Think what you will of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, but his actions have exposed a startling and very disturbing fact … the world’s leading financial institutions have entered politics in a brutish manner that should have all reasonable people very worried. Put simply, Visa, Mastercard and Paypal have banded together to deny donations to the Wikileaks website. That’s right, the banks are telling you and me where we can spend our money and who we can support politically! In refusing to process donations aimed at Wikileaks, these three major finance institutions have thrown in their hand with the United States government. I am personally unaware of any time my credit card provider has prevented me from spending my credit with whomever I choose. In fact, I checked today and I am still able to use my cards to buy pornography, I am able to donate money to radical white supremist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, and in regions where allowed, I can order all manner of firearms. But I can’t donate to Wikileaks.
Let me make it very clear that until this single event, I had simply been watching Assange and his Wikileaks devotees with bemused interest. As a journalist I am a passionate advocate of free speech, but to be honest, the Wikileaks revelations have left me disturbed on the whole because I simply don’t trust Assange’s motives. I’d like to think he’s doing it out of true altruism, but my gut tells me he’s doing it because he’s an agitator who’d happily watch Rome burn if it resulted in his name in lights. So there’s what I think of Julian.
Here’s what I think of a bank telling me who I can and can’t support politically … how DARE you! The behemoths of the American financial system have shown their true colours. Democracy be damned. Free speech be damned. Customers be damned. They are toting the US government line that Assange is a terrorist, despite the fact no-one seems capable of identifying any crime he has personally committed in relation to the leaks. They are presuming guilt over innocence, the opposite of the very foundation of the US legal system, that being of a defendant’s right to the assumption he or she is innocent until proven guilty.
Let us not forget that the banks, both in the United States, Ireland, Greece, Spain and almost everywhere else, almost ruined the world economy through their greed, and relied on hundreds of billions of dollars in tax payer funded bailouts just to survive. That money was yours and mine. Our governments gave it to the banks without asking us. In the case of the US, they gave it without even asking for it back! Now we all face higher taxes and massive government spending reductions on essential services to prop up our economies. Thanks banks.
Here in Australia, we have a barely elected minority government demanding one of its own citizens be apprehended and tried in a foreign country despite the fact our own Justice Department says Julian Assange has broken no Australian laws. Our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has demanded Assange be tried for his crimes despite being unable to say what those crimes are. I hold out little hope once Assange is extradited to the US that our own government will do anything to ensure his legal rights are protected. In fact, Gillard seems almost gleeful in her toadying up to the US on this issue. Perhaps she’s aware of yet more revelations to come from Wikileaks which may paint her in a less than favourable light, in much the same way her deposed predecessor Kevin Rudd has been revealed as a lightweight fool.
And let’s remember for a moment, Wikileaks did not hack into some super secure US government computer and steal these documents and revelations. It appears the information was handed over by a seemingly low-level US army officer who had security access to all this material. That’s right, once this officer achieved a certain security level, he could simply go surfing through mountains of files related not only to defense issues, but all manner of diplomatic and banking issues classified as accessible to him. I always thought the US government was some kind of super power with all manner of James Bond style capabilities. Apparently not. They seem more Dad’s Army in their approach to security. “Hey, close that drawer would ya … we wouldn’t want the keys to our nuclear arsenal falling into the wrong hands. Oh, and better turn off the lights, just to be sure.”
What Wikileaks has done is simply show how monumentally inept the United States government is at keeping secrets. Coming off the back of their inability to uncover the 911 plot before it happened and you have to start asking some serious questions about just how clever the world’s leading superpower really is. Perhaps they should be asked to hand over their arsenal to someone more trustworthy, so they don’t accidently blow us all to dust.
But back to the banks … I can only surmise that Julian Assange’s claim to have revelations capable of bringing down some major banks has the finance sector in a tailspin. The fear of what he might have on them has flushed them out of the boardrooms where they have previously been free to manipulate the world economy and its citizens to their own massive gains. The fact they have taken off the gloves and gone into battle so publicly, and so obviously politically, shows how frightened they really are of us finding out just how they go about their business. By their own actions they have revealed far more than Assange and his band of misfits.
By their actions they have shown their true resolve, and this should make us very afraid. We the people are NOT in charge. When our governments give our money away to banks who then take away our free right to spend our money wherever we please, we are in truly troubling times. When the foundations of democracy are shackled and bound and man’s right to free speech is sledgehammered by our own governments, we must act.
I am a moderate and a businessman, which means I rarely want to agitate or aggravate. It’s not good for business and I usually have other things to concern myself with. And until Visa, Mastercard and PayPal told me I couldn’t donate to Wikileaks using my credit card I really didn’t care too much about Julian Assange and his seemingly voyeuristic revelations. I certainly didn’t plan to donate to his cause. But now, I am angry, and I am afraid. The banks have come out swinging. Governments have come out swinging. Cyber attacks are flaring up all around the world between government trying to shut down Wikileaks, and computer geeks trying to shut down governments.
In the middle is us, “we the people”. And “we” should let the banks know in no uncertain terms what “we” think of them taking such a politically bullying stance against one of “us”, with “our” money. Put simply, we should stop spending this Christmas using our Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal accounts. Let’s see what the clever bankers do when their busiest season turns to dust. I don’t think there’s any more public money available to bail them out. I’m certain they won’t start selling their holiday homes in the Hamptons to prop up their companies. No, it might just make them take notice of “we the people” their customers. Because after all, it is us who keep them in business.
So please, join me in using your own money this Christmas. Put the credit cards in the drawer til February (you WILL survive), and tell the banks what you think of their attack on your democratic rights by denying them your money.