Assange Adulation May be Misplaced
“Throughout Australia there is a strong appetite for debate and discussion about WikiLeaks and Assange,” writes journalist Barbara Gunnell in a piece published last week in the Financial Times. Assange is due back in court this week after several months spent under “mansion arrest”. He’s got a new legal team and, according to Gunnell, a less confrontational courtroom approach. Moreover, there are currently at least four WikiLeaks-related movies under production.
“At a number of events in which I took part around Australia,” writes Gunnell, “a question would be put to the audience by the moderator or a participant to the effect: do you consider Julian Assange a hero or a villain? An audience of more than 200 at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne in June [in partnership with Griffith Review] produced not one person who would call him a villain, though there were a few ‘neithers’ or ‘don’t knows’.”
But an Al Jazeera op-ed written by Chase Madar on the weekend asks, is the Assange really the hero here? Isn’t the real hero Private Bradley Manning, the US soldier whose huge personal sacrifice put WikiLeaks on everyone’s radar? “If he was the one responsible for the WikiLeaks revelations,” writes Madar, “then, for his gift to the republic, purchased at great price, he deserves not prison, but a Presidential Medal of Freedom and the heartfelt gratitude of his country.”
Manning has yet to go to trial, but we already know much about him taken from internet chat logs published by Wired magazine, in which he describes his military experience as a gradual conversion to the realisation of the “evil” of the US war in Iraq: “…i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
According to a recent Salon article, “Manning - if he is the alleged leaker - has done at least as much, if not more, to advance the causes of transparency, accountability, and freedom across the world than any single living individual,” while a New York magazine profile calls him “one of the most unusual revolutionaries in American history”.