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Sunday, February 27, 2011

WikiLeaks: Secrets, Lies and Egos

This week, the pale-faced and reputedly rather smelly, Julian Assange, founder and champion of the website WikiLeaks, lost his battle to prevent his extradition to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault. Assange, who now describes himself as a 'non-profit free speech activist', has, since WikiLeaks upped the ante back in October and November 2010 by releasing the Iraq War Logs and US state department diplomatic cables, slowly morphed from a champion of free speech to an egotistical Sméagol like figure who now speaks from behind his lawyers, his face occasionally popping into view from behind someone's shoulder. Or emerging, stealthily from an area of shadow before creeping back into the darkness, leaving presumably, only the lingering aroma of unwashed flesh to remind the world of his presence. 

Courted by left-leaning glitterati like Jemima Khan, an heiress and the former girl friend of actor Hugh Grant; the film director and member of  George Galloway's grisly Respect Party, Ken Loach, who claimed last year that the closing of the UK Film Council, the source of most of the state funding for his virtually unwatchable films, was akin to closing the Health Service; and the utterly ghastly journalist John Pilger whose CIA conspiracy theory obsessed diatribes against the US have, since Pilger began defending Assange, begun to read like the outpourings of a bipolar Maoist and can only alienate Assange from the rest of us still further.  For that is what WikiLeaks and Assange have become now, a collection of bitter egos in search of a cause surrounded by thousands of secrets stolen by other egos keen to get in on the act. 

Assange is unelected, unappointed and answers to no one. The source of WikiLeaks information is clandestine and illegal, with malcontents and activists deciding what information to put out regardless, or ignorant, of the harm or mischief it causes. For the Pilgers of this world, whose anti Americanism, were it transmuted into a definitive US racial type or a religion, would put him on a par with Julius Streicher, the infamous, whip-carrying Jew baiter of Nuremberg. For Pilger, any one, or any project, that disses the United States is good, and anyone, or anything that supports it, is bad. 

Assange, having elevated himself to the God like status of a Veritas, has surrounded himself with a collection of acolytes, who, like him, are driven not by a sense of righteousness but by a sense that they have a God-given right to decide what the rest of us mortals should and shouldn't see. Then from the safety of their Mount Olympus style ivory towers they can look down and watch the results of their leaked mischief as countries and individual's securities are undermined, embarrassed and undone. 

Yet when countries react with rancour and anger at Assange's antics there is dismay and incredulity from WikiLeak supporters that a Government, and in particular, the US government, could have the temerity to attack such a pure, God-like figure. How dare they? How could such a corrupt country not see the truth? What do the lifes of soldiers, informers and undercover operatives in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere matter when compared to the egos of Assange and co, whose document dump, which is effectively what WikiLeaks is, is so much more important?

Of course being graced with God-like wisdom, Assange, no doubt ably assisted by the likes of Jemima Khan and Ken Loach who both I am sure also possess a knowledge of world affairs that surpasses that of lesser mortals, will be able to shift through the thousands of leaked files and emails and arbitrarily decide which ones in their lofty opinion are unfit or too dangerous for us common mortals to see. This, according to Assange, gives the world protection from the WikiLeaking of documents that really are dangerous. That is, of course, unless an uppity government dares to assail the mighty Assange and threaten to haul him before the courts to answer for his covetousness in which case WikiLeaks tends to resort to the very ungodly like practice of blackmail by threatening to publish those same 'sensitive' and potentially dangerous documents if the threats against Assange continue.

Now facing two charges of sexual assault and rape in Sweden, Julian Assange has become increasingly mortal, paranoid and egotistical. Firstly the Swedish women are of course lying. Surprisingly his left-leaning supporters who would normally rally round any woman claiming to have been raped by a powerful public figure have decided that in this instance the Swedish women are Yankee-loving sluts whose testimonies are worthless and should be dismissed. Secondly, Assange has begun the process of morphing from a Smeagol like figure with a God complex to an unwashed Gollum-like creature whose love for his documents and his right to decide the truth is all. To enforce and protect him in his new role Assange has supped with the devil and brought in two of the UK's leading Human Rights lawyers, solicitor Mark Stephens who tends to pop up every time a celebrity with a problem  and a camera are in close proximity, and Geoffrey Robinson, husband of writer Kathy Lette, and one the highest paid barristers in the UK with an ego to match.

I should at this point mention that I was represented by Mark Stephens and his then law firm Stephens Innocent in my fight some years ago with the UK Governement and the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) over my short film Visions of Ecstasy which had been refused a UK certificate on the grounds that my film was potentially blasphemous. My barrister during what turned out to be a six year battle with the government was Geoffrey Robinson. What these lawyers actually represent more than anything though is the power of the UK chattering classes, the London based, soft, left-leaning, intellectual clique of media figures, writers, journalists, occasional politicians, lawyers, financiers and celebrities whose influence is all invasive and whose power far exceeds that of mainstream government. 

These individuals shape and influence our society through television, through what we read and see, and through the laws that govern our intellectual thoughts and freedoms. When I was challenging the blasphemy laws, which at that time in the 1990's only pertained to Anglican christians, the main argument was that they should either be abolished entirely or extended to cover other religious faiths. My lawyers though wanted to see the law of blasphemy abolished and replaced with a law that would make it a criminal offense to discriminate against, incite hatred of, or defame a persons religion. This was something that I was totally opposed to as it would be replacing a pretty useless, ineffective and virtually unenforceable law with a highly effective and far more draconian new one. In 1996 I lost my case, yet the machinations of legal process had been set in motion, and ten years later a law dating back to the twelfth century was abolished and replaced with the ghastly Racial and Religious Hatred Act, 2006.

Assange has become the intelligensia's current champion not because they particularly like grubby rapist geeks but because Assange, for the present, represents knowledge and knowledge is power. He also represents secrets, American secrets, and these represent both power and the possibility by their being made public of hurting America or those close to America, another plus for the UK's chattering elites. All of those key figures that now surround Assange, from the lawyers to disgruntled heiresses in search of a cause, have their own agendas and sooner or later Assange will come to realise that their cause is not necessarily his cause and maybe then he'll grow up, take a bath and put his ego away. For whatever comes out of the WikiLeaks affair it will almost certainly mean more laws, more jobs for the lawyers and less true freedoms for the rest of us.  

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