Assange’s Cult Hero Status?

By insisting on the prosecution of the WikiLeaks head, Gillard and co. have only risked bumping him to cult hero status.

Our dear leaders have a problem. WikiLeaks and its founder, Australian Julian Assange, have confirmed what most of us already know: The world is driven by celebrity-seeking politicians who crave money, power and attention.

Among world leaders derided in the 251,287 cables dispatched from 274 US embassies around the world, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was described as ‘feckless, vain and ineffective’ while Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe was pigeon-holed as a ‘crazy old man.’

In South-east Asia few would be surprised to learn that Burma, Cambodia and Laos can’t be trusted as they snitch on each other as well as on the other seven members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in briefings with China.

The naming of two Malaysian companies—Electronic Components and Skylife Worldwide—for the possible breaching of sanctions against Iran and acting as front companies for Tehran was a solid news story. So was the revelation of the US illegally spying on Malaysian officials at the United Nations.

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Cables including warnings of potential terrorist strikes in Indonesia showed the Americans are a little more tuned-in than what many people might have thought. More mundane matters such as the importance of tin mines to the US economy were hardly the stuff of classified red seals.

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew hit the mark when he described the North Koreans as psychopathic and led by a ‘flabby old chap… who prances around stadiums seeking adulation. ’Filipinos, among America’s greatest allies, were just horrified by the sheer arrogance on display by US diplomats when it came to dealing with trusted allies.

All of it merits public attention. It impacts on regional relations and beyond and it’s refreshing to see the unstated said, but none of this warrants the hysterical nonsense dished-up by politicians around the world upset by the actions of Assange and his cohorts at WikiLeaks.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton accused Assange of launching an ‘attack on the international community,’ Saudis have called for his death, Sweden is probing an alleged sex offence and politicians in the say US want him tried for treason—which is plain nonsense because he’s not an American.

In his home country, Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has ignored any semblance of national sovereignty and proved Canberra’s total subservience to the whims of US foreign policy by offering-up Assange’s hide on a platter.

Websites like Yahoo, Amazon and PayPal have bowed to political pressure and withdrawn their services from WikiLeaks; however, mainstream media like The New York Times, The Guardian and Le Monde have continued to publish, primarily because the stories contained in the cables are true. But then there was a time when the great newspapers took a stand of ‘published and be damned.’ Remember the Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers? They were published by The New York Times under a First Amendment right covering the people’s right to know in regards to US government policy.

Newspapers are a little less brave these days but new sources have been opened up through the internet, with groups such as WikiLeaks showing more backbone.

Although his arrest yesterday may have ended the 'hunt down,' politicians like Clinton, Gillard and co. insisting on prosecuting Assange, simply continue to risk elevating him to a cult hero status, a kind of Che Guevera for the revolutionary digital age. And this will happen not because of what he did was wrong but because of what he published was right.