Julian Assange practices a journalism branded on a liar-liar-pants-on-fire conceit. Assange has gained notoriety through his organization Wikileaks by stealing private information and then releasing it as sensational evidence of grand conspiracy. In keeping with journalistic prudence, he keeps his sources anonymous. But, outside of that, Assange strikes me as more of a self-promoter than a journalist. I don’t think he even has real journalist credentials.
The high profile of Wikileaks rubs me the wrong way. And I really don’t like that Assange chose to operate like a pirate, but then shifted gears to become a persecuted truth teller when in the grip of the powers that be. Is he an outlaw, an advocate for justice or just a fucked up dude who got a little too deep into the muck? I don’t know... But I think Wikileaks lacks operational consistency, which is a credibility killer in the hero business. At some point one has to decide if activism is to be carried forth with a moral compass.
I won’t go so far as to suggest that victims of Wikileaks - primarily corporations and government institutions – are worthy of our sympathies. It’s a jungle out there. I also understand that the pursuit of justice travels through plenty of grey area. But, Wikileaks seems to be ethically challenged on a fundamental level. Private conversations exposed for public interpretation and consumption usually lack proper context. Information lacking in context is ultimately noise and it won’t typically stand up in a court of law. That’s journalism 101.
But Wikileaks isn’t tailored for courts of law. It’s designed to stir courts of public opinion. Wikileaks is more of a self-righteous TMZ than an organization dedicated to gathering and contextualizing all the moving pieces. Real journalism is considerate towards philosophy, ethics, and historical precedence. Wikileaks vomits information that is tantalizingly forbidden. Wikileaks might say the “system” is broken, but in reality it thrives off exploiting that broken system for its own gain.
Currently, Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He faces arrest and a possible string of international extraditions if he leaves. He sees himself as a political prisoner, which I think is a bit of a leap. While he may not be a bad guy per say, the situation he’s in shouldn’t come as a surprise. For one thing, he hacked classified information, undermining to any nation’s national security. It’s a bummer he can’t enjoy his notoriety more openly I suppose. Then again, did he really think it would play out any other way?