A Little Insight into Assange

At one point in the film, as it discusses the information known as the Afghan war logs that came from the material provided by Manning, British journalist Nick Davies says in an interview, “During the four or five weeks when reporters were working on the Afghan war logs, all of us became concerned that there was material in there which, if published, could get people hurt on the ground in Afghanistan.” He then goes on to say, “I raised this with Julian and he said if an Afghan civilian helps coalition forces he deserves to die.”

From “Alex Gibney Fires Back at Julian Assange: “People are Finally Seeing the Darker Side.”
The Hollywood Reporter

This is what Julian Assange thinks of American, British, and allied young men and women who are risking their lives to help Afghanistan rise from the pit of its own ashes. This is not the voice of liberty. This is the voice of a sociopath.

The decisions about what information needs to be made public and what needs to be withheld should be placed on people for whom the release of the wrong information has real consequences. It should not be left in the hands of a petty demagogue with no skin in the game.

7 thoughts on “A Little Insight into Assange

  1. Objection: hearsay!

    And in fact it goes against the public record of the actions of Wikileaks, which *repeatedly requested* that the US govt get involved to avoid harming exactly these sorts of “assets”. There are plenty of ways the govt could have done exactly that without compromising their position. But they didn’t.

    Remember, kids, there was no “dump of unredacted material” until an idiot journalist at The Guardian published the key to the encrypted file…

    Until that point Wikileaks and the news outlets working with them had been extremely selective and careful.

    There’s enough misinformation in this debate without quoting hearsay uncritically.

  2. Just wanted to note, David, that I am in no way claiming that Assange did not say what Davies said he did. It sounds very much like the kind of careless, ranty thing he has repeatedly being reported saying to various individuals.

    That being said, I think the widespread amateur psychological profiling of Assange, Manning, Snowden, etc. etc. etc. is almost entirely beside the point. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Assange is a raving narcissistic sociopathic sexual deviant (the picture that every single establishment figure has tried to paint — following the centuries old SOP of discrediting the message by smearing the messenger). This has very little (if anything) to do with the rights & wrongs of Wikileaks’ actions once they found themselves in possession of information clearly labelled “secret” that also clearly outlined coverups and criminality.

    • I appreciate that distinction, Shannon, and your comment served as a humbling reminder of how little I have followed the the Wikileaks imbroglio or the Snowden stuff. Both issues leave me cold: I don’t see white hats on either side, just a bunch of self-interested parties trying to save their skins by wrapping themselves in one flag or another.

      That said, I do believe that for Wikileaks, the character of its leadership matters a great deal. Even large institutions, particularly young ones without much history or culture, can be fundamentally altered to reflect the character of their leaders. Wikileaks, being small, young, and unstructured, is at least as much a reflection of Assange’s character as, say, the U.S. Air Force after World War II was a reflection of Curtis LeMay’s.

      Having lived for two decades in China, I appreciate more than most the value of the whistle-blower in the maintenance of freedom. But the possession of somebody else’s secrets is a position of great power, and I think it is axiomatic that we should be concerned about the character of anyone who comes into possession of the secrets of nations.

      • Character does matter. But what is character? I do not think that character can be discerned through knowledge of a person’s sexual preferences, out-of-context remarks (no matter how sensational or accurately quoted), and *especially* do not think that character can be determined by perusing uncritically the picture of an individual’s character painted by those who seek to undermine the character of that individual!

        I’m reminded of the Clinton-Lewinsky years, with people insisting “If he lies to his wife then [free personality assessment here]” when there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever that he *had* “lied to his wife” — and in fact ample evidence of the opposite, that she knew/knows of all Bill’s adventures and simply doesn’t care. Does a lack of jealousy make her/his “character” superior or inferior to what is often assumed to be “normal” jealousy?

        I’m reminded of all the bad intelligence judgements made over decades because “Intelligence Operative X” was known/rumoured to be “homosexual” — with all of the utterly specious judgements that were automatically conferred by this label.

        I’m reminded of a particularly laconic joke I used to make as a younger man: that local newspapers always reported tragedies in “racially adjusted figures”, e.g. TWO AMERICANS (…….and 1,400 others……) DIE IN BOMBING! Out of context, what do comments about “racially adjusted figures” potentially say about my “character”?

        Like being more afraid of the flight (totally safe) than the drive to the airport (totally unsafe) I would be willing to put money on the proposition that “we” are just as bad at judging “character” from anecdotes as “we” are at judging risk.

        So rather than try and do what we will certainly fail to achieve (i.e. making a character assessment at long range) why not assess organisations by their actions (as compared to the supposed “character” of their leaders)?

      • Shannon, you make a fair point, but don’t make assumptions about my assumptions.

        I do think character can be discerned through knowledge of a person’s words and actions when all of those are taken as a whole rather than out of context. I leapt on these particular words as uttered by Assange – as did others, I think – precisely because they seem to be so much in tune with and encapsulate the picture of the man that has slowly emerged over time. the remark is not notable because it stands out from the rest – it is notable because it expresses the essence of something wider. Therein lies its value.

        Second, your remark about intelligence operatives and homosexuality is, as I understand it, out of context. Homosexuality was considered a weakness by intelligence agencies because it left the individual open to compromise by rival intelligence services. If evidence could be attained by the enemy that the individual was a closeted homosexual living a double life in a society that did not embrace such a lifestyle, that evidence could be used to compel that individual to serve as an operative.

        I am perfectly willing to judge Wikileaks for its actions, as long as the organization is ready to claim for itself responsibility for all consequences of those actions. But if you contend that it doesn’t matter if an organization like Wikileaks – which has at its disposal national secrets and great media attention – is lead by a sociopath, then you and I will never agree on the role of leadership in organizations.

  3. …except for the large and growing body of evidence that sociopathy / psychopathy and “leadership” are in fact strongly correlated. Really. Look it up!

    But you’ve trapped my point very well: big scare words like “sociopath” potentially describe everyone who scores over the average on a common test of same. So, only half the population, then?

    Look at the commonly acknowledged traits of “great leaders”: ability to rationally assess risk, ability to “shut off” emotions, ability to “read” others (alternatively just read the list of attributes of the Admiral you profiled elsewhere) — these are all classic attributes of the psychopath.

    Like everything, there’s a continuum. Not “normals” over here and “psychos” helpfully grouped over there.

    So I posit, again, that character is important, but reinforce my view that simplistic long-range assessment of same is nearly never useful.

    Especially when to focus on it (as in the case of Wikileaks) literally misses the forest for the very carefully planted and curated trees (why is it that Assange’s supposed character flaws correspond *exactly* to those of every critic of power over time according to those in power? Sexual deviance, narcissism, sociopathy: it’s Character Assassination 101. Next we’ll hear that he’s a vegetarian and likes dogs…)

    Want to know Assange’s “motivations”? He’s written on that topic, at length. As have many of his former colleagues from a hostile standpoint. If only there was somewhere we could go to look those things up! 😉

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