HomeArticleBelmarsh Prison Inmates Prove More Ethical Than Entire Western Empire

Belmarsh Prison Inmates Prove More Ethical Than Entire Western Empire

In some refreshingly good news about Julian Assange, WikiLeaks is reporting that its founder has finally been moved out of solitary confinement to a different wing in Belmarsh Prison where he can have normal social interactions with 40 other inmates.

This fantastic news lifts a huge weight from the chests of those of us who’ve been protesting Assange’s cruel and unusual treatment at the hands of an international alliance of governments bent on making a draconian public example of a journalist whose publications exposed US war crimes. Solitary confinement is a form of torture, and a UN Special Rapporteur has confirmed that Assange shows clear symptoms that he is a victim of psychological torture caused by his persecution from coordinated efforts by Washington, London, Stockholm, Canberra and Quito.

So what caused this shift in Assange’s treatment? Did the powerful empire-like alliance loosely centralized around the United States suddenly come to its senses and realize that torturing journalists for telling the truth is the sort of tyrannical abuse that it accuses other governments of perpetrating? Did officials in the British government bow to public pressure from the pro-Assange demonstrations which have been taking place in London month after month and have some faint flickerings of conscience? Did Belmarsh Prison authorities come to their senses after more than a hundred doctors warned that their cruelty was killing the award-winning publisher?

Why no. As it turns out, Assange was in fact rescued from the cruelty of this globe-sprawling empire by the concerted protests of high-security prison inmates.

“In a dramatic climbdown, authorities at Belmarsh Prison have moved Julian Assange from solitary confinement in the medical wing and relocated him to an area with other inmates,” said WikiLeaks Ambassador Joseph Farrell in a statement today. “The move is a huge victory for Assange’s legal team and for campaigners who have been insisting for weeks that the prison authorities must end the punitive treatment of Assange.”

“But the decision to relocate Assange is also a massive victory of prisoners in Belmarsh,” Farrell added. “A group of inmates have petitioned the prison governor on three occasions, insisting that the treatment of Assange was unjust and unfair. After meetings between prisoners, lawyers and the Belmarsh authorities, Assange was moved to a different prison wing — albeit one with only 40 inmates.”

Belmarsh is a notoriously harsh maximum-security prison full of violent offenders and prisoners convicted under anti-terrorism laws, one of many reasons that Assange supporters have so vigorously opposed his confinement there. What does it tell you about the society you are living in that this population has a superior moral compass to the people who are actually running things?

For years I’ve been arguing with Democratic Party-aligned liberals on one side saying that Assange is a Russian agent who deserves to be tortured, and a bunch of Trump-aligned right wingers on the other side saying their president is extraditing Assange for the good of the world. These are the two mainstream views on Assange within the western empire today. And a group of Belmarsh prisoners just proved themselves infinitely more ethical than any of them. They have a better sense of right and wrong than those running the empire, and they have a better sense of right and wrong than the propagandized apologists for that empire.

Not that this should surprise us; the US-centralized empire is spectacularly evil, and this this group of Belmarsh prisoners had a unique vantage point on Assange’s plight. The prisoners demonstrated their moral superiority to the mainstream public not because prison inmates are on average inherently better people than those on the outside, but because they were confronted with the reality of Assange’s situation instead of mainlining mass media propaganda about Assange. They were dealing with reality rather than narrative, so they addressed that reality. And they did so admirably.

The smear campaign that has been conducted against Assange by the political/media class has distorted public perception of his plight so severely that there are far more people seeing his case through a distorted understanding than there are people who actually understand what’s happening to him. We saw this illustrated very clearly when the aforementioned UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, admitted frankly that before going to investigate Assange’s case for himself he’d been propagandized by this same smear campaign as well.

“When I was first approached by his defense team seeking protection from my mandate in December last year, I was reluctant to do so, because, me too, I had been affected by this prejudice that I had absorbed through all these public narratives spread in the media over the years,” Melzer told Democracy Now in an interview last year. “And only when I scratched the surface a little bit, I saw how little foundation there was to back this up and how much fabrication and manipulation there is in this case. So I encourage everybody to really look below the surface in this case.”

Inmates of Belmarsh prison had a superior understanding of Assange’s plight because they wouldn’t have been affected by these narratives. They would simply have seen what’s right in front of them, with their own eyes: a nonviolent prisoner being caged in solitary confinement 23 hours a day for no discernible reason.

You couldn’t ask for a clearer example of the difference between fact and narrative than this. Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. Whoever can see beyond narrative can see the truth. We must all strive for this.


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Latest comments

  • Several reasons to like the basic story. Any version of the worm turning has a feel good factor. I’m also against any Prison Industrial Complex concepts or methods, regardless whether the victim/s have celebrity status.

    In the spirit of “I encourage everybody to really look below the surface in this case” here is a links to analysis and commentary on this issue written when Wikileaks had recently hit the Centre of the Psyclone site and blog that published the material are no longer online. The links go to the copies kept by the Internet Archive (the articles are long and link-dense):



  • They probably smelled a lawsuit coming, future medical costs, etc. and if Assange can show that they meant to do him harm (like they ignored appeals from other inmates and doctors) it could get really expensive.

  • Dan akefield blogged this about the relevance of Kurt Vonnegut today:

    ‘Next to The Beatitudes the lines he quotes most were from his fellow Hoosier Eugene V. Debs:

    “As long as there is a lower class, I am in it; as long as there is a criminal class, I am of it; as long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” ‘

  • This adds to my doubt about Julian’s legal team. Not accusing, just wondering, because after all this time, all they achieved for him (from what I read) is return of his ‘lost’ spectacles after months without them, a very inferior computer, and a bit more time for case preparation. If that is all a first rate team can get for him, I’m wondering what’s going on. Now it seems a group of prisoners gets him out of solitary where his lawyers couldn’t – did they even try? Lucy Komisar raised doubts his the legal team:

    ‘The network of lawyers in conflicting roles in Browder, Assange and U.S. government cases raises questions about Julian Assange’s defense.’


    and similar concerns are voiced here:


    • I used to know some people who handled defense cases and especially prisoner rights cases. When you are challenging the system head on, and forced to play on their court, you get used to a very low winning percentage. But you keep trying.
      And, they had at least one big win. Note in the column where the UN official got involved at the request of Assange’s defense team. The thing about that sort of work is, that you can lose a lot in a row but if you get even a partial win that can make all the difference.

  • A very fine post.

  • We need to invent a new adjective to describe the despicable Australian government for not demanding that Julian Assange be brought home to freedom. Since John Howard pushed his head up America’s backside all of our prime ministers have crowded in there behind him. Why is the disgusting American administration so holy to Australian parliamentarians? Australians pride themselves on being strong, fair and independent. Why does our parliament not reflect this? We don’t stand up for the downtrodden, we join the gang of bullies. How utterly cowardly and shameful.

    • When Kevin Rudd tried to assert some Australian independence, the powers that be made sure he lost his PM position. And it happened much more blatantly in the case of Gough Whitlam.

      • I understand why some of our prime ministers are afraid to confront the bully, accidents can and will happen. So being forced to step down from the office of prime minister was probably the healthy option for Gough and Kevin. What gives me the 150% cringe is when our leaders so gleefully suck up to the bully administration. By exhibiting that kind of sycophantic behaviour they are throwing the whole of Australia into the war criminal club. If they want to suck up to evil power they should do it privately after they leave office.

    • Money, the US military, espionage cabal set up in Australia is high pay jobs. As usual US buys compliant mercenaries

      • The selling of one’s soul and the buying of others is an age old industry ans sadly it continues to this day. When are people going to realize that committing evil acts might be financially profitable but there is absolutely no escape from the universal law that you reap what you sow. The psychopathic elite think they are wise but not wise enough to realize that they will eventually be obliged to right all of the wrongs they have committed. Didn’t they have someone to teach them that when they were young?

        • …From the other side of death they will be screaming for their families to give up the obscene accumulated wealth and live decent lives while on Earth. Unfortunately their families will not be able to hear them and the dynastic cycle will grind on.

  • i agree that it’s an uplifting news, but for reasons different from what you suggest, i think.

    uplifting because it validates humanity and wisdom of the people, minus the ghouls who think they are superior to the rest. people already (as always) understand what’s right or wrong, who their enemy is, and what to do to defeat them. uplifting because this small victory will help energize the peoples around the world into believing their own power again, knowing that we are many and they are only a few, and realizing that we just need to act with the power, instead of endlessly analyzing, pleading, waiting and complaining.

    BDS the enemy at every opportunity and in any way you can. and that should be all that is necessary.

    • the fight is not between the narrative and the fact, but between fundamentally different narratives.

  • It would have been a real surprise if the coalition of gangster states had exercised leniency towards Julian Assange and terminated the year-long solitary confinement better known as torture. Not these so-called civil heads of states cared about Assange’s health, but high-security criminals had the guts to protest the draconic treatment of a prisoner of conscience. These detainees proved more ethical than the highly acclaimed leaders of democracies. And they are far above the media rascals who smeared Assange year in, year out. Instead of Assange, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson. Scott Morrison and the other US minions should be locked up at Belmarsh prison. The only interesting question is how long they would survive. “Inmates of Belmarsh prison had a superior understanding of Assange’s plight because they wouldn’t have been affected by these narratives. They would have seen what’s right in front of them, with their own eyes: a nonviolent prisoner being caged in solitary confinement 23 hours a day for no discernible reason,” writes Caitlin Johnstone. Whoever can see beyond the narrative of the ruling classes can see the truth.

    • Do not fail to include Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden in your list of the culpable, for their U.S. administration certainly was an eager participant in the persecution of Mr. Assange.

      • And Hillary Clinton.

        • How far down the organization chart do you go. At some point, anyone in the State Department or its equivalent in any of those administrations might be guilty by association because they did not resign from as a matter of conscience. My comment was simply to fill a discontinuity in the U.S. presidential administrations (President Obama) and one estimated to have a good chance of heading the next U.S. administration but also filled a key position previously (Mr. Biden). Ms. Clinton was left out not because of having zero culpability, but because she neither set policy as POTUS nor at this point is she seen as ever having a chance to ever to be POTUS.

  • The French have been in a bad mood for more than a year and some French “yellow vests” are protesting for Assange outside Belmarsh prison in London:


    It shows that they know that all the decadent Western ruling elites are united as one against Mr Assange.

    It is decadence similar to the days of Noah, our days being the return of those days of Noah. The good news is that it means the return of Jesus is very near and I pray the Rosary to hasten His Glorious return because I have seen enough of all the bullshit.

  • Can’t help bur hearing alarm bells ringing in my head. How do we know this story is real and that it means Assange will be better protected among a larger group of prisoners. How do we know this isn’t a set-up where he becomes an easier target for those who want to harm him. Will he have easier access to his lawyers, to visitors and the information he needs for his defence against extradition? My mind will not be at rest until Julian Assange walks out of prison a free man.

    • “My mind will not be at rest until Julian Assange walks out of prison a free man.”
      How old are you?

    • My thoughts too–since when does a group of prison inmates have any power to change policy? I wonder if this is a ruse to arrange for him to be murdered in the night, blame it on one of the inmates (while rewarding the real perpetrator with freedom) and that way they don’t have to risk a US trial or continue the bad publicity–while still getting the message across to journalists about the penalty for exposing governmental crimes.

      • Indeed, when the guards are fast asleep and the video cameras are mysteriously inoperative.
        Then he will hang himself.

  • Welcome Everyone to the Chinese Year of the Rat which will last until February 11, 2021. Whatever kind of day you have today ( so the legend goes ) will set the tone for the entire year so try and avoid arguments and bad situations. Happy Chinese New Year Everyone!

  • Thanks so much for this excellent, informative article minus the usual profanity. Keep up the good work.

    • Profanity? What world do you live in?

  • Excellent article.
    Hopefully the new environment will help with Mr. Assange’s health.

  • I sure hope that Mr. Assange is not being set up to be killed by another prisoner. Such set ups happen a lot in prisons the world over.

  • I find it rather ODD, that the Yanks refuse to extradite the woman who killed the young Brit with her car, now alleging she has Diplomatic immunity even though she’s not a diplomat but just a diplomat’s wife. In other words, Americans can get off scott free after killing someone in a foreign country, and here we have Assange, who has killed no one, being attempted to extradited to the U.S. even though he is not a U.S. citizen.
    If the Brits had any brains at all, they’d DEMAND this woman be extradited or else Assange goes free.

  • Sounds good in theory, but unless you’ve been a male prisoner in a maximum security prison(ten foot thick stone walls, 40 feet high, mounted with machine gun carrying guards, you don’t know what’s really happening.I doubt that it would be anything nice

  • I am so grateful for people like Caitlin who are so willing to penetrate to the core and drag the rest of us into it
    Undying gratitude

  • People frequently believe they are powerless and can’t change anything. Yet, very few of us are as powerless as the inmates in a severe mental torture facility such as Belmarsh (using the phrase “high security” is just giving them power to control our words).
    Think about it, people locked in cages with guards and prison officials having the power over them. Those people are less powerful than pretty much anyone with a computer who is reading this excellent piece. And yet, they just made the Empire back up a step through their brave opposition. The most powerless in society did that. Of course, also working in concert with the brave folk who’ve been Assange’s defenders and constant defenders of the faith of Liberty and Freedom. But, this piece makes it sound as if it wasn’t for the relatively powerless within the prison standing up and making a determined stand, then this victory for the health and safety of Julian Assange would not have occurred.
    Remember that the next time someone tries to tell you that you are powerless to change anything!

  • “And a group of Belmarsh prisoners just proved themselves infinitely more ethical than any of them. They have a better sense of right and wrong than those running the empire, and they have a better sense of right and wrong than the propagandized apologists for that empire.”

    Yes, but they have no social status, assets or money to protect at all costs.

    Those who have a social status, assets and money must defend themselves against every threat to the “System” because the survival of the “System” is paramount for them to keep everything they have. And Mr Assange was a real threat to the “System”.

    And because we live in the return of the days of Noah just before the Second Coming of Jesus, the “System” is becoming more and more agressive defending itself because there is currently nothing of value outside of social status, money and assets for our contemporaries. I pray the Rosary to hasten the return of Jesus because I have seen enough bullshit.

  • Heroic action by those inmates! People only seriously protest and strike when their lives are made miserable. The general public will only rise up against the corrupt, oppressive, violent Anglo-American empire when the lives of the comfortable middle classes of the world are made miserable. Until then making people aware of the corrupt, oppressive, violent Anglo-American empire is the only thing dissidents can do at this stage, so let us keeping doing that!

  • I’d like to know who those prisoners were that pressurised the prison authorities, and what they were being locked up for. How many of them are political prisoners like Assange? How many of them are genuine criminals that have actually committed crimes that harmed other people? I suspect very few, if any.

    It tells us a lot about the character and integrity of the people the British government is locking up, and of course highlights the cruelty and brutality of the UK government as a US puppet state.

    What possible justification is there for putting a prisoner in solitary confinement, if not to deliberately inflict psychological harm?Of course it’s bloody torture! What else could it be?

    And what has happened to the ability of human rights organisations to put pressure on the UK government to have Assange treated humanely? The British government, along with the other US vassal states, now turns a blind eye to the brutality the the US has perpetrated worldwide for so long now, and ‘normalised’.

    • WHY does this come as a surprise to anyone ? The British Government has been founded on such behaviour. Why else would they ever have needed to banish their prisoners to all corners of the planet ? This behaviour is INGRAINED in the British legal fraternity, and has been for a long, long time now.

    • “The prisoners demonstrated their moral superiority to the mainstream public not because prison inmates are on average inherently better people than those on the outside,”

      No Caitlin, because many prison inmates ARE inherently better people than those outside. Especially prisoners like those incarcerated in Belmarsh.

      On the one hand, you’ll see an accurate description in one your links, the one that says Belmarsh is “UK’s Guantanamo Bay”, that makes it clear that the usual state torture practised on terrorist-accused means many – eg Islamic suspects, maybe a majority – are nothing of the kind, but get convicted & jailed anyway. That shouldn’t be surprising. It’s been happening everywhere long enough.

      On the other hand, prisoners may have committed violent crime – or may done so AND have effectively resisted brutality inside by organising with fellow prisoners – so ending up in maximum.

      What prisoners especially in a hellhole like Belmarsh have in common is an acute, often longheld, very well justified rejection of injustice, & the dogged solidarity with Julian Assange that Belmarsh prisoners so bravely organised is what sets them apart – as far more principled, with reason – than the majority of people outside.

      So they deserve the best praise you gave them – Go, resisters in Belmarsh! – not the soft-option gilding of the lily you resorted to in your sentence above.

      Apart from that, great article, Caitlin! I heard this news at Auckland’s protest in solidarity with Julian Assange today, but in nothing like the inspiring detail & context you’ve supplied. Good on you again, Caitlin!

      • Above, this isn’t an error, sorry, clicked on wrong thing. I posted it, cheers.

  • Not at all surprised by the prisoners’ actions. I remember back in 2003 when I attended a professional conference just after the Sarbanes-Oxley Act went into effect regarding corporate corruption & fraud. One of the speaker reported on research in which ethics exams were given to prison inmates and MBA students at top universities. The prison inmates scored consistently as being more ethical than MBA students.

    • Well, talk about clearing a low bar! MBA students, HA! That bunch couldn’t find the word “ethics” with both hands and a road map. They are not yet the corporate monsters that they will become. At that point, they are just young, extremely cocky, ambitious and very very greedy, They and their mentors psych themselves up to do anything to get it. Anything.
      If you are in a college bar with MBA students, sit with our back to the wall and always keep at least one hand on your bag. Personally, I am far more relaxed in a biker bar.

      • Very similar to young CIA recruits. Complete arrogant scum!

  • We are beginning to see more and more cases of humanity and a sense of dignity amidst inmates behind prison walls. While known for violence many prisoners are waking up to the archaic treatment besieged upon them by heartless bastards who are neither interested in justice or due punishment. For them it’s all a power game – who can claim the title of most loyal lapdog? I hope the day comes soon when we take a closer look at who the real criminals are and they aren’t rotting away in cages but live in mansions and sit in boardrooms chuckling about how they know what’s best for the hapless people. Time for a revolution is drawing closer.

  • Seconding the cautionary comment above.
    In a population of violent offenders—this might be putting him at risk—and thus providing a method for the TPTB to put him down with clean hands.

    I hope I’m wrong, and I’d like to believe the best of these inmates. I’m cynical still.

    • My first thought.

    • Nah. Funny how a guy who stands up to the most powerful nation on earth will have a lot of street cred in there. Even if they didn’t know who he was to start with, all the time in solitary will have earned it for him. Prisoners notice the guy who gets thrown straight into solitary and then not let out. Just that alone will convince a lot that there must be something ok about this guy. If the warden and the guards hate him that much, maybe he’s ok.
      Nobody will touch him. Anyone who tries will pay for it.
      This is good news. Now maybe he lives until his spring extradition hearing. Yeah!

      • If he ever reaches the USA, he will have serious problems. US prisoners aren’t nearly as sophisticated as their UK counterparts. In the US, as i understand it, those convicted of espionage are just one step above pedophiles and rapists in the prison’s bizarre hierarchy!

        • i’ve never heard that about people convicted of espionage. do you have a source?

  • Lets hope they are not trying to have him killed in the yard.

    • after epstein and soleimani can’t rule it out. it makes a nice story, but what pressure could the prisoners bring to beat on the prison administration if they said no? riot?

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