When Wikileaks first became internationally known, I was graduating high school, and I didn’t really know much about the world. I didn’t even know that Wikileaks existed. We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks covers Wikileaks from several perspectives including the founders of Wikileaks, journalists and the U.S. government, and based on this documentary, and other knowledge I have, I have noticed that Julian Assange exhibits very child-like behavior and thinking and shows a great capacity for manipulation. For example, the documentary We Steal Secrets reveals that Assange originally had no plan in place for protecting anyone’s names that were leaked through Wikileaks. Several people who worked with him claim that he made it very evident that he did not care if anyone could be harmed through leaked documents (whether through a leaked identity or a leaked document containing how to end/harm life). He figured that if their names were in the leaked document then they deserved whatever consequences occurred when the documents were leaked. This thinking was confirmed in an interview with Assange. However, he later went on to claim that he has always had a method and plan to minimize any potential harm. What makes this exceedingly ironic is that in the beginning of Wikileaks, a video and report was leaked revealing that U.S. soldiers had misinterpreted a situation and had killed innocent Middle Eastern civilians. What made this particular incident so awful were the soldiers’ crass and inhumane comments and treatment towards the civilians.
Assange made a statement about these soldiers’ actions and commented that the soldiers had acted as if they were in a video game, and he implied that the soldiers acted removed from their actions and were dismissive of the civilians as real people with real feelings. However, this is exactly how Assange has acted in his initial stance towards harm prevention in leaked documents (which is to say he had no stance). He only seems to see circumstances in black and white and doesn’t understand the full implication of his actions. He never gets to meet the people he exposes, he doesn’t know their stories, and so he is effectively removed from these people. I suspect the primary reason he now claims that he has always had a harm minimization plan is because of his work with other journalists. In journalism, there is a specific code of conduct that journalists honor, and in this assumed code, sources and identities are protected. I assume Assange felt pressure while working with other journalists to follow this code of conduct, and either eventually changed his mind and agreed that people truly should be protected, or he caved in to please other journalists, media and potential whistleblowers. Whatever his initial intentions were for Wikileaks, his actions makes one believe that he is only interested in his own agenda.
When accused of rape by two separate women, instead of appearing in court, he fled. He claims that these accusations are not true and are merely an attempt at a “smear campaign,” but if this is true, then why flee? It is true that he may have just made a poor rash decision, but it is equally possible that he did rape those two women. If he is innocent, then why did he hesitate to get STI/D testing when his alleged victims asked him to (before the women went to the police)? Because he was embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to notice him getting tested? Or did he hesitate because he was afraid they might take his results and go to the police? And the reality is, even if he did rape or molest his alleged victims he would most likely get away with it because most rapist are never successfully convicted. As it is, 97% of rapists get away with their crimes, and only around 3% of rape accusations are false. So if he is innocent and these rape allegations have been taken out of context, then it is even more unlikely that he will be wrongly convicted. This makes one believe that he has been running because he did in fact rape the two women or at least did do something that he should be prosecuted for. Additionally, Assange has done nothing to stop his fans and followers from harassing his two alleged victims. Assange’s alleged victims’ identities have been leaked to the public, and since then, have been doggedly harassed (including sexually harassed) by Assange’s followers. While Assange is not responsible for anyone’s actions besides his own he could have easily have ended his followers’ harassment of the two women. Instead, he has allowed people to repeatedly harass his two former female Wikileaks volunteers whom he knows. If the women’s accusations are false, then Assange would be understandably upset, but just because one is upset doesn’t mean that one should allow more injustice to occur. And, really, he has done his own “smearing” to his name.
For example, when Assange began Wikileaks he had no harm minimization plan, he now has a no-leak contract for his employees, he has run from his charges, has sought refuge from an Ecuador embassy (and Ecuador has a history of suppressing and imprisoning journalists), and he has made no attempt to protect his alleged female victims from his fans and followers. These actions (or lack of actions) reflect his moral character. While I agree that there are times the public should have access to certain information, I do not necessarily agree with Assange’s method, belief system and his actions, and it makes me uncomfortable (based on his past actions) that he is one of the founders of Wikileaks. Some people have set him up as a cultural icon that fights for truth, but in all honesty I find him shady and reckless, and I think he (as a person/his character) ruins the idea behind a useful tool like Wikileaks. After all, it is difficult to like and trust a tool when one does not have complete faith in its creator.