Julian Assange and How Power Corrupts

Julian AssangeIt’s like we’ve gone back to the days of the Cold War. Yesterday, The New York Times reported, Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking. To be honest, I’ve been skeptical about all this certainty that Russia hacked John Podesta and the DNC in order to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president. Note: I’m not saying that they didn’t do it. It’s just that it is so hard to say. Sam Biddle’s article in The Intercept is the first thing that I’ve read that has made me think that there may be some real evidence that this is the case. But I don’t much care, regardless. The truth is, I’m more angry at Julian Assange than anyone.

Think about it. The Russians are trying to affect our elections. And they have been as long as they have been around. Before that, it was the Soviet Union that was trying to do it. The United States does the same thing to Russia. I’m not suggesting that we should just accept all of this and move on. But it is certainly true that the issue is no more important now than it was four years ago. And if the Russians did have an anti-democratic affect on our presidential election, it is nothing compared to our Supreme Court and the Electoral College system itself.

Who Care Who Stole the Email?

Regardless of who stole the Podesta and DNC email, it ended up in the hands of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Overall, I’m a supporter of WikiLeaks. That’s because I’m a supporter of open government. I think the people have a right to know about 99 percent of everything the government decides needs to be classified. So I’m entirely in favor of WikiLeaks getting all this data and releasing it to the public. But that is not what Julian Assange did. What he did had almost nothing to do with open government. What he did was use the information he had as a political weapon.

Truthfully, I don’t know enough about how WikiLeaks deals with such matters generally. But as much as I’ve paid attention, they mostly do large dumps. This is not what was done with the DNC and Podesta hacks. The information was released slowly as to give it the greatest negative impact on the Clinton campaign. And it isn’t hard to see why that was: there was no smoking gun. It was all innuendo. It was one month of trickling innuendo with absolutely no payoff. That is: no payoff if you don’t count Donald Trump being elected President of the United States a payoff.

How Julian Assange Used the Email

On 7 October 2016, WikiLeaks could have simply released all 20,000 pages of John Podesta’s email messages. Instead, it released a little each day. And given the way that our media system works, that meant that every day, there was more coverage of how Hillary Clinton was a corporate tool. This was so, even while the fact that a corporate con man was running for president was largely ignored. Donald Trump defrauded thousands of students who attended his “university,” but that was just a story — not something that made headlines every day for the month before the election.

Ultimately, I can’t help but remember the old gem, “Power corrupts.” Yes, WikiLeaks is a good idea. There should be a way of getting information out to the public. And let’s not forget that Chelsea Manning first went to The Washington Post and The New York Times — neither of which were interested in what she had to offer. But when it came to these recent hacks, WikiLeaks wasn’t interested in informing the public. It’s well known that Julian Assange hates Hillary Clinton. And he used the power that he gained by doing good to swing an election.

Culpability

There are lots of people to blame for “President Donald J Trump.” And I don’t doubt that the Russian government is somewhere on the list. But at the top of my list is Julian Assange. He went from being a hero to a villain — not because Clinton lost but because he abused his power. What he did casts a shadow on everything he did before.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

1 thought on “Julian Assange and How Power Corrupts

  1. Before Greenwald got into this latest pissing contest with Pierce and others, he had a good interview with Naomi Klein where they talked about the morality of full leak dumps as opposed to, say, how Snowden was able to leak his data — through journalists who made sure the material wasn’t unnecessarily harmful.

    That’s a fascinating ethical issue. The interview doesn’t really get into it — so who decides which journalists are authorized to decide what gets released, what withheld, and why?

    Clearly Assange sees himself as a truth teller who subverts those unaccountable institutions (governments, corporations, media outlets). Just as clearly, he seems to have felt it was his right to strategically release the leaked e-mails for his own agenda.

    Where’s the line? Surely, if you or I came across info harmful to an institution we disliked, we’d probably share it. At my amateur writer level, that means research I’ve done on publicly available documents. Yet who decides what material is publicly available?

    Klein and Greenwald also discussed how Assange may have been affected by what is, essentially, his imprisonment (albeit less awful than most prisons). I think that’s compassionate.

    And yet I’ve never regarded the guy warmly. He charges for interviews. (Snowden and Manning do not.) He didn’t give Manning the protection Poitras/Greenwald gave Snowden. (To be fair, Snowden knew a hell of a lot more about cybersecurity than Assange or any journalist.)

    Ultimately it doesn’t matter what we think about hacked leaks; they’re probably here to stay. Nor did Assange start them, nor if he stopped tomorrow would they stop. But for someone who sells himself as some prophet of Online Truth, he totally skeeves me out.

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