Amazingly, this event seems to have – 16 hours after completion – no text coverage apart from the New Statesman itself, but a lot of photo coverage – e.g. at demotix.com (postscript – UK Guardian broke cover about 1200 hrs Sunday with an article. But by Monday morning, the major and minor UK dailies are ALL ignoring this story – who told them to blacklist it? And why did they obey that instruction? – this in itself is a story of great importance to Democracy in the UK……)
Kensington Town Hall was packed out – a mainly white middle-class liberal audience. 99 per cent of us voted for the motion – ‘This House believes whistleblowers make the world a safer place’ – both before and after the debate itself. There were few celebs or famous figures in the audience (Pamela Stephenson was one), Jemima Khan and some other celebs were in the rafters.
Everyone of course was there to see Julian (unchained). Assange actually is a very poor speaker – he has done fantastic and audacious things which no-one else could ever conceive or execute, but – hell – no-one is perfect. What he has done for mankind is quite sufficient without him also being an orator.
He got riled a couple of times by some of the opponents of the Motion, but still treated the event with good grace. When he left – just before everyone else – for security reasons – he got a rapturous applause. This is important, since being a martyr and out on a limb, with every Government and Security Service in the World hating your guts and plotting to terminate your existence or at least your Political Life, can be a very unsettling and depressing situation.
Of the others, the American Clayton Swisher from Al Jazeera’s recently formed Transparency Unit (who published the Palestine Papers) stood out as a person of great interest, doing good stuff, who should also be climbing ladders in future. The fact that he has been a Federal Investigator of some kind gives him also a lot of street cred with the Establishment (postscript – Clayton has been accused of being a past and/or current CIA operative….)
Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman (3rd speaker for the Motion) was eloquent and forceful, and had very obviously often treaded the boards at some good University in the UK.
Douglas Murray was very highly effective as the Attack Dog against the Motion – the other 2 speakers were relatively low-key – the first speaker – Sir David Richmond probably deliberately so, since he is a very major figure in or on the edge of British Intelligence.
There were also 2 guest speakers – Annie Machon (ex-MI5 whisteblower) and Paul Moore (ex-HBOS whistleblower). Both were great speakers with incredible stories, but almost no time to tell them in. Moore in particular warned of a second Global Financial Tsunami in the future or near future if the present lack of good and effective regulation were allowed to continue….. and hinted that he may mount a campaign to put sufficient safeguards in place….
If I had been speaking for or against the Motion, I would have brought in the issue of Safer vs. Better – i.e. whistleblowing almost certainly makes the world a better place, but it wont necessarily be safer. Better and more just can also – at least at the beginning – mean more unstable and therefore possibly less safe – at least for Developed Countries and for Global Corporations.
So – all in all? A good session, nothing outstanding surfaced – it was very much a public vote of confidence by existing Assange supporters in Julian and what he is doing. That in itself was and is very important. The apparent news blackout in the UK Sunday newspapers on the day after this early Saturday Event (it finished at 1830 hrs) is astonishing, but maybe not in the context that Western Media is now conducting pretty much a news blackout on everything in Bahrain. Well well, if they want to hasten their own demise, so be it…. The Internet is spawning and will spawn plenty of good alternatives to the existing so-called quality British, American and International Print and TV media…..
New Statesman (and this) – Guardian UK Report – Assange leaves debate : 47 second clip, Youtube – 4 minute video, Youtube – Patrick Smith, Journalist – Google Search – Sydney Morning Herald Video – Photos by Alex Milan Tracy – Sarah Tosca Report – Support Julian Assange – Google Video Search – Modernity Blog – with Full Video of Assange speech – Video of Assange Speaking – 11 mins – Douglas Murray, 13 mins video – FrontLine Club’s Rory Gallagher’s take on the Event – FrontLine Club with Twitter Widget – FrontLine Club’s Rory Gallagher – Part II of II – Audio Podcast from Frontline Club of complete event