by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
Julian Assange, the public face of WikiLeaks, is, among many things, cowardly. Courageousness would involve meeting with Iranian dissidents, Russian journalists, Pakistani Christians, or Chinese human-rights activists — and then releasing any confidential information that they might have about the torment institutionalized by their countries’ authoritarian regimes. That would be risky to Assange, however, since such governments do not customarily go to court against their leakers; they gulag them — or liquidate them.
So, instead, Assange navigates through the European northwest among the good-life elites whose economic and security protocols he does so much to undermine. Being summoned to a trumped-up Swedish hearing for being an exploitative cad who fails to wear a condom in his ephemeral hook-ups is not the same thing as being dragged into the basement of the Pakistani intelligence service or appearing in an orange jumpsuit on an al-Qaeda execution video. Why does not the peripatetic Assange at least drive about, say, the back roads of the Middle East, Mexico, or Central Africa in his quest for conduits to spread cosmic truth and justice?
In truth, Assange is a sorry product of the postmodern West. He reminds us of the morality of Western shock artists who freely caricature Christianity on the hallowed principle of free speech, but, in a nano-second, censor themselves when Islam might provide an even larger target for their cynical secular disdain. WikiLeaks is the journalistic equivalent of a Piss Christ exhibition of the contemporary art world — a repellent reminder of the cowardly selectivity of the shock-jock huckster.
Julian Assange is without principles. He seems to think leaking confidential communications proves that the vast right-wing military-industrial-financial complex is harming either the most affluent, free Western population in the history of civilization or the globalized world itself — one that has done more to eliminate poverty and extend freedom in the last two decades than had been done at any other time in recorded history. We know from Climategate that the world’s green scientists are every bit as conniving, petty, and mean-spirited as any American diplomat. I would like to see the secret communications that buzz back and forth among Hollywood agents, producers, and financiers to learn of the real criteria that led to box-office bombs likeRedacted and Rendition being written, cast, financed, and made. Maybe to calibrate the level of sincerity and honesty among our movers and shakers, we can read the minutes of Harvard or Yale tenure committees, some correspondence from the minions of George Soros, or the communications of the UN secretary general — or, better yet, the encrypted e-mail transcripts of exchanges among the WikiLeaks board. Apparently Assange thinks that confidentiality is trafficked only among the suspicious Western ruling classes, while dissidents like himself are fueled instead by “truth.” But if a man cannot be honest with a woman during intimacy, what can he be honest about? — whoops, one should not rush to an Assange-like judgment on the basis of gossip and innuendo; one should wait until the suspicious personage has had his day in court.
So Julian Assange is also a juvenile. Like some warmed-over let-it-all-hang-out Sixties loudmouth, he seems to think that transparency to the fullest is honesty, without a clue that truth is the final product that emerges from a combination of self-reflection, self-doubt, and introspection. These diplomatic cables contain raw gossip, half-baked impressions, innuendos, self-serving snideness, trial balloons, and witticisms among supposedly sober and judicious diplomats. Yet entering such confidential conversations in mediis rebus short-circuits, rather than enhances, the truth. In the adult world, venting to others does not necessarily translate into duplicity; actions are often a better indicator of veracity than rumblings and musings. Only a perpetual adolescent believes that one has to be perfect in word and thought to be good. The United States no doubt is told all the time by preening Gulf sheiks to hit Iran, but that does not mean that we or even they wish to reify such braggadocio. So far the real truth is our actions, which suggest that we do not think it is wise to bomb Iran.
Julian Assange is a narcissist. Like all self-absorbed egos who deny their selfishness, he protests that he wished WikiLeaks to remain an anonymously run, collective effort — while he ensured that it most certainly would not be, as he jetted the globe, giving dozens of media interviews, leveling threats, pontificating about world leaders who should resign, and promising to drop embarrassing megatonnage of gossip should he, Julian Assange, ever be charged.
Julian Assange has more or less ensured that WikiLeaks would be synonymous with Julian Assange and that he would be its man-of-the-year face on Time Magazine. Like all narcissists, when reminded that his recklessness will lead to violence, mayhem, and deaths, he dismisses such dangers as insignificant in comparison to the benevolence that he bestows. Note how easily a computer hacker with a criminal record has established himself as judge, jury, and executioner on behalf of world truth. When he says, “I have become a lightning rod,” he means, “I am the Lady Gaga of leaking.”
His one mistake? Assange unfortunately got his sweepstakes trove from Bradley Manning during the Obama administration. Up until then, the global liberal media culture had less of a problem with WikiLeaks, since government disclosures only confirmed the nefarious nature of reactionaries like George W. Bush. But now in the age of progressive governance, we are learning that Secretary Clinton spies, that President Obama’s diplomats are jaded and cynical, and that such disclosures have hurt the presidency of a liberal progressive. It is one thing to canonize a Daniel Ellsberg or transmogrify the serial deceiver Joe Wilson into a victim of Dick Cheney’s dark plots, but quite another to deify a leaker whose machinations will serve to undermine the agenda of Barack Obama. To paraphrase George Orwell, Assange is learning that all leaks are essential — but some leaks are more essential than others.
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson