When China laughs at you over freedom of speech and press, you know you have lost the moral high ground.
That's the case today as China detains journalist Cheng Lei: its government is highlighting the case of Julian Assange, and pointing to the hypocrisy of the West.
Within Britain's Belmarsh prison, an Australian citizen is suffering cruel and unusual punishment because in 2010 and 2011 he exposed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After a decade of character assassination by the US security state - deeply embarrassed by Assange's revelations - there are so many lies and myths that surround him that core principles have been lost.
Assange was charged with rape? A lie. He skipped bail? Technically true, but only to seek asylum and avoid a potential 175 years in jail. His revelations led to deaths? A lie. Even the US defence department says so.
He did a data dump? Lie. Assange was assiduous in seeking to protect names in the cables Wikileaks published, unlike other media outlets such as The Guardian.
This is purely a legal case? A lie. As Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, detained for 800 days in Iran, says, this is a political case, with consequences affecting journalists and publisher globally.
All these lies are summed up in the new book The Trial of Julian Assange, by Nils Melzer, the UN Rapporteur on Torture.
Anyone who believes this is a criminal story has been misled: it's a political trial dressed up as a prosecution.
Recall the context of Assange's stitch-up.
President Biden says we confront a bipolar world: the West v Rest. Stressed democracies facing authoritarian regimes and dictatorships.
But over the three decades since the end of the Cold War, the West has squandered its strategic and soft power as well as its moral authority.
In the '90s we gambled big, believing capitalism and democracy would reform our Cold War enemies, the former USSR and China. We gambled wrong.
Consequently, we lost 30 years on wasted triumphalism and Middle-East follies, from our failure to foresee the September 11 attacks to becoming entrenched in an illegal war.
Assange and Wikileaks were key historians to these failures. The snuff movie Assange uncovered, which Wikileaks titled Collateral Murder, showed the US military committing war crimes. No prosecutions there.
Yet rather than understand what went wrong, it's easier to bang up the messenger.
Many Australians might ask, why are we supporting a political prosecution brought by Trump, instigator of the Capitol Hill riots designed to undermine US democracy? Why not work to bring Assange home?
Even in the throes of the 2007 election, as public demands for the return of David Hicks grew and became a political problem, the ever-pragmatic John Howard got Hicks home. So why is Assange cast adrift?
Many in Labor (and conservatives, a nod to Barnaby Joyce) get this, while a few are stuck on the myths. Hopefully they will read Melzer, not US embassy briefs.
That Labor is contemplating media freedom laws while Assange languishes in maximum security is surely the sickest of jokes.
Freeing him is the least we can do to affirm Australia is a true believer in democracy and a free press. Even Obama understood this, when he pardoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Helping our US partners appreciate this would be an act of bolstering the alliance.
Finally, how does the West pretend to be the beacon of freedom when we act as we do towards Assange?
Our authoritarian opponents from Orban, Putin and Xi laugh at the great lesson in freedom and democracy the Assange tragedy demonstrates - giving them carte blanche to oppress.
Julian deserves a decent life. Due to US grandiosity and exceptionalism any one of us could be in his shoes. Failing to act means we stand condemned for giving dictatorships permission to torture at will. This would be a terrible legacy for a faltering West.
Worse would be to wake up and hear Julian Assange had died on our watch.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.