Friday, February 04, 2011

Naomi Wolf, Wikileaks and Inconsistency

Naomi Wolf has written a piece on the Huffington Post about the "lost cojones" of America's journalists who refuse to defend Julian Assange against the American government in the Wikileaks leaks issue. This post does not discuss the alleged sexual crimes Julian Assange is said to have committed, so I don't really have much of an issue with this post, in fact, Wolf and I are in agreement when it comes to a lot of this. She rightly points out that he is wanted for very similar things to what journalists often see as their work - exposing secrets of the government, acting as the watch dog against the powerful and the mighty in society, ensuring that they do not abuse their power.

As always, there are people who would be in disagreement with this view of the media's role, but the media can be an effective tool in exposing power abuses. The problem in that is that media in and of itself becomes a power player holding the sole power to expose scandals and shape the opinion of the people. Media, too, can become too powerful. Just take the Murdoch imperium, for instance, which owns a significant amount of the media in the US as well as the UK; media which is quite well known to engage in a lot of right-wing rhetoric and opinion building (Fox Entertainment Group, is one example).

But enough about that. Let's get back to Naomi Wolf.

After arguing about the hypocrisy of all the American journalist (apart from herself, I suppose), she asks the question:
So why do all these American reporters, who know quite well that they get praise and money for doing what Assange has done, stand in a silence that can only be called cowardly, while a fellow publisher faces threats of extradition, banning, prosecution for spying -- which can incur the death penalty -- and calls for his assassination?
A valid and interesting question, but not nearly as interesting as the answer she herself offers immediately after:
One could say that the reason for the silence has to do with the sexual misconduct charges in Sweden. But any serious journalist in America knows perfectly well that the two issues must not be conflated. The First Amendment applies to rogues and scoundrels. You don't lose your First Amendment rights because of a sleazy personality, or even for having committed a crime. Felons in jail are protected by the First Amendment. Indeed the most famous First Amendment cases, the ones that are supposed to showcase America's strength and moral power, involve the protection of speech most decent people hate.
Say what, now?

Once again, the frustrating woman has done what Jessica Valenti has criticised her for earlier: claiming not to read the internet, but somehow still find out all the criticism against her and then utterly fail to engage with it in her next piece but somehow try to correct it anyway. It is just that the woman never faces the criticism. She just ends up arguing against herself, as she is in this case as well.

Naomi Wolf has over and over managed to make Wikileaks and the rape charges against Julian Assange synonymous, which they are not, as I have written about over and over. I will try it one more time. Wikileaks the organisation is not Julian Assange the person, and everyone would do better in understanding this, supporters of Wikileaks just as much as the US government who are seizing the opportunity to bring Julian Assange to trial for completely unrelated accusations.

Back to the point. So Naomi Wolf is now criticising all the journalists in the United States of America for not being vocal enough about the horrific things that the US government might do to him (which they should criticise) because of their incapability to separate the sexual assault accusations against Assange from the organisation Wikileaks, while she has herself not been able to do that throughout the entire debate. I don't know if I should be happy it seems she has taken criticism to heart, or frustrated that she does in no way try to correct the blatant rape apologia she has been spreading. To be honest, I think that this new insight on her part will only last as long as it doesn't suit her purpose to write a provocative article again. As soon as the trial for extradition starts, I am sure she will be back to her rape apologetic self, calling the women jealous, petty and liars again.

What is more, and what is really, really relevant seeing as Naomi Wolf is a self-proclaimed feminist who has been held in quite high regard in feminist circles is her use of cojones in the headline. Cojones is a vulgar Spanish word for testicles denoting courage. While this word is relatively accepted and mainstream when it comes to talking about courage, much like 'balls' is, it is a word that refers to the male genitals meaning that females cannot in any possible way have these, i.e. courage. It is a word that is grounded in male/female gender roles with the male as the courage, active protector of the weak, passive, incapable female. Females cannot have cojones, nor can they have balls in the sense that they are being used synonymously with courage. Cojones and balls are not female, they are male, and exclusively so by biology. Courage is male, by biology, it implies, and it is physically impossible for women to gain it. It does not take a deep level of gender analysis to see this, and that Naomi Wolf has failed to do so is nothing but embarrassing. Granted, the headline could have been set by someone else, as often happens when articles are published, but in that case I really do hope that Wolf engages in a very long and heated lecture on why this particular word is inappropriate to use.

Someone mentioned in relation to her previous pieces and appearances on rape and Wikileaks (both separately and in relation to each other) that she is arguing what she is arguing in an attempt to revive a down-spiralling career. This latest addition seems to say so too. Unfortunately for Naomi Wolf is that if she doesn't engage with the criticism she is receiving, and respond to it appropriately, she is unlikely to gather much support. Judging from her performance on BBC World Have Your Say three weeks ago she is not likely to engage with anyone criticising her soon, but rather keep on patronising and ignoring them. It seems she is digging her own grave.


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