Assange 'is no political refugee, he's just trying to avoid justice'

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Opinion digest: Assange extradition, British volunteers, economic pussyfooting, and Fifty Shades of consumerism

LAST UPDATED AT 11:12 ON Thu 16 Aug 2012

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IT'S SWEDEN THAT ASSANGE FEARS, NOT AMERICA
DAVID AARONOVITCH ON ASSANGE EXTRADITION
Whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange likes it or not, he is no political refugee, says David Aaronovitch in The Times. His supporters say he is being persecuted for practicing journalism. But the charges he faces in Sweden, and the reason for extraditing him from England, are alleged rape and sexual assault. The public argument is that, once there, he could be extradited like a legal pass-the-parcel to the US to face secret charges for offences which can carry the death penalty. "So a court in Stockholm could lead to a lethal injection in DC." Yet, it's easy to suspect that the real issue is that Assange's supporters are afraid of what might be said in his trial in Sweden to ruin his saintly image. It is not the US "military industrial complex" that frightens Assange, but his women accusers. We cannot know if Assange is guilty or not. "But justice demands that such cases be heard."

WE VOLUNTEERED FOR GAMES, NOT FOR BIG SOCIETY
MARY DEJEVSKY ON BRITISH VOLUNTEERING
Volunteering was warmly embraced at the London Olympics, writes Mary Dejevsky in The Independent. But the Olympic volunteer army is unlikely to stick around to help build David Cameron's Big Society. "London 2012 was a glorious one-off, but a one-off nonetheless." Britons wanted to counter negative impressions of their country, and be part of a once-in-a-lifetime event. But serious volunteering requires regular and long-term commitments of time – time that is often in short supply. Olympic volunteers also had the feeling that they were doing something that would not have been done without them. That might also be said of helping in hospitals or care homes, or with literacy programmes, but many feel that "the UK is not America, and that there are some things the state should do and be prepared to pay for". Cameron should be careful about trying to co-opt the Olympic volunteer spirit - "it could turn us off the whole idea".

BORIS IS RIGHT - STOP PUSSYFOOTING AROUND
DANIEL JOHNSON ON TORY ECONOMIC POLICY
As the dire state of the British economy becomes clear, it seems the government is fiddling while Rome burns, says Daniel Johnson in the Daily Mail. "No wonder Boris Johnson seized the chance to accuse the government of 'pussyfooting around' over the economy", before confirming that he is considering returning to Parliament. Whether or not Boris might prove a better leader, "time and excuses are running out over the performance of the British economy". Britain has lived beyond its means for decades under both Labour and Tory governments. Cameron needs to get a grip on state costs before the euro collapses and he no longer has the luxury of choosing which budget to cut back. More jobs could be created, if the burdens of regulation and taxation were eased, allowing the British economy to grow again. The games are over, "now our political Team GB must prove itself".

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY IS ABOUT SHOPPING NOT SEX
ZOE WILLIAMS ON CONSUMERISM AND SEXUALITY
If there's a dark side to E.L. James's erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, it isn't the sex, says Zoe Williams in The Guardian, it's that it identifies female sexuality with consumerism. The book's heroine Anastasia Steele's sexual identity is equated with her consumer choices, and those choices are given to her billionaire boyfriend who buys her everything. The "pornographic slavering" is not about sex, but diamond bracelets, jet skis and Power Macs. Steele wonders if accepting the gifts makes her a whore, but the real travesty is to let your sex drive "be all but erased by your consumer impulses". Like the recently departed Helen Gurley Brown's Cosmo magazine or even the cosmetic surgery industry, what appears to be about sex, having more sex or getting more sex appeal, is really just about shopping. The tragedy is that "narcissism, ever the advertiser's best friend, just spurs consumption". · 

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