To those unfamiliar with O’Reilly, you can read accounts of his behaviour here, here and here.
In short, O’Reilly is a supporter of Julian Assange. He continually misgenders Chelsea Manning and refers to her as Bradley. He intimidates and belittles women who challenge him. He called one trans woman who dared challenge his behaviour a “bloke in a dress”.
To many, his support for Julian Assange may not be controversial. This is why it matters:
Assange’s team is taking a conciliatory line. They will not challenge whether the alleged victims felt he was “disrespectful, discourteous, or disturbing”.
In one case Assange is accused of having sex with a woman without a condom – but Emmerson [Assange’s defence barrister] says deceiving someone on this issue is not illegal under English law.
Emmerson said earlier that he was not challenging the fact that they “found Mr Assange’s sexual behaviour in these encounters disreputable, discourteous, disturbing or even pushing towards the boundaries of what they were comfortable with”. But the sexual activities that occurred had taken place with consent, he argued, and, unlike in Sweden, could not be criminalised in the English jurisdiction.
Assange’s defence team admits his behaviour was “problematic”. They do not deny Assange’s actions. Their argument is based purely on differences in the law between Sweden and England. More to the point, they concede that his behaviour would lead to a charge of rape under Swedish law but not under English law. They argue that Assange should not be charged with and tried for rape because he did it in Sweden and now he’s in England. Further, Assange's defence does not contend that he penetrated one of the women while she was sleeping. This is rape.
If this doesn’t disturb supporters of Assange, then it should. Julian Assange has, through his defence team at his extradition hearing, admitted that he committed rape under Swedish law. So, despite the accounts of the survivors, despite the admissions of Assange’s own defence team at his extradition hearing, why do people continue to support this vile man? Why has a cult been built around him? And why do people on the left continue to give vile bastards like this a platform?
Despite all the accounts, despite the behaviour of these people and their obvious disregard for the opinions and the safety of the women who challenge them, horrible fuckers like this are still allowed into our spaces. And it’s got to stop right now.
It’s time for the left to stand up and stop accepting this pro-Assange bullshit because of its tenuous links to anti-establishment politics. The man is an admitted rapist. It’s time for the left to stop arguing that class alone is the decisive factor in all our oppressions. If class antagonisms disappeared tonight, would women be any freer, any more valued, in the society that resulted? The society we build will reflect the movement that builds it. While working-class women are ignored, belittled and shouted down, while we value the word of a man who called a trans woman a “bloke in a dress” over working-class feminist voices who have been victims of his disgusting behaviour, we accept all of the patriarchal bullshit that makes rape culture possible and keeps women “in their place”.
O’Reilly’s fundraiser in Liverpool will be challenged on the basis of his behaviour towards women and on the basis of his support for Julian Assange. There is no question that his misogyny and his support for Assange are linked. If you support Chelsea Manning, a fundraiser without the input of this horrible bastard might be a good idea. If O’Reilly’s fundraiser goes ahead, there WILL be strong opposition. For anyone who believes women are as important a part of the movement as men, for anyone who has ever called themselves a feminist or believe themselves to be an ally to feminism, you need to make a choice: stand with women against the likes of Assange, and against his supporters, O’Reilly included, or move aside. It is possible to be for Chelsea Manning and against Ciaron O’Reilly. It is possible to be against Julian Assange and the establishment. Your enemy’s enemy is not necessarily your friend.