It’s hard enough to get liberals to rally around anyone (the last time they did they voted for a messiah and got a center-left pragmatist who can’t function without a teleprompter). But Julian Assange, the dough-faced albino boy wonder from Australia, the hacker from Down Under, has managed the trick nicely. Even before people knew what the hell this was all about, the usual coterie of confused guilt-ridden middle-class white people from around the world began rallying around him with unnecessary protests in front of embassies placing duct tape over their mouths as a powerful commentary against…the misuse of duct tape, I suppose.
Nevermind that the thousands of documents that were released are classified, and have earned that classification because the lives of American soldiers and civilians around the world depend on it. Nevermind that there are several redundant review processes for making them classified, including many within just the government agency they originate in, and also the United States Congress, and that these bodies are the only ones with a complete understanding of what these documents mean. Let’s even forget about the Freedom of Information Act, which creates a timely release of documents as quickly as possible without damaging national security.
Lucky for us, we have Julian Assange, the sole individual on the planet who really knows if any documents belonging to the United States need to be classified at all (they don’t), whether they should be published on his website (they should) and whether it’s okay to sneak your un-condomed penis into a woman when she’s sleeping and then call yourself persecuted to the international media (yes, obviously, but only if you’re Julian Assange).
For the moment, let’s focus on two facts. All the recent leaks have been about one government–the United States–and all the documents, ranging into the hundreds of thousands, share only one theme–they are embarrassing to the United States. Assange’s pledge that WikiLeaks will be a global engine of accountability is full of more infected puss than the two women he “didn’t rape.” WikiLeaks’ main purpose thus far has been to focus on one country, and violate its national security deliberately and repeatedly.
Leftists like to compare him to Daniel Ellsberg, but the better analogy might be Alger Hiss, the celebrated provocateur who earned the lavish admiration of leftist circles as a victim of a far-right congressional witch-hunt…only to be revealed for a Soviet spy. The same people are making the same mistake again, hoping and believing in a charismatic figure without understanding what he’s doing, but embracing him because they like to think of established power as inherently corrupt, and true visionaries as disruptive to society.
They have chosen Assange as the closest thing they can find, and are busy crafting him into a tragic hero. It’s just too terribly romantic: a renegade genius, a political idealist fighting the ogre of world power, persecuted and misunderstood in his own time…basically the same drivel we’ve all had to suffer through since Che Guevera, and we still have to see with those goddamn T-shirts every time we buy weed. The only thing left to do is pick a title for the reality show we all know is coming. (My favorites are “America’s Next Top Inmate,” “Road Rules: Trying To Find A Country That Won’t Arrest Me” or “16 and Pregnant…Because of Julian Assange”.)
But there is no “principle,” in the sense of a belief or ideal beyond personal interest, in an organization that gets to select its damaging content, and therefore selects who to damage. The targets of these leaks, mostly involving the United States military but also corporate polluters and the Church of Scientology (read “religion”), are favorite targets of the left and the website aims to embarrass and punish its enemies. With all the recent attention in the media lately, surely there must have been lots of other leaks downloaded to the site, from a wide gamut of organizations in all corners of the world. Yet WikiLeaks is focusing on the anti-Americanism that defines them.
Crucially, no one has been able to argue that he has a right, moral or otherwise, to do this. No one can seriously believe that one lonely hacker should be the final verdict of national security, that any government can effectively conduct itself with a “system” of checks and balances like this. Every country, superpower or not, has a right to its own security, and WikiLeaks damages not only the United States but the millions around the world who depend on it. The website carries no responsibility for its actions, has no way of fixing the enormous problems it creates, and no interest in doing so. This is a case of the embittered and socially marginalized attacking their supposed “oppressors” with cheap and petty stunts, and nothing more. It’s like Revenge of the Nerds, basically, but not nearly as intellectually stimulating.
There is a word for dispersing classified knowledge that ultimately aid an enemy, and it’s not journalism. That would be espionage. Our enemies don’t even need to train spies to infiltrate the State Department anymore, they have Assange to do it for them, so they can save themselves the trouble. There’s also a word for exploiting the misconceptions of people, peddling ill-begotten information and complimenting yourself for doing it, and it isn’t WikiLeaks. That would be journalism. Julian Assange doesn’t even need to risk himself to fulfill his political agenda, he has the mainstream media to do it for him, so he can save himself the trouble.
Yes, Assange is the bad guy, but he didn’t do it alone, and the real story here, the real importance of WikiLeaks, isn’t what one lone crackpot can do with a website, but how much the accountable institutions in America are prepared to aid his agenda to further their own interests.