I didn’t like Julian Assange after watching this programme, but I didn’t have to spend six or seven years filming him and his cult of followers, much of the time in the Ecuadorian Embassy, as director Laura Poitras did. It’s unusual for a director to speak directly to the audience with her misgivings about Assange’s motives as Poitras does. It’s the equivalent of actors breaking the third wall, while in character, and speaking directly to the audience from the stage. Poitras feels she’s being played and used by Assange and I think she’s probably right.
Assange reminds me of a slicker version of the moron’s moron in the Whitehouse, Donald J Trump. Ironically, Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange is fingered as the patsy behind leaks from Hillary Clinton’s email server while she was Secretary of State in the Obama administration and prior to running in the Presidential election against Trump. In 2011, the opening shots of Risk set in Norfolk (England) has Julian Assage having one of his team phoning the Secretary of State and asking to speak to Hilary Clinton. It creates drama for the camera. But if I phone up Buckingham Palace and ask to speak to Prince Charles the likelihood of me being able to do so would be extremely slim. I’d be speaking to one of his flunkies. Predictably, that’s what happens. Assanges’s flunky speaks on the phone to Clinton’s flunky. But it’s claimed as a moral victory for Assange, because as leverage he claims to have access to 700 000 classified documents, 250 000 United States documents classified as secret. ‘We don’t have a problem,’ he says. ‘You have a problem’ when we release them onto the internet, which he did.
Fast forward to June 2017. James Comey then director of the FBI testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that there had been a sustained cyber-attack on the Whitehouse by a foreign power, Russia, that had close links with the Trump administration. Comey was sacked by Trump, allegedly for leaking state documents.
I googled a question. ‘What is Wikipedia?’ ‘Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia, written collaboratively by the people who use it. It is a special type of website designed to make collaboration easy, called a wiki.’
Wikipedia tells me about Wikileaks: [It is] an international non-profit organisation that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media provided by anonymous sources. Its website, initiated in 2006 in Iceland by the organisation Sunshine Press, claims a database of 10 million documents in 10 years since its launch. Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, is generally described as its founder, editor-in-chief, and director.
The group has released a number of prominent document dumps. Early releases included documentation of equipment expenditures and holdings in the Afghanistan war and a report informing a corruption investigation in Kenya. In April 2010, WikiLeaks released the so-called Collateral Murder footage from the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike in which Iraqi journalists were among those killed. Other releases in 2010 included the Afghan War Diary and the “Iraq War Logs”. The latter allowed the mapping of 109,032 deaths in “significant” attacks by insurgents in Iraq that had been reported to Multi-National Force – Iraq, including about 15,000 that had not been previously published. In 2010, Wikileaks also released the U.S. State Department diplomatic “cables”, classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department. In April 2011, WikiLeaks began publishing 779 secret files relating to prisoners detained in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, WikiLeaks released emails and other documents from the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta suggesting impropriety against fellow Democratic Party candidate senator Bernie Sanders, among other issues. These releases caused significant embarrassment to the Clinton campaign, and to Hillary Clinton, and is speculated to have contributed to the Democratic Party’s loss’.
The motto of Google is famously, ‘don’t be evil.’ The motto of Wikileaks, ‘We open governments’. The promise of transparency is always an easy selling point. Assange was teenage cyber hacker uncovering those hidden secrets of government departments. These are the guys that are wearing the white hats, cyber writing what was wrong and bringing it to the light.
Google’s dictum, of course doesn’t extend to paying taxes to governments or allowing competition. Algorithms rule the world. What you don’t see is what you get. Google are appealing a 2.4 billion Euros fine by the European competition commissioner for among other things favouring, not surprisingly, its own online shopping services. Facebook were fined 110 million Euros for using Whatsapp accounts as a Trojan horse for data mining individual’s preferences. Apple, the richest company in the world, which provides much of the hardware to allow the software to date mine, was fined 13 billion Euros for having an effective corporation tax of 0.005% in Ireland. If you want to know how much power Apple has the ‘Double Irish’ wasn’t that the Irish Government wasn’t being cheated of tax, but they claimed they didn’t want the fine levied. The openness of a free society does not extend to the largely American conglomerates that peddle power and claim no allegiance (in theory) to any one nation. Donald J Trump, of course, spent almost all of his campaign funds of $90 million on Facebook fake news and tweaking accounts of potential backers and voters.
When we look at the power of transparency in post truth society, what do we see looking back at us but our own image. Assange holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for six years, we know he’s a celebrity because we see Lady Ga Ga visiting him. The twin charges of rape in Sweden have been dropped. He claims this as a victory. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires (Satire VI, lines 347–348). It is literally translated as ‘Who will guard the guards themselves?’
Juvenal was referring to sex scandals. Like misogyny and a hatred of government that’s something that runs through these high-tech companies and is in the foreground of the moron’s moron and Assange’s cabal. The guards that the rich Roman’s paid to watch their wives and keep them having sex with others, were the ones they were fucking. Transparency is always a good thing, but let’s start with ourselves. Truth is often not plain and rarely simple. I’m with Assange for greater transparency, but I don’t want less government, I want more. I want to tax the Trumps and those hi-tech boys that deceive us and manipulate the truth and mix it with lies. If that sounds familiar, remember those things called bonds. A bond was something established something you could trust. There derivatives financial weapons of mass destruction. They were in plain sight. No need to hide them. Transparency wasn’t an issue. Complexity was. But somehow, in one of the richest countries in the world, the poorest members who had the least stake in the 2008 implosion, took the biggest hit and took the blame. Welfare. In a Post-Truth world propaganda has its roots in a lack of transparency, but more in a lack of power. Those without power know what’s coming and how they’re going to be hurt, but can’t do anything about it. Assange might have opened up a Pandora box, but if you look who is in the White House and look at Russia and Turkey and Syria, what has he done? I don’t know. But I don’t like him. That’s my truth. We don’t judge things rationally. Again and again it’s been proven empirically we feel first and think when we need to later and construct a truth around it.