The trouble in dealing with Julian Assange is that he loves attention — and it doesn’t matter what kind. There must be a catalogue of psychological factors that influence his malady, but the end result is he adores playing himself and being noticed for it.
Assange loves saying that his execution has been called for by American politicians. He actually appears proud to be charged by the Swedish authorities with a sex crime against two women. He apparently believes this makes him a true masculine hero, countering a reported problem he’s had since puberty in macho Australia.
All in all the worst thing that could happen to Julian Assange would be not to be extradited to Sweden; not to be extradited to the United States; and not to be harassed by American-sponsored legal actions wherever he might travel internationally. Lucky for Julian’s psyche, two out of those three occurrences most likely will not happen. On the other hand, there is a down side to his desire to wallow in the attention.
Assange is quickly becoming the darling of the Michael Moore “I hate America as long as that theme is financially rewarding” set. Of course there are many followers of that club that just blame the U.S. for everything and get nothing but personal satisfaction out of their preoccupation. Julian Assange, the entrepreneur and radical chic social climber, is not one of them.
There are many in the U.S., of course, who believe that the U.S. Government should not be allowed to restrict access to information other than that which is of immediate importance to national security, such as code breaking that informs of imminent danger to the state, e.g. Pearl Harbor. While there is a good argument against over-classification, the unauthorized publication of secret official communication cannot be left to individuals who make a business out of such an enterprise.
There are even some journalists who believe if they have the ability to obtain classified information, that is reason enough to publish it. The logic is that it’s the government’s job to keep matters secret — and if they can’t, well, that’s just too bad. Assange shares this concept and takes it one step further. He, and others like him, believe it’s their duty to expose anything they can regarding American political, economic and military affairs — the more apparently confidential the better.
For some self-serving reason these individuals and organizations are quite content to ignore the fact that the information is ultimately the property of the American people, who have delegated to their government the duty of gathering and securing all levels of intelligence and its analysis. The American people have an interest in restricting access to their information — and have the legal right to do so.
Without arguing the scope of the right to freedom of speech, it is clear that Julian Assange’s objective is to gather information that exposes official interests and views and embarrasses the United States. His intent is malevolent and targeted in such a manner as to endanger the American public through divulging the classified activities and analysis of its governmental representatives and institutions. Such an activity is not protected under the First Amendment.
The issue is not the content of the diplomatic cables — many of which actually show the United States’ foreign policy, as Gideon Rachman put it in the Financial Times, as “principled, intelligent and pragmatic.” Rather it is that Assange’s intent is to injure the United States Government and thereby diminish the status and ethic of the American public as a uniquely endowed body of people seeking to be “exceptional” in the world from which they have carved and built an unparalleled nation.
Jealousy and self-loathing are among the usual suspects in such hostility. But that’s for Assange’s psychiatrist to work out and not a political or legal analysis. In the end, Julian Assange is counting on falling legally under the “Pentagon Papers” ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court whereby the publisher of stolen classified documents is exonerated of responsibility. It will have to be proven that Pfc. Bradley Manning, who transmitted the classified communications to WikiLeaks, was enticed, encouraged, or guided by Assange and his group. Julian’s defense team seems a bit worried over that crucial issue.
Even if he “beats the rap” in the future, Julian Assange will have to live with the reality that he is viewed as an enemy of the United States. He may think now that this is a major enhancement to his influence, but one wonders whether such a social status has long-term positive value. If he hasn’t already, somewhere along the line he will make a mistake by going too far. The penalty then will be far greater than the current mansion-arrest in Ellingham, Norfolk and possible conviction for the sex crime in Sweden.
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