But throw a nonappealing guy with a cause into jail, and suddenly he becomes a hero. Assange already has a core group of supporters. (I count myself one.) The arrest and jailing will recruit new supporters from their sitting places on the fence; they’ll now say, “I don’t agree with everything he’s done or how he has done it, but these sex charges seem a little trumped up!” Assange’s opponents—the honest ones, at least—will rise to say that they’d love to see the pasty-faced bastard dumped into the Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., and become acquainted with the Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, FBI traitor Robert Hanssen*, shoe bomber Richard Reid, abortion-clinic bomber Eric Rudolph, and Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. But, they’ll add, not on Swedish sex charges.
Assange’s jailing changes the “conversation” from how-dare-he to how-dare-they almost as efficiently as if a deranged vigilante had put a bullet in his brain. Our culture loves to protect and defend “victims,” which is what the legal proceedings are turning him into. Overnight, he’s becoming an albino Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., writing his letter from jail. He’s a pint-sized Solzhenitsyn, fighting for freedom from the gulag. For the impressionable, he’s Henry David Thoreau, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi all wrapped up into one.