Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sexual Assault and Peace--Opposites, Yes?

Apparently not to some people out there.

I just learned on Feministing that Julian Assange has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Lori, at Feministing, asked their readers this question:
What do you think about Assange being nominated for the peace prize? Is it a slap in the face to opponents of rape and assault? Or a well-deserved nod to his role in helping to spur the Arab Spring, among other things, through information sharing?
I thought for sure--on an extremely feminist website (perhaps the leader of the feminist blogosphere) with full comment moderation, I would see a lot of people saying something along the lines of "Well he hasn't been convicted, but if the allegations prove true, then this is really problematic." However, I saw this comment, which has received quite a bit of support:

There’s nothing contradictory at all about Assange being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. He did work possibly deserving a Peace Prize and he also possibly raped two women. Doing one doesn’t mean he didn’t do the other; people are more complex than that.

Roman Polanski was a really good director (and won awards for it) and also raped a girl. Mike Tyson was a really good boxer (and won awards for it) and also raped a woman. Julian Assange did some really good humanitarian work (that he may win an award for) whether or not he raped two women. None of that is any kind of insult to their victims because none of that has anything to do with their victims.

I feel like I'm constantly grappling with this critical question: If someone does something really shitty, does it negate the good stuff they've also done? This is undoubtedly an ethical dilemma and I still think there's no clear cut answer. It seems to be much more of a case-by-case personal opinion thing.

But COME ON. Does this commenter really not see that the comparisons he* has drawn don't hold up with this case?

I get that Assange hasn't been convicted and that is a big part of this situation, but let's put that aside for a minute. Let's just take an example in which someone DID rape two women and then won a Noble Peace Prize. Is this not obviously contradictory to anyone else? It's not the same as Roman Polanski winning Oscars or Mike Tyson winning boxing awards, at all. Rape is inherently the opposite of peace, so why should a rapist be honored for peace? I can see how a rapist director could make a good movie. Personally, I wouldn't watch it--I'd avoid his works like the plague, but from an objective view point I can see how it is possible that a rapist could create great art. Or how a rapist could be a really good boxer.

In this way, a rapist could do peaceful things, but to honor him for peace? Seriously...come on. I'm not saying that Assange hasn't done some great things for the world. I'm not saying that his charges mean we should forget that. I am saying we don't have to give him a freaking Nobel Peace Prize.

Ah well it's just a nomination, so I suppose I should just get over it for now. I mean, after all, this also happened...

Adolf Hitler, was nominated once in 1939 by E.G.C. Brandt, member of the Swedish parliament. Brandt changed his mind, however, and the nomination was withdrawn in a letter dated 1 February 1939.

*I say he because the commenter had a stereotypically masculine screen name.


  1. It's an interesting conundrum. To give the Nobel Prize to Barack Obama and Assange in such a short period would be a huge hit to the Nobel selection committee.

    I think a fair compromise would be to nominate Wikileaks as an organization for the prize. Wikileaks as a concept and a movement will last much longer than Julian Assange.

  2. Does anyone take the Nobel Peace Prize seriously anymore since they gave it to Obama? I mean, I guess he is a lot better than the presidents the USA had before, but he is the head of a state that has the death penalty, that spends more money on war than on education, that tortures people and holds them captive without conviction (oh, and kills them) - that does not sound very peaceful to me.
    (Although, of course, if wikileaks/Assange would get the Prize, that would maybe lead to Bradley Manning being freed...)


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