I just wanted to highlight some of the more pernicious, and easily missed, qualifiers in the anti-Assange piece by Burns in the NYT, yesterday. Yes, the article’s main focus seemed to be to paint Assange as an unaccountable autocrat, increasingly disliked by his own organization and increasingly “delusional” and unbalanced. But I think these qualifiers also build up a portrait of Assange as dilettante, hypocrite and clown–exactly what, as I observed yesterday, Gitlin outlined when he studied the New York Times coverage of Students for a Democratic Society when they broke out on to the national stage in 1965. Burns really wants you to know that Assange is just like any empty-celebrity, dining in the world’s epicurean hot-spots while gabbing to journalists, with no idea just how inadvertently dangerous he is to the free world…:
He demands that his dwindling number of loyalists use expensive encrypted cellphones and swaps his own as other men change shirts. He checks into hotels under false names, dyes his hair, sleeps on sofas and floors, and uses cash instead of credit cards, often borrowed from friends.
“By being determined to be on this path, and not to compromise, I’ve wound up in an extraordinary situation,” Mr. Assange said over lunch last Sunday, when he arrived sporting a woolen beanie and a wispy stubble and trailing a youthful entourage that included a filmmaker assigned to document any unpleasant surprises.
In his remarkable journey to notoriety…
…erratic and imperious behavior, and a nearly delusional grandeur unmatched by an awareness that the digital secrets he reveals can have a price in flesh and blood.
…Mr. Assange has come a long way from an unsettled childhood in Australia
History is punctuated by spies, defectors and others who revealed the most inflammatory secrets of their age. Mr. Assange has become that figure for the Internet era, with as yet unreckoned consequences for himself and for the keepers of the world’s secrets.
Finally, this paragraph is simply incredible:
Mr. Assange has been equivocal about Private Manning, talking in late summer as though the soldier was unavoidable collateral damage, much like the Afghans named as informers in the secret Pentagon documents.
This from a reporter who regularly reports on the US’s opinion that US soldiers and civilian Afghans are collateral damage.