Right up until today, I was kind of a supporter of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
He’s clearly mad, of course – this single-minded crusade of his is tinged with an unmistakable streak of narcissism and self-importance.
You can tell when you listen to his interviews – he grossly overinflates the significance of the documents he’s about to leak across the Internet, especially when you consider that many of them turn out to be, like the snarky US diplomatic cables, more of an embarrassment than a revelation.
But his hyperbole is only matched by that of his detractors - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called him a “high-tech terrorist”, while New York’s representative Peter King, the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is urging that Wikileaks itself be reclassified as a ‘terrorist organization.’
Those fighting words match the sheer transparency in which the United States government has set out to try and destroy Assange – which reveals more about he shadowy working of government than any documentation he could post on his site.
Trumped up rape charges, cyber-attacks on his Internet domain and the systematic termination of any of his US partnerships (Amazon, eBay and PayPal) basically establish that the rule of law is null-and-void when the ‘powers that be’ want to eliminate a liability.
It reminded me of something somebody wrote about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II – that once you’ve awoken the slumbering bear that is the United States, you’re quite powerless to avoid being crushed beneath one of its great paws.
And that's the fate awaiting Julian Assange. He's backed himself into a corner - and there’s no wriggling out of his dilemma now. He can keep on the run and keep releasing documents – but none of his revelations are going to save him.
Sooner or later, he’ll get caught and punished. We can only hope it’ll be in a court of law. Personally, I think it’s far more likely he’ll be found dead in a hotel room somewhere (and, like the cyber attacks and rape allegations, it will be a ‘coincidence’ the United States government won’t be too anxious to distance themselves from.)
And while I don’t wish anybody dead, I can’t help but think he’s brought this upon himself.
Wikileaks was once a site with enormous credibility – releasing secrets that the public had a right to know.
Nowadays, it’s more of a farce – none of the ‘diplomatic cables’, for example, revealed anything aside from the fact that US diplomats size up political opponents in much the same way corporate CEOs discuss their rivals in private emails.
(In fact, fans of James Bond might spot similarities between the snarky descriptions the US diplomats used to measure foreign leaders, and the pithy anecdotes Ian Fleming created for the supposedly ‘top secret’ dossiers on James Bond’s adversaries. Foreign services apparently all speak the same language.)
Today’s ‘revelation’ is the first I found truly troubling as a resident of the United States – it was a ‘terrorists shopping list’ of America’s most vulnerable infrastructure sites – revealing what damage could be caused if each one was targeted.
A Canadian hydroelectric plant is described as a "critical and irreplaceable source of power to portions of the northeastern United States," the list detailed, while “a Siemens factory in Germany is responsible for essentially irreplaceable production of key chemicals."
It’s information that is of little passing interest to the average American (except to identify just how fragile America’s unfunded infrastructure is) but of immense value to the country’s enemies. While I’m a big supporter of freedom of information, even I have issues reconciling why this information needed to be made available – and quite so prominently.
It all circles back to thinking that Julian Assange is mad – because he’s now more obsessed with releasing classified information into the public eye than actually filtering what information people want/need to know.
I feel he’s started just publishing documents for the sake of proving how clever he is, and showing how deep into classified circles his informers go. He’s replaced idealism for narcissism – and that’s why public opinion is turning so sharply against him.
And that will be his undoing.
Without the support of public interest – and a general consensus that what’s he’s doing is for the ‘greater good’ – there’s no reason why a disinterested nation would do or say anything to prevent Assange’s enemies from squishing him like a rather annoying bug.
Which is inevitably what will happen to him.