KNOWL­EDGE IS POWER AND POWER CORRUPTS

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE GQ - Charlie Pick­er­ing

Ijust fin­ished watch­ing a strange in­ter­view with Ju­lian As­sange. It was from a TED con­fer­ence in 2010. It’s strange for a few rea­sons. Firstly, I’ve be­come so used to see­ing As­sange speak­ing only from his digs at the Ecuadorean em­bassy in Lon­don that I al­most for­got that he used to be free to walk around and do things. Se­condly, the point of the in­ter­view was to dis­cuss Wik­ileaks as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary force in jour­nal­ism, one that de­liv­ered more doc­u­ments to the world than any other me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion. In this light, As­sange is cast as a rock star of the geek world – the Zucker­berg of truth. This is be­fore he was a sus­pect in a Swedish rape case. Be­fore he went into hid­ing. Be­fore he went into a one-room ex­ile. Be­fore things got re­ally con­fus­ing. The strangest part of the in­ter­view oc­curs about four min­utes in. As­sange tells the story of a doc­u­ment from Kenya that Wik­ileaks had pub­lished. It was a re­port that raised gen­uine con­cerns about the rich­est per­son in Kenya (who also hap­pened to be the for­mer dic­ta­tor) to whom the cur­rent pres­i­dent was now cosy­ing up. Wik­ileaks pub­lished the doc­u­ment in the lead-up to the 2007 Kenyan elec­tions and, as As­sange cheer­ily in­forms the TED au­di­ence, was largely cred­ited with a 10-point turn­around in the polls that changed the out­come of the elec­tion. The au­di­ence ap­plauds a hero. I’m pretty sure if I’d been in that au­di­ence in 2010, I would have ap­plauded too. Un­like the tra­di­tional me­dia, Wik­ileaks felt like a bold ex­per­i­ment in al­low­ing the pub­lic to view the facts them­selves and make up their own minds about how the world was be­ing run. But, in 2016, I have this nag­ging sus­pi­cion that it may also be a story about an opaque or­gan­i­sa­tion at best af­fect­ing, and at worst, in­ter­fer­ing with, a coun­try’s elec­tion. I feel that way be­cause, in 2016, Wik­ileaks pub­lished in­ter­nal emails from the Demo­cratic Party in the United States – emails il­le­gally stolen in a hack by, most cred­i­ble sources be­lieve, Rus­sian crim­i­nals, and re­leased dur­ing the Party’s na­tional con­ven­tion to cause max­i­mum dam­age to one side of pol­i­tics. In the in­ter­ven­ing weeks, As­sange has claimed, “The Amer­i­can lib­eral press, in fall­ing over them­selves to de­fend Hil­lary Clin­ton, are erect­ing a de­mon that is go­ing to put nooses around ev­ery­one’s necks as soon as she wins the elec­tion,” and that Wik­ileaks’ most ex­plo­sive in­for­ma­tion about the can­di­date will be re­leased be­fore the Novem­ber 8 elec­tion. I’d be ly­ing if I said Hil­lary Clin­ton was a clean op­er­a­tor. She’s not. She’s kept se­crets, made deals, and been eco­nom­i­cal with the truth for decades. Which is to say, she’s a politi­cian. And for that she de­serves in­tense scru­tiny. But for Wik­ileaks to sin­gle her out for specif­i­cally tar­geted scru­tiny, timed to in­flict max­i­mum po­lit­i­cal dam­age, and to de­scribe her po­ten­tial pres­i­dency as a “de­mon that will put a noose around ev­ery­one’s necks” doesn’t even pass the smell test of jour­nal­is­tic im­par­tial­ity. As­sange clearly has a horse in this race. He’s work­ing to see one can­di­date fail. Which means he’s work­ing to see one can­di­date win. I’ll leave it to oth­ers such as The New York Times to spec­u­late about As­sange’s ties to Rus­sia, which he says are false con­spir­a­cies. But As­sange is cer­tainly not a fan of the US. This month, Wik­ileaks turns 10. It made a name for it­self by be­ing a place where, for bet­ter or worse, hid­den in­for­ma­tion could see the light of day. Videos of al­leged war crimes, pa­per trails of out­ra­geous gov­ern­ment and cor­po­rate malfea­sance, and any truth, hid­den from view, fi­nally had a con­duit to the newly glob­alised world. The pow­er­ful felt threat­ened by Wik­ileaks. Wik­ileaks be­came pow­er­ful. But, like those it’s held to ac­count, Wik­ileaks has caused its share of col­lat­eral dam­age, such as reck­lessly re­veal­ing the names and per­sonal in­for­ma­tion of gay men liv­ing in Saudi Ara­bia, as well as the iden­ti­ties of rape vic­tims and those with HIV. All facts, it seems, are not equal. Power has for­ever been a cor­rupt­ing force – the kind of cor­rupt­ing force that Wik­ileaks claimed to fight. But one won­ders if, as it has be­come more pow­er­ful, it has been equipped to deal with its own in­evitable com­pro­mise. Or if it’s dis­cov­ered that the pow­er­ful some­times make ju­di­cious de­ci­sions about which in­for­ma­tion is for gen­eral con­sump­tion and which in­for­ma­tion can do more harm than good. Af­ter 10 years of Wik­ileaks, the world re­mains a big grey area, and, while vil­lains are ev­ery­where, he­roes are harder to find.

“AS SANG E CLEARLY HAS A HORSE IN THIS RACE, WORK­ING TO SEE ONE CAN­DI­DATE WIN.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.