First it was rape, now it's anti-Semitism. Julian Assange should quit WikiLeaks and save a valuable institution.
The big story today is that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently appealing an extradition order demanding he return to Sweden to face rape charges, is also an anti-Semite. In an interview published in the latest issue of British satire magazine Private Eye, Assange excoriates the Guardian newspaper and complains of a Jewish-led plot to destroy him.
It goes like this: Asked about a WikiLeaks associate in Russia with a history of anti-Semitism, Assange accused Private Eye of being in cahoots with three other British journalists, all of whom "are Jewish." When the Private Eye reporter noted that one of Assange's accused, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, wasn't actually Jewish, Assange told him Rusbridger, whose brother-in-law is Jewish, is "sort of Jewish." Assange, who later in the interview asked the Private Eye reporter to "forget the Jewish thing," allegedly said he believes Jewish journalists are out deprive WikiLeaks of Jewish donations and support.
Besides being ludicrous and bigoted, Assange's dated assertion that the Jews are out to get him is further evidence of a growing paranoia and narcissism. In January, New York Times editor Bill Keller wrote a catty profile of Assange, warning readers that the WikiLeaks founder was mostly an arrogant nerd turned self-styled international man of mystery. Since then, Assange has applied to trademark his name, and approved banner ads like the one below (perhaps it's the royal "us").
In other words, WikiLeaks seems less like an organization dedicated to improving the world's transparency and more like a platform for Assange to self-aggrandize. Insiders claim he's become a power-hungry "emperor" who boasts behind closed doors about how many children he's sired. And according to the Guardian, the man who once said "censorship reveals fear" tried his hand at censorship last year, when there was a disagreement about how some WikiLeaks cables had been released: "Assange and his lawyer stormed into the office of Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and threatened to sue [if he published certain WikiLeaks documents]."
It's been about three years since a judge in California ruled that the company in charge of the WikiLeaks domain name had to shut down public access to the site. Since then, it's effectively avoided several worldwide calls for its destruction, all while releasing massive amounts of important, formerly classified data concerning governments around the world. It's showed Americans murdering civilians in war, and revealed the lengths to which American diplomats go in order to better control the world. The site's been so groundbreaking, in fact, that it's now been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Yet all of this is being sullied by Assange.
Perhaps the best thing about WikiLeaks—or at least what makes it important—is that it's ostensibly free of bias and human intervention. Rather than corrupt information with any meddling, it purports to provide people with unvarnished "material of ethical, political and historical significance." At its best, WikiLeaks should serve simply as a conduit allowing whistleblowers to complain without fear of retribution. It should be a middleman—and it was, and a good one at that.
But then came the new Assange; the one who fights, Polanski-like, to skip out on rape charges; the one who loves the spotlight; the one who blames a team of Jewish journalists for trying to turn Jews against WikiLeaks.
What all this amounts to is a poisoning of the well. To be fair, Assange may have never raped anyone, and it's very possible that he's never said anything about Jews ever. But the sad fact is that, in the court of public opinion, none of that stuff matters. Regardless of what has and hasn't happened, how can one be expected to fully trust WikiLeaks about Sweden now that Assange is trying to dodge a rape case there? How to trust WikiLeaks about Israel with Assange allegedly running off at the mouth about scheming Jews? How to trust anything WikiLeaks says about the Guardian or The New York Times now that we know Assange has reasons to hate both outlets, and has gone after at least one with threats of legal action?
WikiLeaks is a valuable tool for the modern world, and the work it does is, at least for now, unparalleled. It's time for Assange to walk away from the site and preserve the reputation it still has. Perhaps he could finally go face his accusers in Stockholm.