If ever evidence was needed that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have lost their bearings, it was their recent action in releasing a free download of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury that should have made their state plain to everyone. There was nothing noble or principled about this action: it was petty and vindictive, done to reduce paid sales of the book, and therefore to deny the author and his publisher some income from it.
It spoke of Assange’s continuing alignment with Donald Trump and his administration, and of his hostility to the Democrats. It may even have been an attempt to curry further favour with Trump, given that Assange is still desperately trying to avoid the risk of being shipped by a third country to America, where he faces serious legal proceedings.
In the process, Assange has demonstrated that he’s now not interested in the idea of copyright or even the notion of intellectual property. He used to be, when he signed a contract several years ago with UK publisher Canongate to have his memoirs ghost-written; but that was then, when he needed the money, and this is now, when he’s trying to protect his own skin and has partisan political interests to pursue.
For years, Assange traded on WikiLeaks’ original mission of speaking truth to power by being an international disseminator of important secrets revealed by whistleblowers. However, Assange was never a journalist (despite attempts by his supporters to designate him as one, to give him the moral protection afforded to real journalists), and in fact he quickly revealed that he was not interested in the collateral damage that his actions might cause. Chelsea Manning, was burned infamously by Assange. Nor has Assange ever been prepared to tolerate criticism or dissent.
These traits, among other things, were what led to his former right-hand man, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, splitting from him and his organisation in 2010. We published Domscheit-Berg’s memoir, Inside WikiLeaks, in 2011, and I would still recommend it today as a searing insight into Assange’s character.
His collaboration with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in the 2016 US elections, in favour of Donald Trump and against Hillary Clinton, should have alerted everybody that Wikileaks has become Assange’s private vehicle for conducting vendettas and campaigns. He used to be an anti-Western anarchist; now he’s just a rebel with a grudge who helps monstrous political leaders when it suits him.
Henry Rosenbloom is founder and publisher of Scribe Publications and did not receive payment for this article.