This month, the fascist government that Washington has installed in Ukraine arrested an elderly man, claiming that he was a "terrorist." All that the man did was post a red flag on social media, and say that he wished for a return of Soviet power over Ukraine. This is considered by the regime to be an equivalent of a call for "violent overthrow" of the government, and therefore an act of "terrorism."
This isn't the only place within the range of U.S./NATO imperialist influence where people can be prosecuted simply for expressing desire for a different government. The Palestinians living under Israeli occupation are regularly jailed for their social media posts, with one example being a Palestinian citizen of Israel who was arrested in 2015 for publicly writing that "Jerusalem is Arab." For the reactionary states which are most obsessed with stamping out the efforts towards national liberation and proletarian revolution, the actions of those who want freedom don't even matter-all that matters is the idea, the seed of dissent in their minds which can theoretically lead to them becoming an actual threat.
The persecution of Assange is how the U.S. government, as well as the governments of all the countries still under Washington's imperial thumb, will establish such a total clampdown of thoughts deemed to be a danger to the current order. As Chris Hedges wrote this week, the precedent that the U.S. will set by prosecuting Assange under the Espionage Act will by extension criminalize all other whistleblowers in the same way, rendering an entire crucial area of journalism illegal:
The publication of classified documents is not yet a crime in the United States. If Assange is extradited and convicted, it will become one. Assange is not an American citizen. WikiLeaks, which he founded, is not a U.S.-based publication. The extradition of Assange would mean the end of journalistic investigations into the inner workings of power. It would cement into place a terrifying global, corporate tyranny under which borders, nationality and law mean nothing. Once such a legal precedent is set, any publication that publishes classified material, from The New York Times to an alternative website, will be prosecuted and silenced.
And as the actions of the Biden administration have shown, Washington won't stop until this point is reached. The Justice Department has demanded the U.K. extradite Assange to the U.S. despite the conclusion from a U.K. court that Assange has been rendered suicidal because of his treatment. The U.S. simply won't stop until the fatal precedent is set, throwing out all pretenses of concern for human rights and legal norms.
Think of the sheer range of journalistic material that others could be jailed and tortured for publishing if Washington succeeds. The Downing Street memo, the classified 2002 meeting memo between government officials which revealed intent to lie the public into war with Iraq, wouldn't be able to be revealed to the public under this legal standard. The Drone Papers, the series of classified documents detailing Obama's drone atrocities which were provided to The Intercept by a whistleblower, wouldn't be able to be exposed either. At least not without a choice on the part of those publishing them that they're going to go to prison for telling the truth.
And even those brave reporters who continue exposing classified materials will have the content they publish be subjected to swift removal by the authorities. The U.S. national security state, in partnership with the Big Tech companies it controls, has already created a thorough system for censoring disfavored content. After the unprecedented online censorship measures these companies have passed throughout the last four years, anti-imperialist media outlets and journalists can get their accounts removed, have their offending posts be deleted, have their websites be made deliberately hard to find within web searches, or be demonetized with very efficient swiftness. The next step is automatically erasing content based on judgements from the government that the content is illegal to publish.
This tyrannical new order will exist within the entire range of U.S./NATO imperialist jurisdiction, which according to the empire's recent plans is soon going to be officially extended to all the imperialist countries in the Indo-Pacific hemisphere. The "NATO 2030" plan is going to assimilate south Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand into NATO, with the organization's jurisdiction over these places taking on an internal legal character. When NATO's Secretary General said this month that this plan "guards" the alliance's "strengths and values" with one hand and "embraces change with the other," he was referring to the solidification of new norms in repression like the one the Assange case is introducing.
These norms will also apply to remaining imperialist neo-colonies like India, Colombia, and Brazil, which might use the Assange case's internationally loose precedent to prosecute their own whistleblowers or extradite them to torture facilities like Belmarsh (where Assange has been kept). The imperialists want to expand the intense climate of speech suppression which exists in places like Ukraine and Israel towards the entire global range of imperial control.
It's telling that these places with the least freedom are places right on the doorstep of where imperialist wars are being waged. Israel silences all direct dissent because it's fighting off a Palestinian war for liberation from Zionist settler-colonialism, and Ukraine does the same because it's been fighting an anti-Russian proxy war on behalf of Washington since 2014. Their repression has a very clear function: to keep these U.S. satellite states stable while conflicts rage right next to them. Why are the U.S. imperialists so determined to make these kinds of drastic rules suddenly apply to everywhere else that Washington controls? Why the quick shift towards a warzone-esque repressive system in parts of the world that aren't even experiencing wars?
It's because the imperialists are reacting to a rapidly escalating potential for class struggle amid the recent economic crash, rapid rise in wealth inequality, and decline of U.S. geopolitical influence. The contradictions of capitalism and imperialism are driving down the conditions of the masses both in the core imperialist countries and in their neo-colonies, making proletarian revolution into a practical necessity within these deteriorating societies.
And the only recourse for the ruling class is to preemptively switch towards the kind of dictatorial legal system that you would expect to exist in a country which is fighting a war directly outside of its borders. The imperialists are acting as if they're already under siege from within all corners of their territory, treating journalists who step too far out of line as enemies who must be annihilated by any means necessary.