland and brought to justice.
The Wiki Knights and the scattered Resistance fight valiantly against great odds. The Espionage Cult aid scattered dissidents will not remain a threat for long.
All noble beings everywhere steel their resolve and renew their connection to the Truth - their integrity. A minority of dissidents are stubbornly recalcitrant and remain a security threat -- the fanatics.
It will take great integrity to push back the lies -- the dark side -- and re-establish Truth throughout the galaxy. The most fanatical amongst them generate fake news -- conspiracy theories -- undermining legitimate authority throughout the galaxy.
Can they succeed? Will the people of the galaxy rise to the challenge or will they succumb to operation Neo McCarthyism? Will they get away with this? Will the fanatics attack us or will operation Restore Order bring them to justice?
Stay tuned for more ... Stay tuned for more ...

In the Star Wars drama, under the orders of Darth Vader, Solo is captured and sealed in carbonite for delivery to Jabba the Hutt -- a process somewhat reminiscent of that desired by US authorities with respect to Assange and Snowden. Manning could already be understood to have long been placed in a form of stasis in anticipation of his show trial. Through incarceration, permanent stasis is now vigorously sought for all three. The practices of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility are also indicative of a form of painful legal stasis officially favoured by the US -- a form of living death -- contrasting strangely with the values embodied in a widely known song (Guantanamera) in celebration of a woman from that area.

The "triumvirate" of Manning-Assange-Snowden could be embodied in a single image, resembling that of Han Solo sealed in carbonite (as in a tombstone). This could be appropriately and elegantly displayed under a flow of water in centres in which truth is celebrated in the distant future --- echoing the enhanced interrogation to which the triumvirate are likely to be subjected under the orders of Pontius Pilate XXI.

Focal animation of future symbolic celebration
of transcendental truth?
(tentatively based on an iconic image from Star Wars
of Han Solo in carbonite, embellished by a water feature,
recalling a method of discovering the truth officially favoured in the USA)
Focal animation of future symbolic celebration  of transcendental truth
Animation developed from iconic image in
Wookieepedia: the Star Wars wiki
Addenda (many with multiple comments)

The items that have been progressively accumulated in this addendum in 2019 have become so numerous that they have justified their transfer to a separate document (Extradition and Trial of Julian Assange: web resources, 2020). Further references will be added there as they become available.

As noted above, given the probabiluty of his extradition, trial and conviction in the USA, a further document has been produced to offer Christians the possibility of collectively determining his punishment -- in the spirit of that dramatisation (Crowdsourcing Just Punishment for Julian Assange: in faithful Christian retribution for daring to speak truth to power, 2020).

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