Activism, Assange & Ö Festival

Activism, Assange & Ö Festival

As part of a general invitation to WikiLeaks to contribute to key themes at the Festival, Julian Assange himself agreed to contribute, alongside Jennifer Robinson, WL legal advisor, and Kristin Hrafnsson, WL spokesperson (who in the end could not attend).

Why is this contribution relevant to Ö Festival, and what issues does it raise? FuturePerfect strives to greatly improve the conversation on sustainable living, with a focus on the changes and processes which either lead to it or away from it. It is clear that media, human rights, and activism are central to this focus, and organizations like WikiLeaks are redefining these arenas.

We are lucky to have had the input of individuals such as Jennifer Robinson, Julian Assange, and Kristin Hrafnsson to FuturePerfect this year – including their willingness to debate their positions and actions, in formats which allow for alternative voices and even direct criticism. It’s worth noting, also, that the personal legal circumstances of Julian Assange are of no relevance to the conversations of the FuturePerfect project, and formed no part of the discussion. 

Before Ö Festival, at Almedalsveckan, Jennifer Robinson and Kristin Hrafnsson debated Medias role for change and sustainability at a Forum with Jeremy Bowen of the BBC, Alexander Bard, Måns Adler of Bambuser, and journalist Frederik Wass from the Makthavare network. At the Ö Festival itself, there was a replay of the Media debate, with most of the same people, and further Forums and Seminars including Activism and Human Rights.

At the Activism and Human Rights Forums, contributions came from

  • Blaine O’Neill, “biotactical architect,” activist and co-producer of FuturePerfect
  • Richard Reynolds, The Guerilla Gardener
  • Tom Strömberg, member of the ethical council at JAK Medlemsbank
  • Samuel Jarrick, opera singer and co-spokesperson of KlimatAktion
  • Jennifer Robinson, Director of Legal Advocacy, Bertha Foundation, legal advisor to Wikileaks and Julian Assange
  • Julian Assange, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Wikileaks (via special pre-recorded audio)
  • moderator: John Manoochehri, architect Resource Vision, founder of FuturePerfect

In the Activism and Human Rights Forums, the main emphasis became both a justification and necessary refinement of the definition of activism – including disagrements around these points. 

There was a general agreement that political processes are not sufficiently effective, nor representative, of popular will and that this provides a necessary ground for activist engagement in social change and progress, with the most comprehensive critique of the status quo coming from Julian Assange.

Assange was particularly critical of the media in all its forms, as an unaccountable and unrepresentative distorting force in the public space. Richard Reynolds, himself a marketing man in his day job, was more ready to adopt the codes and machinery of marketing and mainstream media, on the grounds that this is a proven way to mobilise people at a large scale, although with risks attached. Reynolds also directly challenged what he sees as Assange’s way of ‘using’ the media around his personal situation.

Blaine O’Neill reminded everyone – based on recent experiences with the #Occupy movement – that the deployment of one’s own body in space is the most necessary and vital component of activism. Being the change means, ultimately, being there. In his words also, individual activism that goes beyond generalised ‘clicktivism’ is a form of renewable energy.

Jennifer Robinson pointed out that she doesn’t brand herself an activist, but if working passionately for human rights, justice, the rule of law, due process, and human development including sustainability is an ‘activist’ standpoint, she is content to be described in that way. 

Ultimately, there was a strong agreement (without Assange who had recorded a special item for the Festival inside the Ecuadorian embassy but was not live online to take questions) that activism has, as its unique potential, to be an authentic response – coming from a very human and uninstitutionalised place inside individuals, even if expressed collectively – to the conditions of the world around. 

Assange’s full audio contribution, of which slightly more than half was played during the event, is below (click link for transcription of text).