Assange: A latter day Messiah or a very naughty boy?

Posted in opinion on August 21st, 2012 by John Coxon

Middle aged  geek,  Australian stoat-haired weasel, former convicted teen hacker “Mendrax”, currently taking cover in the Ecuador Embassy in London  purports to be some kind of  global moral guardian fronting a covert organisation that has leaked and published vast quantities of classified information and yet the bold principal on which that organisation is based, is haemorrhaging credibility as the result of their leader’s public and private shenanigans. Wikileaks “founder” (Editor in Chief as he prefers to be  called )  shows such apparent arrogance , has tried every trick in the book and come up with new ones to try and cover his back ( usually at other  people’s expense ) and also refuses to take responsibility for his own actions in what appears to have been a sordid personal life at odds with his much lauded idealism  and which he seems to hope we will forget about.

Assange either inspires incredible loyalty or disgust and frustration and as we speak supporters have, for example, been attacking UK government websites and seem happy to take his word for it that sexual misconduct allegations are part of some conspiracy and therefore can be completely overlooked. Clearly the former geek has a skeleton or two in the cupboard and you can’t help but think how telling it appears to be that his new best buddy, in troubled times, is a manipulative self fulfilling violator of human rights professing to operate for the common good in the country he governs. Does this modern messiah really give the impression that the common good is more important than his own interests?

The old “Freedom of Speech/Freedom of Information” defence is sometimes a beguiling mantra but morally and legally it comes with responsibility, is seated in certain  international laws and is not a cover-all licence as the politically cynical or naïve would wish. Even to criticise Assange is not without its risks and that is ironic in itself since champions  apparently of the greater good , seeking universal free speech and information, can’t be picky about who should be afforded those rights. You can’t be selective  in which messenger you want us not to shoot. People, as they say, in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

It must also be ironic that the only safe house Assange could find asylum in, as a calculated choice you might presume , is the domain of a “banana” republic ( well a recently oil rich one)  with a well documented record of corruption, inefficiency, and political influence plaguing  its judiciary. Only last year, President Rafael Correa  implemented   constitutional reforms to significantly increase government powers to constrain media and influence the appointment and dismissal of judges. Ecuador’s laws restrict freedom of expression, and government officials, including Correa, use these laws against  critics. Those involved in violent protests may be prosecuted on inflated and inappropriate ‘terrorism’ charges. In Ecuador impunity for police abuses is widespread and murders often attributed to a “settling of accounts” between criminal gangs are rarely prosecuted and convicted.

Assange is effectively aligning himself with a regime whose activities might well come into the remit of his whistle blowing idealist cronies who must all now be turning a blind eye to that inconvenience of ideology ( as with the not so small matter of alleged sexual crimes against women.) Any way you look at it their boss is in deep pooh and with all standoffs eventually there can be no winners. Misery may acquaint us with strange bed fellows but it is clear that the president of Ecuador , like Assange, makes up his own rules and will do everything in his power to cover his own back.  It is clear to most that by allowing the harbouring of a fugitive, Correa seeks to put a gloss on the short comings of his own governance and regime in terms of human rights.

ASSANGE’S LEGACY?  Assange’s legacy will never lead to more openness and  accountability from western governments who it appears, like it or not,  will always have stuff they want to hide – some of that stuff may be reprehensible but a lot of it not. The most likely outcome of this affair will be a culture change in how politically sensitive information is gathered and communicated via the internet and through use of digital technologies. Governments will simply get smarter at keeping stuff from us and close the loopholes that enable internet smart do-gooders to hack in and distribute secrets as well as devising strategies and consequences that will be far harsher on so called whistle-blowers than they are now.

Either Assange is a latter day Messiah or a very naughty boy.  Back in 1995 his inner naughty boy, aged 24, escaped what could have been a ten year jail sentence for hacking because as the judge observed Assange had a disrupted childhood. Ultimately at 41, he ought to have learned responsibility and whatever his original intentions it appears to me  he will eventually be judged to have  done more harm than good. Whether or not he is a sexual predator remains to be proven but his avoidance of being held to account on that score undermines his credibility as does his current manipulative posturing.  If his case, in the matter of to leak or not to leak has any virtue , with the world’s media watching we would be pretty clear if extradition and subsequent court appearances  in either  Sweden or the USA  represented an actual witch hunt because proceedings would have to be transparent as Ecuador is unlikely to be the venue.  Perhaps the way out might be using the Haag or Brussels to thrash it out on neutral ground. He can’t carry on hiding indefinitely. This is not the way Messiah’s ought to behave.





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