Julian Assange is no hero. Hollywood loves the idea of being subversive of the “military-industrial complex,” so Assange is a natural protagonist for them. In the new documentary "We Steal Secrets," leftist filmmaker Alex Gibney decided that Assange was more morally complex – beginning the minute he demanded payment to be interviewed for Gibney’s movie. Gibney and other leftists arrived at the reality that Assange is an egotist, not an idealist.
Since Gibney couldn’t root for Assange in his movie, he made Bradley Manning the hero, and the scapegoat, insisting “The US government is trying to lay all the blame for these leaks on one poor kid.” Other liberal journalists have easily found at least as much egotism and moral complexity in Manning as they have in Assange, but not Gibney.
Manning is a scapegoat. And it turns out, as you know from Catching Hell, I'm very interested in this process that societies go through to try and find one person to blame for society's ills. And that seems to be the case with Bradley Manning. The US government is trying to lay all the blame for these leaks on one poor kid. Indeed, they've charged him with a capital offense.
So I recognize the kind of brutality of the scapegoat process. I first became interested in this in [his documentary] Taxi to the Dark Side. Cheney and Bush were referring to the guards at Abu Ghraib as a "few bad apples" as if the whole barrel wasn't rotten—but in fact there was a system of torture.
So in that context, that's what started me in being interested in the very idea of scapegoating. And of course this goes back to the very beginning, when villages used to literally drive goats out of the village and kill them to take all the sins of the village upon them. I'm very interested in what's happened to Bradley Manning as a result. He's caused embarrassment to the US government and he broke an oath for which he has pled guilty and already been punished. But the idea of charging him with capital punishment for this seems outrageous and very in line with the scapegoating idea.
Assange shocked several fans by his absolute lack of reluctance to release anything and everything, as in this interview on the NPR-distributed show "On The Media":
BOB GARFIELD, WNYC: I asked Julian if hypothetically he would publish information sent to his website that could lead to the deaths of innocents, such as, for instance, how to release anthrax into a town’s water supply.
JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes, even if there is a possibility that it would lead to loss of life. It’s hard to imagine a circumstance where we would get a document and us not publishing it would be helpful. If they were ill motivated, then they could send that in private to terrorist groups, to neo-Nazi organizations, and those organizations could then develop their plans out of the sunlight. And that’s the greatest harm.
That public-radio exchange just shows how politically extreme Assange is, that he couldn’t balance public safety against his ideal of freedom of information. It’s a little funny that they say sunlight is the best disinfectant – in this case, Assange is all in favor of sunlight no matter how infectious and deadly it becomes.