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Flashback Beauty Salon
Courage is contagious but ducks will be immune.
When it comes to the case of Assange in Sweden, the Flashback forum has been of importance. But that was back then and not now. The Flashback forum of today is a huge disappointment. And as Assange still sits in a room in Knightsbridge, one must admit that Flashback research is not concluded. Yet the old 'diggers' have long since left Flashback, and left behind only a few stragglers who, as one former member put it, more resemble a beauty salon.
It's a comfy life.
The irony is thick: one of the early photos of Assange's 2010 summer in Sweden has the WikiLeaks founder shaking hands with Aftonbladet's editor-in-chief Jan Helin and sporting a t-shirt praising investigative journalism. But investigative journalism isn't something Flashback are interested in anymore. Instead they sit under their hair driers and engage in idle chitchat. And no more.
There have been good people at Flashback - years ago - but now they're all gone. The good people tired of the lack of support from the others who today remain, preferring to either speculate in bizarre conspiracy theories, or act as discussion coordinators and issue challenges to others. But they don't do anything; the good people finally tired and left.
Attempts were made from outside the forum to activate the remaining members, attempts that bring the old adage of 'spitting on a stone' to mind. The most they ever tried was report on what they'd read elsewhere - never once did they take the hints and do the investigative work that they and only they can do.
Former forum regulars could at times come with real gems. They found a plaintiff counsel weaving his way through rush hour traffic minutes before Ecuador announced they were granting Assange asylum; they found Expressen's editor misbehaving on the town; they provided first hand testimony of some of the attempts by Swedish media to use trivial news buzz to drown out important developments in the Assange case.
They even monitored the home estate of Marianne Ny and recorded her comings and goings. They were able to blag information from her secretary about the secret warrant against Assange that Ny will not admit to even today. They were able to identify the very airplane Assange sat on in the evening of 27 September 2010.
Incidental visitors came with good info as well, such as the location of the police docs in their original Swedish. Other visitors came with disinformation, and the good members were always able to expose them, such as one heinous attempt to lure Assange to Sweden, and another to sabotage Assange's local support network in the nation's capital. Good members found that forum moderators were working hand in hand with Swedish media and agencies beyond, diligently copying posts and private messages for their friends to see. These were all nontrivial and helpful efforts, even if none of them led to the long-awaited breakthrough.
But that's all long ago. Today at Flashback a wannabe detective sits and sifts through the day's MSM URLs and offers a few comments, whilst others post lengthy opinion pieces empty of content which serve only to disrupt forum flow, and no one in any way tries to move any closer to the obvious goal.
One forum member actually took on an assignment to dig at ground zero into the current location of Sofia Wilén; that's a year ago and nothing's been heard since, and the others aren't willing to do anything about it. There have been so many occasions when the good members - now long since gone - beseeched the others for assistance on larger very comprehensive projects, but always in vain. It's quite comfy to sit under a hair drier with a copy of Svensk Damtidning and not a care in the world. The rush of hot air in one's ears must surely be delicious.
Flashback is an epic fail of its initial promise to move journalism forward into the new Internet era, an era where people themselves find and spread the news. But that era is also in need of tireless investigative reporters, and the current clients in the Flashback Beauty Salon aren't about to break into a sweat to do something like that. They've instead redefined the forum charter - they made it into a beauty salon.
'We can discuss things, dear friends, but we don't have the time to change the world. Courage might be contagious, but let's leave that to others, OK? We don't need to get involved. Och nu fikar vi!'
One member refused to take on a very important assignment a year ago out of fear his status at Flashback could be jeopardised. Some thirty other members took the same 'risk' before him, all without incident. But this particular principled and courageous member weighed his hard-won status as a Flashback forum celebrity against the prospect of substantially helping the truth win out, and with little hesitation chose to protect his status. Julian Assange be damned.
Another member remarked just the other day that it's time for Assange to return to Sweden - this regardless of the threats hanging over Assange's head and the heads of so many others today: Brown, Hammond, Appelbaum, Poitras, Greenwald, and last but certainly not least: Harrison.
And those Flashback forum members aren't forum trolls either - those are the current regulars, the ones who, if anybody, should by now be very acquainted with the facts and circumstances in the case.
One wonders at times if these less than industrious individuals read anything. Onlookers are forced to assume they do not. As has been noted time and again at this site, Swedes have relatively high skills in English, yet eschew venturing outside the Duckpond for their news. It may take days for breaking stories to make it to the Duckpond, if they make it at all, and then they're mostly replicated in a highly watered-down form, and often ripe with inaccuracies. But until the stories are inside the Duckpond, until the coverage can be read in Swedish, those stories, no matter their importance, simply don't exist.
There have been tens of projects organised by people at this and other sites, all in an attempt to activate those last straggling Flashback forum members and salvage the work. Many expended great energy in an attempt to get them to finally do the right thing. All attempts ultimately failed. The current members prefer using the Assange thread as an extension of their meagre social lives, often with an ambition to achieve a sort of faux status amongst their forum peers, and not for the purpose of 'cracking' the case as the early members had envisioned, but solely for the purpose of having a bit of a chin wag over an afternoon cuppa.
All the while the fates of some very important, some very heroic people hang in the balance.
One of the most telling indications of the obsessive isolation of the beauty salon is their absolute confusion at anyone critical of what the US and NATO are currently doing in the Ukraine and the Crimea. For if you're against Obama, the US president who's persecuted more whistleblowers (and Julian Assange) than all previous presidents in the country's history combined, and if you're against the notorious Victoria Nuland, the radical neocon who's been involved in coups in Honduras and the Balkans, then you must be siding with Russia and Putin, and how can one do that? Those under the hair driers are forgetting that Julian Assange once had a television show on Russia's RT (and was attacked roundly as a result) and they're forgetting as well that none less than Edward Snowden today is safe, thanks to the same individual and the same country, from the clutches of a regime out west. That is if they're even aware of such things (which is doubtful).
Assange's life has been continually threatened by people in that country; approval of WikiLeaks is about half of what it is in any other country, including Russia; new threats on the life of Edward Snowden occur almost daily. Yet they never emanate from Russia, but always from the US, the UK, or their beloved Duckpond.
New revelations into NSA surveillance are literally published daily, yet the heads under the driers continue to be oblivious, still haven't heard of or used Tor, still use insecure webmail services bound to PRISM, and so forth. Blight and calamity always happen to others, never to anyone in the Duckpond.
When real work is not sufficiently attractive, then long meandering posts, ripe with sound and fury signifying nothing, are their presently preferred pabulum. Several hundred words through a new vapid screed no one will read, a recent member noted the following, all seemingly in one breath, all seemingly with no grasp of the bewilderingly tragic contradictions therein.
'I want to see Assange freed of false accusations, I want to continue to like the US and our freedoms in the west, and I wonder sometimes if I was too greedy to want more freedom of speech and transparency - the price gets very high!'
Courage is contagious.
To continue to 'like' the US after what's happened to Assange, to Manning, to Brown, to Kiriakou, to Hammond, to Appelbaum, to Poitras, to all the rest; after what's been revealed by Edward Snowden, after what's happened to Edward Snowden; after what's happened with Syria, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now Crimea and the Ukraine: that takes a right strong potion indeed, laced perhaps by the latent Nazism which thrives to this day, and it's illustrative of how the regulars under the hair driers are prone to think and act. Should the truth win out? Does it really matter? Or is it perhaps irrelevant, not really worth it, not really of any tangible consequence at all?
Or would uncovering the truth mean they'd have to take a stand, have to make an effort to uncover further uncomfortable truths? Would it mean they can't stay under their hair driers with Svensk Damtidning all day, can't continue liking the people and things they find so comfortable as long as they don't dig?
Flashback's forum is open to anyone. Membership's free. One may begin posting 24 hours after submitting an application. One can only hope the forum and the Assange thread are used by a fresh generation who take the forum's promise and responsibility to heart.