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Friday, February 18, 2011

How Responsible For the North African/ Muslim World Revolution is Julian Assange?


I am not a fan of Julian Assange and the anarchic/irresponsible/adolescent way in which he disseminates information -- but he is a significant world figure. Some respect should go his way. He is against the Afghan and Iraq wars, I get that, and he regards the Wikileaks dump as the perfect way to stymie the West., shrug the behemoth "I Enjoy Crushing Bastards," is how he put it in a  recent interview. I suppose in his own sloppy and simplistic manner he was taking a stand on principle against the West's imperial wars, a sentiment shared by many. He is now a part of our collective unconscious (terrifying as that might be).

My problem is in the manner in which he did it. Assange made the State Department's job -- the diplomatic, not military arm of American foreign policy -- a hundred thousandfold more difficult. But how does one explain the subtle differences between defense and State, the military and the diplomatic corps, to someone with an attention span so low and a morality so obtuse and -- dare I say it? -- naive. And he fancies hinmself a journalist (Averted Gaze)

Assange put the lives of many Afghani's fighting against the Taliban at risk, refusing even the simple courtesy of redacting the names before he hit publish. Hillary Clinton actually looks even more tired than usual (if that is even possible) as she basically resets all of our diplomatic relationships across the globe. How does one explain to someone like Assange the subtle difference between the Generals and the diplomats in the State department? Still, Assange is now historically significant, an accelerator -- through digital media -- of the modern revolutionary process. No history of revolution can now ignore Julian Assange.

A question I have been trying to figure out is to what degree that Assange is actually resposible for the revolutionary wave sweeping through North Africa and the Muslim world. From Washington Week (just before Mubarak abdicated in Egypt):

MR. SANGER: Look, I’ve gone back and tried to talk to a couple of American officials about what they thought triggered things in Tunisia. And it’s interesting. Several senior officials – very senior officials have said to me they thought WikiLeaks had more to do with than we know. And I was thinking about this because in the initial WikiLeaks –
(Gwen). IFILL: Because there were cables.

MR. SANGER: Cables that got published in the New York Times. We didn’t even look at Tunisia. It didn’t strike us that that would be that vital. But those cables ended up making it clear to the Tunisians that everybody in the world, including the American diplomats, knew about the swimming pools and the parties and the caviar at the president’s palace. And I think that embarrassment factor –

MS. RADDATZ: The public humiliation. Yes.
(David). SANGER: – on top of all.

(Martha) RADDATZ: And the fact, you would think they would have that in Yemen, too, because in Yemen, the president was said on WikiLeaks to say, you know, I’ll cover for you these drone strikes and these missile strikes. Don’t worry. I’ll say it’s us.
I don't think Assange is nearly as important as the changing demographics of the population of those countries, the ages of their rulers, the rise in education, the human rights abuses, the lack of upward mobility and the sharp rise in food prices. Still, I say to myself with an Averted Gaze, Assange is, I suppose, significant.

Finally, there was no surprise in the "sex by surprise" allegations. Wearing a comdom in a casual sex encounter is for mature men, not "revolutionaries," right?

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