Don’t blame Julian Assange for fighting for his freedom and against an international national security obsession that would like to silence him. However, it would be quite remiss of me to deny he’s an ace at creating high drama. While he has sought an openness in democratic government that is rather non-existent these days, there is something very diva-ish about his posturing now in requesting the UK supreme court re-open his extradition case. Perhaps it was there all along.
Two years ago, Christopher Hitchens the great contrarian—who likely would have supported Assange in his younger, more radical years—called for Assange to give himself up. Hitchens wrote, “The WikiLeaks founder is an unscrupulous megalomaniac with a political agenda.”
As much as I love Hitchens, Assange is allowed his political agenda, but Hitchens was probably correct in labeling the WikiLeaks figurehead a megalomaniac. Assange’s scruples, however, will be debated long after his influence dissipates, which seems to be happening prematurely. On the plus side, in the year and a half since the infamous WikiLeaks “cablegate” dump, it doesn’t seem that any blood or great damage was spilled because of the cables’ revelations.
Hitchens also wrote that “though I find it easy to picture Assange as a cult leader indulging himself with acolytes, the sex charges against him don’t appear to amount to rape and have a trumped-up feel to them,” giving him ”an excuse to recruit sympathy.” As much as Assange’s extradition fight is about personal freedom, open government and free information, his cause, as Hitchens noted, appears to be a selfish one at this point. As his once powerful influence and cult of personality wanes, the courtroom drama keeps him in the public eye. It momentarily reanimates the high he must have experienced at WikiLeaks’ apogee. And so it’s no surprise that Assange and his lawyers have asked for the UK Supreme Court to re-open the extradition case.
One has to wonder at this point what sort of influence Assange could have wielded had he tempered the rock star/guerrilla leader fantasy a bit and been more discreet in his sexual impulses. The courtroom drama serves to remind us that everything is subject to entropy, even Assange’s inspired efforts at creating open government.
On the other hand, it is useful for Assange to keep demonstrating the various ways that governments attempt to silence subversive elements. Perhaps this is Assange’s gambit.