What Does Julian Assange Really Want?
As we approach the fifteen year mark for 9/11, and as the first presidential debates are now a couple of weeks away, it seems more important than ever to answer the question: what exactly is Wikileaks? And what is Julian Assange trying to accomplish?
Seeing that Wikileaks' success has been in part based on a widespread lack of trust in political institutions - to say nothing of intelligence agencies or state departments - it is easy to become paranoid when trying to decide if one believes the biography of the hacker/activist/spy from Australia. Was he really running a hacker group at age 16 after having lived a nomadic life with his oft-partnered mother? A neo-hippie boy genius with an interest in science and math and computers? Taking on corporations and governments?
Let's assume the main details are reasonably accurate and that he was arrested for hacking in the early 90's and then moved on to programming and began to develop an interest in cryptography during the 90's. As well as becoming a bit of an expert on internet protocol. And maybe he founded Wikileaks in 2006 acting on a genuine desire to expose, for example, electronic eavesdropping by major intelligence agencies.
That all changed by 2010 at the latest, and possibly much earlier. It is now clear that American and allied intelligence agencies and governments in general are the targets of Wikipedia. And that Russia is clearly involved with the non-profit, perhaps to the extent of providing funding and other support. At a price of course. You won't be seeing any Wikileaks on Putin's possible involvement in the mysterious apartment complex bombings of the late 90's in Russia which may very well have been the work of Russian intelligence agents and assorted thugs, for example. And which helped lead to Putin's first electoral victory.
But how did it happen? How could such noble and idealistic and fricking cool hackers who founded Wikileaks get led so astray? Pray tell! Uhm ... useful idiots?
We all know the phrase, and it may have been Lenin who first said it, although some dispute he coined the phrase. He certainly used the concept. As did his successor, old uncle Josef. But take a moment to remember some of those who have now been accused of being Stalin's useful idiots back in the first half of the 20th century: HG Wells and George Bernard Shaw. As well as Nobel laureate and literary lioness Doris Lessing. Cultured, brilliant, creative. Yes, the CIA responded with a cultural fightback of its own. But these useful idiots were far from stupid people or simple dupes. They worshiped something about Stalin and his totalitarianism of the left.
There is something about attacking the West and it's centuries of progress - despite the horrors of the two World Wars - that delights a certain part of the cultural elite. And nowadays, you don't have to be a Nobel prize winner. Just a hacker who hates the NSA.
So the question is: is Assange and Wikileaks by extension, a latter day useful idiot; or a latter day Cambridge Five? As in the famous spy ring of upper class British spies who worked willingly and secretly for the Soviet Union before, during and after WW II.
Because as the election nears, there will be further leaks and further attacks on America's most vital infrastructure of all: the belief of it's citizens in America's republican democracy and it's manner of electing the people's representatives. This isn't about trying to turn off the Wikileaks tap. It's about a little vital and healthy skepticism about who is doing the leaking. And why. Because if it is being handled - if you will - by Russia, then one hopes that the partisan rage on all sides in these elections will abate just enough for people to see what is at stake.
Remember, Assange is a stateless cynic manipulating the media from an embassy in London. A part of him surely understands perfectly that he is Putin's boy. But a part of him accepts that deal in order to continue to attack his favorite targets. He's a useful idiot who willingly jumped at the chance to become a prime time spy. Let's never take him at his word.