It’s not that Assange broke bad. It’s that he was never doing any of this on principle. He was driven by snickers and spite.
The exposé of Assange as washed up and sold out also spells the end of the old bacchanal on the internet, when its back offices and seedy speakeasies were a happy home for pranksters and poltergeists. These guys were young; they were heedless; and they mostly wanted to show they could pick any lock, pull down anyone’s pants and make the girls cry. Whether they were villains or heroes only depended on who was doing the crying.
In 2008, when Assange was the new toast of the left, he published email obtained by a 4chan hacker from then-vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s personal Yahoo account. The hacker might as well have rummaged through Palin’s fridge or sock drawer. The email, like old socks, was entirely forgettable. After Assange later leaked diplomatic cables, Palin called him “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands.”