Roger Waters’s Defence of Julian Assange Constitutes a Moment of Genuine Activism in an Age of Celebrity Grandstanding

It has long been commonplace for celebrities to take positions on major public issues, although as with any trend, the ideals, sincerity and originality of such a movement or set of movements tends to become diluted over time. As a result, most celebrity so-called activism of the contemporary period remains centred around safe causes that are guaranteed not to generate any controversy other than that which they were designed to court, while at no time will taking positions on matters ranging from lambasting Donald Trump to “singing for climate change” or “dancing for feminism” negatively impact the career of the celebrity advocate in question.

Roger Waters however is as far as one can get from the vapid phenomenon of the sanitised celebrity activist.  Just as his music, poetry and visual stagecraft have always been superlatively original, ideologically transcendent, psychologically challenging and grounded in an unmistakable dedication to secular ethics, so too is Waters’s present day political activism characterised by the same. On causes ranging from opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine to Crimean self determination and the opposition of fascism in Brazil and the rest of South America to support for a genuine non-sectarian peace in Syria, Waters has taken on all the causes that most politicians in the western world do not dare touch, which is to say nothing of the celebrities who tend to play it far safer even than most mainstream politicians.

But it is not just his opposition to modern day ‘Citizen Kanes’ like Marc Zuckerberg and his unrelenting scrutiny of the Israel lobby that make Waters stand out. Roger Water’s long time advocacy for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is a further testament to Waters’s genuine belief in justice and humanity that was shaped by the loss of both his grandfather and father in each of the World Wars. Waters is in many ways the last of the anti-war musicians whose embrace of peace stands head and shoulders above advocacy for less profound and immediate causes. After all, what could be a more necessary and objectively immediate cause than preventing man from waging war on other men?

As Julian Assange was the publisher of some of the most important information relating to American and allied war criminality in theatres of illegal war like Iraq, it is only natural that Waters should defend the de-facto imprisoned anti-war activist, journalist and publisher.

During a stop in Ecuador as part of his Us + Them tour, Waters gave an open address to the country’s President Lenin Moreno who unlike his predecessor, has made Julian Assange’s life more difficult even as he remains in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

At a press conference in Quito, Waters said,

“He (Assange) needs to be protected, we can not let the United States, the United Kingdom and all the other acolytes of the evil empire incarcerate this great man and kill him which is what they will do. I would say (to President Lenin Moreno) that he has to keep the promise made by the previous president (Rafael Correa) to Julian Assange six years ago, when he gave him asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London”.

Waters described Assange as “one of the most important men on earth” and “a true journalist” before urging Ecuador to live up to the promise of former President Correa to protect Assange from persecution. This comes after it was revealed that US authorities have already secretly charged Assange with criminal acts after documents intended to be classified were discovered in the public domain.

At at time when the world rightly mourns the reality that Jamal Khashoggi ultimately gave his life for his principles, albeit unexpectedly, while Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to reveal to the world the full “naked truth” about Khashoggi’s apparently gruesome murder at the hands of Saudi consular officials, the US, UK and Ecuador continue to openly conspire against the mental and physical health of Julian Assange. This is to say nothing about the persistent violation of the findings of the United Nations whose officials have stated that Assange must be immediately freed and compensated for his arbitrary and cruel detention.

And yet while the media outcry around Khashoggi’s murder continues to dominate headlines, Assange is largely a forgotten man, having been betrayed by not only the nation that gave him asylum but having been even more forcefully betrayed by nation’s whose populations he liberated from a culture of systematic corporate media lies.

By speaking up for Assange in Ecuador’s capital, Waters has sent a clear message to President Lenin Moreno that his attempts to pull the rug out from under Julian Assange are being noticed and that such betrayal will not pass without public scrutiny.

As Assange remains a man who sacrificed his freedom and now his physical and mental health in order to bring the world the truth about governments which act as though they are above the law, the very least those with a conscience could do is to stand up for justice for Julian Assange, even at this late hour. Roger Waters has done this and has done it in a place where his voice could very well be heard by one of the major players in the entire sordid ordeal – Ecuador’s current President.

It is easy to speak freely about issues that are of little meaningful consequence. It is quite another matter to speak about issues that others are literally afraid to touch and to do so in the most visible manner possible. Roger Waters is a rare example of someone who uses his profile in attempts to elevate the global condition of justice while others merely seek to elevate their own celebrity status.

Much of the world listened to and still listens to classic albums like The Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall. If the profound meaning of these pieces of art has indeed meant anything to the millions that have listened, perhaps now it should be their turn to speak with Roger Waters in defence of the freedom of Julian Assange – a man whose only crime was telling the truth that the world needed to hear and still does need to hear.

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