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Julian Assange: A Star Goes Dark

Two years ago, Julian Assange was the most infamous man in the world. Discussions of Assange and Wikileaks attempted to plumb the mysteries of this renegade crusader for truth and honesty above all else. Hero to some, villain to others, Assange, most agreed, was a powerful idealist. But now, two years later, the Assange saga is getting more and more comical. He is now hiding from British and Swedish authorities in the Ecuadorian embassy. Writes Yahoo News:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is beyond the grasp of British authorities as long as he is holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy, the government said Wednesday. But he faces arrest if he steps outside.

Police said Assange had violated the terms of his bail, which include an overnight curfew, and “is now subject to arrest.” Police officers were stationed Wednesday outside the Edwardian apartment block that houses the small South American country’s London embassy.

Does Assange really believe that Sweden is a country without justice, where he will not get a full and fair investigation and, if it goes past that, a trial?


The pseudo-revolutionary turned Russian television propagandist benefited from the full legal protections of the British court system. In Sweden his rights would also be well protected. But Assange doesn’t want ordinary justice. He believes he is due something special.

It’s worse. When Assange refused to redact the names of individuals from his Wikileaks documents, he exposed people all over the world to retaliation from angry governments. He didn’t give these people a right to appeal, a right to argue that their confidentiality should be protected. He didn’t give them a chance to argue that the documents were inaccurate or portrayed them unfairly or were taken out of context. A citizen of a tyranny who criticized his or her ruler in a private talk could have the whole thing made public with no protection from the oh-so-idealistic Mr. Assange.

But if other people deserve zero protection, Assange appears to believe that he deserves much, much more protection than ordinary citizens can have. Like the fat cat New York hotelier who said that “Taxes are for the little people,” Assange believes that only the little people need to live within the law. His place is both above and outside it.

Governments try to keep secrets; journalists and others try to reveal them. Both say they do what they do in the public interest and sometimes both are right and both are wrong. But good governments and good journalists work within a set of limits and laws; this is something Assange won’t do.

Perhaps he is seeking asylum because he knows he is guilty and knows Sweden has the goods on him. Perhaps in his panicky, paranoid frame of mind, Sweden is part of the great universal plot to destroy him. Either way, he’s a mess, and it’s unlikely that he has much left to contribute to the world.

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  • Art Deco

    In fairness to Mrs. Helmsley, she was convicted of paying $55,000,000 in taxes rather than the $57,000,000 she owed.

  • vanderleun

    “Now you would not think to look at him
    But he was famous long ago
    For playing the electric violin
    On Desolation Row”

  • Tom Richards

    I say paranoid all the way. He may well be factually guilty, but even if he is I can’t imagine any way it could be proven beyond reasonable doubt. He believes the prosecution is politically motivated and that the end game will see him extradited to the States and ultimately executed.

  • thibaud

    Assange was always a mix of the comical and the sinister, as shown two years ago by ace reporter John Burns of the New York Times and the New Yorker’s Raffi Khatchadourian. It was the NYT and Der Spiegel who first exposed Assange as, in the NYT phrasing, a “Peter Pan figure” who among other things promoted ludicrous theories of Stasi conspirators inside today’s German government.

    Nothing better shows the superb professionalism, expertise, and superior judgment of the best of the “legacy media” than the way the New York Times, Der Spiegel and, yes, the Guardian handled the Wikileaks documents and the Assange story.

    We owe a huge thank you to the New York Times especially. Keller’s balanced, thorough, no-spin account of the whole affair is here – this is a good insight into why the “legacy media” is so extremely important:

    The Times in particular stands out: as Bill Keller recounts, they put their very best military reporters on the story, including Eric Schmitt, and sifted through the massive document trove with great care and discretion, redacting sensitive info and publishing a well-crafted narrative of, among other things, the real story behind the 2007 helicopter gunship firings on the Baghdad crowd and a compelling narrative of the experience of one US outpost in Afghanistan.

    Here’s Bill Keller:

    “We posted the articles on the next day at 5 p.m. — a time picked to reconcile the different publishing schedules of the three publications. I was proud of what a crew of great journalists had done to fashion coherent and instructive reporting from a jumble of raw field reports, mostly composed in a clunky patois of military jargon and acronyms.

    “The reporters supplied context, nuance and skepticism.

    “There was much in that first round of articles worth reading, but my favorite single piece was one of the simplest. [NY Times ace CJ] Chivers gathered all of the dispatches related to a single, remote, beleaguered American military outpost and stitched them together into a heartbreaking narrative. The dispatches from this outpost represent in miniature the audacious ambitions, gradual disillusionment and ultimate disappointment that Afghanistan has dealt to occupiers over the centuries.”

  •!/suhrmesa Suhr Mesa

    Assange has little if any selfAwareness.

  • Luke Lea

    “Does Assange really believe that Sweden is a country without justice, where he will not get a full and fair investigation. . .”

    I guess you haven’t read about the reign of politically correct radical feminism in Sweden. The mind-forged manacles are strong there just now.

  • Lorenz Gude

    I think it is inaccurate to call Assange and idealist. I think he is motivated by power and he has a destructive hacker ethos that is closer to the bomb throwing anarchists of 100 years ago than the original muckraking journalists of that same era. He wants trouble, not truth. Don’t underestimate him. He is a nasty piece of work.

  • amspirnational

    thibaud says:
    June 22, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Assange was always a mix of the comical and the sinister….

    Kind of describes the criminally inept American invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on purposefully cherrypicked intelligence, culminating in undefeated insurgencies still decimating the country now in Iran’s sphere of influence, with
    an overstretched and demoralized America
    more unpopular and mistrusted in the world by far than in circa 2001…

  • IcePilot

    “… describes the criminally inept American invasion …” – absolutely false! The invasion was extremely successful and completed in less time than even the optimists expected.

    “… and occupation of Iraq, …” – True, although the story has many chapters left.

    “… based on purposefully cherrypicked intelligence, …” – Some cherrypicking, as is always true. But false in the sense that intelligence agencies around the world supported the basic conclusions.

    “… culminating in undefeated insurgencies still decimating the country now in Iran’s sphere of influence, …” Yeah, it was so much better back when Saddam had those insurgents under control. Iraq is not being decimated. And any increase in influence wrt Iran is primarily due to President Obama deliberately screwing up the departure of the US.

    “… with an overstretched and demoralized America more unpopular and mistrusted in the world by far than in circa 2001… …” – Certainly stretched, but speak for yourself as to being “demoralized” (and perhaps there are other, anticipatory personal concerns regarding future political events that are coloring your perception??). President Obama is still more personally popular than GWB, but far less than in 2001. And the mistrust, plus respect, is well below that of 2008.

  • IcePilot

    And any decrease …

  • Corlyss

    Unfortunately, Assange has made the British look like complete idiots.

  • Crocodile Chuck

    “Perhaps he is seeking asylum because he knows he is guilty and knows Sweden has the goods on him.”

    What’s the charge sheet? Having sex without a condom? Only in America………

  • Luke Lea

    Color me wrong, but I thought Assange was being charged with sexual misconduct in connection with a one night stand with a Swedish feminist who was miffed because he also slept with one of her girlfriends, or something like that. Do I have to look it up? It had nothing to do with WikiLeaks except that she was attracted by his celebrity status.

  • Luke Lea
  • Luke Lea

    Another misleading headline as reported by Lubos Motl:

    “Dennis Overbye of the New York Times wrote one of the articles about the possible announcement of the discovery of the God particle at ICHEP 2012 in Melbourne between July 4th and July 11th:


    First, I [Lubos Motl] find this whole “sport” of talking about the Higgs rumors unbelievably stupid. In December 2011, we were told that there were excesses and the overall combined statistical significance of the excesses could have been seen to be 4.5 sigma or so. This translates to the probability of a “false positive” – probability that the excesses were just flukes – equal to 1 part in 100,000 or so.”

    Can’t we at least get the facts right?

  • Dan Richards

    Bob Dylan has it right: “to live outside the law, you must be honest.”

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