Why isn’t Julian Assange a better person?

For those of us who remain committed, on an ideological if not a practical level, to the notion that the truth can never be immoral, Julian Assange is an increasingly troubling person. When Assange first released his cache of US diplomatic cables to various news outlets, Combat! blog took the position that Wikileaks is awesome. It got us into a lot of spirited discussions—viz. “Is That Journalism?” at Flippers and the extremely treacherous “Is That Rape?” at Mom’s kitchen table—that emphasized the enormous gap between theoretical and actual applications of the Truth. The Truth exists as a sort of disembodied ideal in our heads, but it goes out into the world in the company of people and events. As this excellent narrative of the people and events surrounding the Wikileaks disclosures suggests,* the Truth is frustratingly inseparable from the person telling it. The more we learn about Julian Assange’s truth-telling, the more his project seems to be about the telling rather than the truth. That’s a shame, since it seems to be what the powers that Assange set out to embarrass wanted in the first place.

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You don’t need totalitarian government when you’ve got MasterCard

The sentence “Julian Assange has not yet been charged with a crime,” became a problematic way to discuss Wikileaks a few months ago, when Swedish authorities accused him of rape. So Julian Assange has not been charged with espionage or—as one Fox News reporter suggested, in apparent ignorance of his Australian citizenship—treason. Instead, he is the object of extradition proceedings for failing to stop what began as consensual sex when his condom broke. Meanwhile, in the same treason interview, Joe Lieberman suggested that the New York Times be investigated for publishing Assange’s leak of diplomatic cables. An “investigative” phone call from the senator’s office already prompted Amazon to stop hosting his website, and MasterCard and Visa prohibited donations to WikiLeaks last week. While the US government decides whether what he did was spying or journalism, his website has been shut down, his income stream has been frozen, and Julian Assange has been put in jail. But he hasn’t been censored.

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Is there such thing as illegal information?

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, calmly trying to interpret social cues

Deep in this New York Times article about Julian Assange’s sexual assault charges is another, more interesting story about Amazon’s decision to stop hosting the WikiLeaks website on its servers—a decision apparently prompted by a call from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. According to committee chair Joe Lieberman, staffers asked Amazon to explain its business relationship with WikiLeaks. They didn’t tell them to terminate that relationship, of course; that would be borderline-unconstitutional, and certainly creepy. They just called the multibillion-dollar web-based retailer and pleasantly inquired how many of their web servers might be connected to the activities of a publicly-declared enemy of the US government. By sheer coincidence, Amazon shut down WikiLeaks’s site a few hours later.

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