Julian Assange arrested: Is he a 'scientific journalist' or 'megalomaniac'?
Julian Assange (pronounced Ah-Sanj) is currently under arrest in England, but his message still seeps out. An op-ed by Assange appeared Tuesday morning in The Australian, asserting the need for WikiLeaks:
WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?
Assange will remain in custody until at least Dec. 14.
Meanwhile, detractors of WikiLeaks continue to speak out against his method. Christopher Hitchens writes in Slate that Assange is an "unscrupulous megalomaniac with a political agenda."
The cunning of Julian Assange's strategy is that he has made everyone complicit in his own private decision to try to sabotage U.S. foreign policy.
For a staunch supporter of full transparency, Assange is not very open about his own personal life. He does not confirm his birth date, and he rarely says in which country he lives. Assange is reportedly 39, born in Townsville, Australia. He reportedly moved 37 times by his 14th birthday, a Time magazine two-minute biography reports. In a TED interview, he says his parents were running from a cult.
In 1991, he was arrested for 31 counts of hacking and related crimes but was only asked to pay a small fine in Australia.
He also was locked in a bitter custody fight in the late '90s over his son that finally ended in 1999.
The New Yorker profile in June 2010 said that after the custody battle, Assange honed his personal philosophy:
He had come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution. As a student of Kafka, Koestler, and Solzhenitsyn, he believed that truth, creativity, love, and compassion are corrupted by institutional hierarchies, and by "patronage networks"--one of his favorite expressions--that contort the human spirit.
In 2006, Assange launched WikiLeaks, a Web site that would anonymously publish confidential data. Over the years, it released the "Climategate" e-mails, Sarah Palin's private Yahoo! e-mails, and the 2007 footage of a U.S. military attack that killed a Reuters photographer. This summer it released 400,000 records of war logs from Iraq and 91,000 secret documents about the war in Afghanistan.
The New Yorker profile talks about how he is quick to anger in his writing, lashing out at critics, particularly on Twitter, but as the face of WikiLeaks on television programs, he comes across as suave and other-worldly:
Under the studio lights, he can seem--with his spectral white hair, pallid skin, cool eyes, and expansive forehead--like a rail-thin being who has rocketed to Earth to deliver humanity some hidden truth. This impression is magnified by his rigid demeanor and his baritone voice, which he deploys slowly, at low volume.
Here's Julian Assange speaking at TED in July. The interview includes graphic footage of a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad:
As the Assange's trial unfolds in London, the Guardian is live blogging the events here.
| December 7, 2010; 8:54 AM ET
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