This morning, the Washington Post has run a story claiming that Wikileaks founder is about to be charged with espionage. But first of all, they have to find the real Julian Assange.
I have only two questions in relation to the Wikileaks saga – and they’re the same two questions I had at the outset: first, are many people surprised by what’s been revealed? And second, is Julian Assange just a self-aggrandising exhibitionist, or something more sinister?
I have to say that, based on the evidence to hand, there’s not a great deal in the Wikileaks incontinence that isn’t already either known or assumed.
This from a Ukrainian site in 2008 on the subject of Gadaffi:
‘When the leader sleeps, the soldier stays awake, and it’s the women who do the fighting. Gaddafi trusts his security to ladies only. The head of the Libyan Jamahiriya has a total of 300-400 girls on his security detail. According to the official story, all of them are virgins. Selection is done by Gaddafi himself. This whim has an explanation for it: In ancient times, they believed that the best guards were either virgins or lesbians, the underlying belief being that they could sense threats, the so-called “wind of death.”’
Similarly, the Assange revelations tell us that Bonker Berlusconi is feckless and vain with a penchant for partying. This is not news. For stuff on the madness of Kim Jong-il of North Korea, see this site on numerous occasions. We had the story long before Wikileaks. Hamid Karzai is ‘extremely weak’, Sarkozy is ‘thin-skinned and authoritarian’, Robert Mugabe is ‘a crazy old man’. Presenting any of these stories as exclusives to an Editor could get a person fired very quickly.
Traditional Arab States are worried about Ahmadinnejhad? Geddaway. The Saudis want the US to bomb the Iranian nuclear facility? Amazing. Mahmoud himself is ‘unstable, possibly unbalanced’? You’re kidding me!
The other main ‘finding’ to come out of these wicked leaks is that most countries think other countries are full of it, and their leaders a subject for ridicule. Well knock me down with a TGV.
Were I Hillary Clinton, I suspect I would regard Wikileaks as an excellent conduit for things I wanted to get into the public domain, thereafter to be denied as the misinformation of an organisation whose motives really must be in doubt.
Which brings us to the second question: what is Mr Assange really about? Well, the ‘mission for transparency’ doesn’t include Assange’s own parents: we have no names, and nobody seems to know anything beyond what they did….which was, on the whole, pretty kookie.
Julian Paul Assange was born in Queensland, Australia in 1971. He has variously been a mathematics student and hacker. His anonymous parents ran a travelling theatre group, but divorced when he was seven. In 1979, his mother remarried; her new husband was ‘a theatre producer and musician’ (we don’t know who he was either) who belonged to a seriously weird New Age group led by Anne Hamilton-Byrne.
Ms Hamilton-Byrne founded The Santiniketan Park Association, a kind of cross between the Moonies and the Nazis. She acquired fourteen infants and young children between about 1968 and 1975. Some were the natural children of Santiniketan members, and others had been obtained through irregular adoptions arranged by lawyers, doctors and social workers within the group who could bypass the normal processes. The children’s identities were changed using false birth certificates or deed-poll entries. All the kids were given the surname ‘Hamilton-Byrne’, and dressed alike even to the extent of their hair being dyed uniformly blonde:
Assange’s mother seems to have decided that her second husband’s friends were a tad controlling. She took both him and his half-brother into hiding for five years, as a means of avoiding legal action by the stepfather and discovery by the Moonazis. Traumatised by this, Julian eventually left home at the age of 16, and fathered a child two years later. He became a computer hacker, belonging to a group called “International Subversives”. And then he had a breakdown.
Did this odd childhood influence his personality? There are tell-tale clues in some of the behavioural data we have about Assange to suggest that yes, of course it did. Friends consistently talk of a man who needs “only five hours sleep”, who “is often bemused and energetic. He can concentrate intensely, in binges, but he is also the kind of person who will forget to reserve a plane ticket, or reserve a plane ticket and forget to pay for it, or pay for the ticket and forget to go to the airport….”
Rop Gonggrijp, a Dutch activist and hacker, explains of Assange’s time in Iceland:
“Julian can deal with incredibly little sleep, and a hell of a lot of chaos, but even he has his limits, and I could see that he was stretching himself…. I decided to come out and make things sane again.”
You don’t have to be Freud to see these as classic symptoms of an obsessively manic personality. These have, I would surmise, been exacerbated by an upbringing where suspicion of discovery alongside parental absences and conflict led him to fear enemies and expect desertion. From his own mouth in 2008 we have this exact reflection of such a background:
“I went to Sweden and stayed with a girl who is a foreign editor of a newspaper there, and she became so paranoid that the C.I.A. was trying to get me she left the house and abandoned me.” (My italics)
Equally, no PhD in social anthropology is required to grasp why a man brought up with hiding and secrecy feels the need to reveal the secrets of others. There is an incipient paranoia in Assange’s outlook. Everyone, it seems – Kenyans, Russians, the CIA, the Pentagon – are out to get him. Given his track record, this may indeed by true; but the problem goes deeper than that.
Icelandic parliamentarian and enthusiastic supporter of Assange, Birgitta Jonsdottir says, “We are all paranoid schizophrenics.” She gestured at Assange during a 2010 interview …he was wearing a snowsuit. “Just look at how he dresses.” At this point in the conversation, Julian peeks through his curtained window to monitor events outside.
“It’s the camera van,” he deadpanned. “The brain-manipulation van. One of them has a weapon, see all those people standing out there…..”
Hmm. Do we perceive a selfless seeker after truth here? Or do we suspect that Julian Assange is a weirdo with a compulsive need to expose others, whatever the price?
And do we perhaps see bizarre delusions of grandeur? He has, he claims, changed the direction of the Kenyan election and transformed the Mideast peace process. When interrupted at work earlier this month, he snarled, “Look, I’m trying to stop two wars here”. He was working with North Korean leaks at the time.
It is common for contemporaryAmerica to assume some malign sovereign influence in play against all their problems. Statements coming out of the US over the last few days have consistently stressed ‘the anti-American element’. I think this is bollocks: the revelations have been far more damaging to the Arabs (remember, their citizens assume they’re not a bunch of cynical twisters) and North Korea. And the priceless bitchiness about the Putin/Medvedev thing can’t have done their image much good either.
No: Julian Assange is a sweetie. By that, I mean there’s a nut at the centre, covered in eugenic fruitcake of mother, and wrapped in the brittle paper of paranoia. He is Norman Bates reborn, but being a megalomaniac (despite what the flimsy ‘expose’ of Murdoch’s New York Post suggested) the bloke wants to kill countries, not pretty girls. We need protection from his more destructive forms of nihilism; but as for the gossip, I say let’s keep it coming….especially as his next target, we hear, is to be an American bank.