Has any single Wikileaks revelation gotten as much media coverage this past week as Assange himself? The one about Hillary ordering spying at the UN arguably did, but that was a one- or two-day story whereas every day I see new interviews with the great man ruminating pretentiously about transparency (here’s one where he calls for Obama’s resignation) and breathless British coverage about his whereabouts, his demands, his super secret “insurance policy” to be released in the event that he disappears, etc. I’m glad for the media’s sake that he’s finally coming forward so that this cult of personality can be gratified with an in-the-flesh cameo. It seemed cruel to have them hanging on his every word while denied even the meager satisfaction of a photo op.
Mr Assange is expected to voluntarily attend a police station within the next 24 hours, and will then appear in a magistrates’ court. He is wanted over allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.
He is currently in hiding in the south-east of England but police are understood to have the necessary paperwork to arrest him…
A European Arrest Warrant was issued by the Swedish last month but could not be acted upon because it did not contain sufficient information for the British authorities. A spokesman for Marianne Ny, the Swedish prosecutor, said the extra details were sent last week and were being processed.
Mr Stephens said he would fight any bid to extradite his client.
Coincidentally, this comes on the very day that the Times is wrapping up its nine-day release of the stolen diplomatic cables. If you thought we’d finally have to suffer an Assange-free news cycle, no worries — this party’s just getting started. Next stop is an extradition hearing. And high time too, writes Hitchens:
If I had decided to shame the British authorities on Iraq in 1976, I would have accepted the challenge to see them in court or otherwise face the consequences. I couldn’t have expected to help myself to secret documents, make myself a private arbiter of foreign policy, and disappear or retire on the proceeds. All you need to know about Assange is contained in the profile of him by the great John F. Burns and in his shockingly thuggish response to it. The man is plainly a micro-megalomaniac with few if any scruples and an undisguised agenda. As I wrote before, when he says that his aim is “to end two wars,” one knows at once what he means by the “ending.” In his fantasies he is probably some kind of guerrilla warrior, but in the real world he is a middle man and peddler who resents the civilization that nurtured him. This Monday, in two separate news reports, the New York Times described his little cabal as an “anti-secrecy” and “whistle-blowing” outfit. Such mush-headed approval at least can be withheld from the delightful Julian, even as we all help ourselves to his mart of ill-gotten goods.
It can’t really be withheld from the delightful Julian, though, because so much of Assange’s support stems from the fact of his outlaw existence. A faceless organization leaking diplomatic secrets is interesting, but dry; a Warhol-esque super hacker on the run in Europe for fear of the CIA is much juicier. Add the fact that it’s a superpower’s diplomatic secrets he’s leaking and you’ve got a prefab romantic David vs. Goliath narrative, which I figure explains roughly half of Assange’s support. (Here’s a vivid example of the Assange cult of personality at work.) The other half stems from fringier libertarians and progressives who share Assange’s goal of reducing American power but don’t want to be quite so crass in acknowledging their motive, and therefore will dress it up in paeans to transparency instead. If the State Department has to replace smart, capable diplomats because some of their more candid private remarks have now been made public, oh well. If national security ends up being compromised because State and Defense can’t share intelligence as freely or because lists of sensitive facilities are now being published thanks to Wikileaks, oh well. All for the greater good of shrinking U.S. influence abroad. Er, I mean “transparency.”
For your viewing pleasure, here’s another pop culture homage to the cult of Assange. Exit question via reader Matt K: If it’s true that Assange has distributed a secret file to his followers that’ll be decrypted in the event that Wikileaks is taken down, isn’t that a huge incentive for America’s enemies to … take Wikileaks down? The file allegedly contains dirt about Gitmo and BP; if you’re a nefarious Russian or Chinese agent, taking Assange out would stop him from leaking any of your files and would result in more damaging leaks against the U.S. It’s a morbid two-fer.