Assange speaks to unmoved Union audience

Elsa Maishman 12 November 2015

Julian Assange spoke to the Cambridge Union yesterday evening, just over a month after the initial announcement of a referendum on his invitation.  

Yet despite the build-up, the Editor-in-Chief of Wikileaks spoke to a chamber with many free seats on the floor and a half-empty balcony above.

Despite vigorous opposition to Assange’s invitation, the large amount of private security personnel hired by the Union  were left idle, as no protests or commotion appeared. 

Assange opened the event with a speech on ‘The Challenges to Free Speech in the West’, comparing himself to Wilfred Burchett, the journalist who gave the first Western report of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. Assange claimed that like Burchett, he has learned to use his vilifcation at a comparative advantage, saying he no longer worried if his “shirt is absolutely spotless, because [people] throw mud at you every single day.”

As the floor opened up to questions, one anonymous person asked “Did you rape those women…?’’Assange responded that he was “surprised that [he] didn’t get a trigger warning”, continuing that “no woman has alleged rape against me” and claiming that the woman who made the accusation has since said that “she was rail-roaded  and didn’t want to make a complaint.” He said he “found it interesting that no one wants to listen to these women.”

Closing the event, Assange said it was a “small and ignorant minority who oppose free speech” who voted against the referendum. 

He later interrupted the Union president, Oliver Mosley, to say the idea that the Union did not respond to external pressure was “all strictly nonsense, absolute nonsense”, gaining the loudest applause of the night.