Before we get into refuting the specific points of disinformation, I’d like to share a few tips which I’ve found useful in my own experience with engaging people online who are circulating smears against Julian Assange.
1 – Be clear that your goal is to fight against a disinformation campaign, not to “win” or to change the mind of the person you’re arguing with.
If our interest is in advancing the cause of truth, we’re not trying to get into arguments with people for egoic gratification, nor are we trying to change the mind of the smearer. Our first and foremost goal is to spread the truth to the people who are witnessing the interaction, who are always the target audience for the smear. Doesn’t matter if it’s an argument at the Thanksgiving dinner table or a Twitter thread witnessed by thousands: your goal is to disinfect the smear with truth and solid argumentation so everyone witnessing is inoculated from infection.
So perform for that audience like a lawyer for the jury. When the smearer refuses to respond to your challenges, when they share false information, when they use a logical fallacy, when they are intellectually dishonest, call it out and draw attention to what they’re doing. When it comes to other subjects there are a wide range of opinions that may be considered right or wrong depending on how you look at them, but when it comes to the Assange case you can feel confident that you’ll always have truth on your side. So use facts and good argumentation to make the smearer look worse than they’re trying to make Assange look, thereby letting everyone know that this person isn’t an honest and trustworthy source of information.
2 – Remember that whoever you’re debating probably doesn’t really know much about the claim they’re making.
Last night I had a guy confidently assuring me that Assange and Chelsea Manning had teamed up to get Donald Trump elected in 2016. Most people just bleat whatever they’ve heard people they trust and people around them saying; when they make a claim about Assange, it’s not usually because they’ve done a ton of research on the subject and examined possible counter-arguments, it’s because it’s an established doctrine within their echo chamber and it may never have even occurred to them that someone might question it.
For a perfect example of this, check out the New York Times‘ Bari Weiss experiencing an existential meltdown on The Joe Rogan Experience when the host simply asked her to substantiate her claim that Tulsi Gabbard is an “Assad toadie”. Weiss only ever operates within a tight establishment echo chamber, so when challenged on a claim she’d clearly only picked up secondhand from other people, she turned into a sputtering mess.
Most people you’ll encounter who smear Assange online are pulling a Bari Weiss to some extent, so point out the obvious gaps in their knowledge for the audience when they make nonsensical claims, and make it clear to everyone that they have no idea what they’re talking about….
It’s not their fault. The social control apparatus arrayed against us by the permanent government is full spectrum and state of the art, and if the person is ensnared in it they really are pretty emotionally and mentally handicapped. Be patient and gentle and they might come around. Above all, avoid activating their perimeter defenses.