A Little Bit Twitchy
December 17th, 2010

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, so I’ll just go ahead and say it: Julian Assange creeps me out.  A lot.  Based on his looks alone I am reasonably convinced that he is some sort of weevil in human form, come to wreak havoc on life as we know it.  Add to his list of descriptions the conflicting combination of a Robin Hood complex and rape allegations and I feel like I need to take a shower just from looking at his picture.  Malfoy-esque appearances aside, though, I wonder what it is about his rogue ways that makes me so uncomfortable.

He is hailed as a hero and a villain for his efforts to make veiled information public.  And I’m not sure where on that continuum my own opinion falls.  But I am fascinated by the polarizing nature of his presence on the international stage. 

Reviled by Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Mary Matalin and many others, they describe him as megalomaniacal, a sociopath, a psychopath, and a terrorist (not descriptions most people toss out without substantial consideration…).  Based on what I’ve read about their responses to him the common objection is that his public disclosures of classified documents jeopardize American troops throughout the world, as well as American relations with various nations. 

I am not so naïve as to believe that our government doesn’t engage in shady activities.  The world contains some very unsavory characters; characters you can’t always deal with in diplomatic summits at Camp David.  (In the words of CJ Cregg from The West Wing, “Sometimes what you need is a busboy with a silencer.”)  And I’m okay with that.  Protecting American interests can be a messy job and as long as I’m not willing to pony up and participate, I’m willing to cede my right to have access to the minutiae involved in it.

However (and this is a big however) I also believe that transparency is one of the most substantial deterrents to corruption and ineptitude.  In his column on The Huffington Post entitled “Why I’m Posting Bail Money for Julian Assange” Michael Moore asserts that had WikiLeaks existed in 2001 both the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq could have been avoided.  These are aggressive claims, but as Moore lays out his arguments, I find them plausible. 

He asserts that had the “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” memo been made public that the nation would have demanded more rigorous attention be paid to our risk factors.  Likewise he asserts that had Dick Cheney’s premise for the Iraq war (WMDs) been exposed as faulty the public support for and repeated funding of it would have been dashed.

I find it curious that back in 2006 when WikiLeaks was founded and began exposing the government secrets of Somalia and Kenya no one in the upper ranks of the United States government had a problem with it.  But now that it is our own government whose underbelly is being exposed those in power suddenly have strong opinions.  It certainly looks like guilty behavior, and yet I trust that my government is, for the most part, honest and forthright (even in dealings that are kept confidential).     

So now I sit at a crossroads of confusion.  I believe in the value of transparency and of secrecy in different circumstances.  If there is corruption in my government, I suppose I want to know about it.  At the same time I worry that the revelation of corruption could cause chaos enough to be more damaging than the corruption itself.  And again, I believe that confidentiality is equally vital to the successful running of a nation. 

I have some soul searching to do about WikiLeaks.  What I know for sure, though, is that I’d be less twitchy about the whole thing if its figurehead looked less like Julian Assange and more like Harrison Ford.

4 Responses to “A Little Bit Twitchy”

  1. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities Says:

    Alas, I am sitting with you in that crossroads of confusion. Not sure what to make of all of this. But that picture? Yes, a wee bit creepy :)

  2. Anne@lifeinpencil.com Says:

    Dude…this is heavy for a Friday. BUT…it’s good for me, since this morning when this guy was being interviewed by Matt Lauer I finally broke down and asked the hubby, “Okay, can you explain this Wikileaks thing to me?” Clearly, I need to be more knowledgeable. Granted, I had the basic facts, but nothing in depth. I believe a DEGREE of transparency is a good thing, but I’m with you…there are some things the public just doesn’t need to know about. leave it to the people with massive experience and degrees in espionage and covert ops. All I know is what I see on “24″ and the occasional disturbing documentary. And what does it do to my responsibility as a citizen if this stuff is published? Not everyone will dig in with the same level of conscientiousness, and info is easily distorted by the public. I don’t know if I’d call this creepo a terrorist, but i don’t like what he’s doing.

    Also, you’re SO RIGHT about the Malfoy comparison. Draco’s distant cousin for sure.

  3. Cathy Says:

    Interesting. A blog I follow has a post today about basically the same thing. It provides some interesting insight.


  4. Gale Says:

    Anne – Yes, heavy for a Friday. Unfortunately I can’t always control when my mind wanders into the thicket. Ironically, I had no idea he was on the docket at the Today show this morning. Will have to stream the interview and see what he said. (I have seen him interviewed before, but it was long before all the current hubbub.)

    My biggest issue with him is that I’m struggling to settle on my position. Because I think he’s creepy I kind of want to believe that what he’s doing is wrong. However, I’m not convinced that’s the case. His exposures in Somalia and Kenya were of true corruption – things I believe should be exposed. But the diplomatic cables he exposed early this month were largely embarrassing but ultimately irrelevant revelations. If he is muzzled then perhaps legit corruption doesn’t get exposed when it should. But if he isn’t then he’s also just a giant international pest much of the time.