Outside of the rather convenient timing of the un-consensual sex accusations, there exists the very real possibility that Assange might be found guilty. What will the fate of the leaks publisher be if he were to fall?
A few things must fall into place first before Assange could face the music. British officials approve the Swedish extradition request. Swedish prosecutors mount a strong case with evidence. And the Swedish courts deliver a guilty verdict with a stiff penalty (no pun intended).
If this happens, and the Swedish prosecutors reveal damning information not available to the public at present or in August, then people will have to get used to the fact that Julian Assange will simultaneously be both a sexually-depraved asshole and a champion of transparency. On the other hand, the evidence might be weak and the court will still convict.
A number of questions will need to be asked in the aftermath of the two possible outcomes of true guilt or mockery of justice. Would a conviction devalue Assange and WikiLeak’s work? What will become of WikiLeaks? And, if WikiLeaks disintegrates, will a new generation of hackers, free speech and free information hactivists rise and take their place?
Let us consider the first question of how a conviction affects Assange and WikiLeaks’s work. It might turn some supporters against Assange, but it will also likely elevate him to full-on martyr status for others.
Suppose, for argument’s sake, that Assange is truly guilty of a crime by Swedish law: does he no longer have the moral force to fight against authoritarian government and corruption? No, only moral deficiency in another category. Christians are fond of forgiving their evangelical priests of homosexual transgressions, and many world citizens seem to turn a blind eye to government and financial corruption—will forgiveness be denied Assange? Hard to say.
If Assange is imprisoned on such a conviction, what will the be fate of WikiLeaks? It seems likely that the organization would wither, but there is the possibility that others within the publishing organization will assume leadership and avoid the sort of publicity Assange has courted. Will whistleblowers still bring their information to an organization without Assange? If it can effectively function without all of the corporate censorship from Amazon, PayPal, Visa and Mastercard, yes. If it cannot and the whistleblowers feel that there are more effective delivery systems for their secret information, then no.
Which brings us to our next point: Will other hackers take up Assange’s cause, modeling themselves after WikiLeaks but floating about as specters and staying clear of any potentially compromising situations? This is the hope. Anonymous is the likely candidate giving their ability to spread memes like wildfire–and it seems they’ve becoming quite politicized in recent days.
Everywhere there is a hope… A hope for a groundswell of free information. Reverse infiltration. A critical mass of exposed political and financial corruption rippling across the aether in waves that cannot be quelled.
And there is infinite potential for the sort of unvarnished truth that is hidden deep inside the darkest bowels of the machinery of power. From there, the vast amount of power’s magical but false engineering will be projected everywhere with the simultaneity of the internet.
A million Bradley Manning’s who go into government, the military or the financial sectors with the best intentions, only to find the horror behind the looking glass, and then step back through it with some souvenirs.
Yes, a critical mass.
Now, instead of going after one Assange, self-serving elected officials can play whack-a-mole against an army of Assange replicants.