“There are some people who don’t like change. For everyone else, there’s WikiLeaks.” A viral YouTube ad produced by WikiLeaks and featuring Julian Assange is using guerrilla advertising techniques to raise the funds it needs to continue operating. The ad targets MasterCard’s globally-successful “Priceless” campaign to draw attention to the banking blockade that has prevented WikiLeaks from receiving some US$15 million of donations.
“Censorship, like everything else in the West, has been privatized,” began a media release WikiLeaks published in late June to coincide with the launch of the campaign. “For six months now,” it continued, “five major US financial institutions, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union and the Bank of America have tried to economically strangle WikiLeaks as a result of political pressure from Washington… The attack is entirely outside of any due process or rule of law.”
Last week, we published an excerpt of an op-ed originally published in The Atlantic by Lowy Institute scholar Mark Fullilove. Fullilove’s op-ed claimed the News of the World phone-hacking scandal was morally comparable with WikiLeaks. Whatever the merits of his argument, financially, there is no comparison between the two: while WikiLeaks is a non-profit organisation, News International can rely on bottomless pockets to defend its interests in the courtroom, as explained by John Dean (a former White House lawyer) in The Guardian this weekend.
In a video/podcast of the recent Wheeler Centre event, ‘Does WikiLeaks Matter?’ published today, Guy Rundle argues that WikiLeaks does indeed matter. WikiLeaks, Rundle says, is “one way of doing something in an era in which the whole constellation of power, information and the state is changing as epochally as it did in the 17th century, when the modern state and political systems were born.” [Click on the link below to watch the video.]
As we recently reported, last month Julian Assange was the keynote speaker at the Splendour in the Grass music festival. Delivered on Skype due to his house arrest, Assange’s address claimed that, among other things, “This generation is burning the mass media to the ground.“ Assange will be a guest at the Sydney Opera House’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas in October, arguing that WikiLeaks has not gone far enough.
The panel discussion featured in this video is the intellectual equivalent of the Big Day Out, Lollapalooza or Glastonbury. Three of the world’s most outspoken figures in philosophy and journalism appeared on stage together in conversation at London’s Frontline Club earlier this month. Journalist Amy Goodman spoke with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, described by Goodman as “the most widely published person on Earth”, and Slavoj Žižek, “the Elvis of cultural theory”, according to the New York Times. They discussed the WikiLeaks effect on world politics, the release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, and Cablegate.
“Throughout Australia there is a strong appetite for debate and discussion about WikiLeaks and Assange,” writes journalist Barbara Gunnell in a piece published last week in the Financial Times. Assange is due back in court this week after several months spent under “mansion arrest”. He’s got a new legal team and, according to Gunnell, a less confrontational courtroom approach. Moreover, there are currently at least four WikiLeaks-related movies under production.
“At a number of events in which I took part around Australia,” writes Gunnell, “a question would be put to the audience by the moderator or a participant to the effect: do you consider Julian Assange a hero or a villain? An audience of more than 200 at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne in June [in partnership with Griffith Review] produced not one person who would call him a villain, though there were a few ‘neithers’ or ‘don’t knows’.”
But an Al Jazeera op-ed written by Chase Madar on the weekend asks, is the Assange really the hero here? Isn’t the real hero Private Bradley Manning, the US soldier whose huge personal sacrifice put WikiLeaks on everyone’s radar? “If he was the one responsible for the WikiLeaks revelations,” writes Madar, “then, for his gift to the republic, purchased at great price, he deserves not prison, but a Presidential Medal of Freedom and the heartfelt gratitude of his country.”
Manning has yet to go to trial, but we already know much about him taken from internet chat logs published by Wired magazine, in which he describes his military experience as a gradual conversion to the realisation of the “evil” of the US war in Iraq: “…i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
According to a recent Salon article, “Manning – if he is the alleged leaker – has done at least as much, if not more, to advance the causes of transparency, accountability, and freedom across the world than any single living individual,” while a New York magazine profile calls him “one of the most unusual revolutionaries in American history”.
Oslo Davis' portrait of Julian Assange speaks a thousand words.
Love him or loathe him, Julian Assange has, with WikiLeaks, irrevocably changed the nature of journalism and governance. As a consequence, a host of similar whistleblowing sites have sprung up, all hoping to emulate WikiLeaks' success. What are the implications for the media, the law, governments, the intelligence fraternity and the wider community?
In this video, our panel of guests – journalist Paul Ramadge, author Suelette Dreyfus and lawyer Julian Burnside, chaired by Lyndal Curtis – explore the topic of WikiLeaks and its transformative effect.
Scottish writer and novelist Andrew O'Hagan has signed on to ghostwrite a forthcoming book by Julian Assange. O'Hagan, who will be appearing at the Wheeler Centre on a forthcoming tour of Australia, is a widely-awarded Scottish writer of novels as well as a regular contributor to the London Review of Books. The ghostly Australian founder of WikiLeaks is reported to have been paid more than US$1 million for his memoirs.
In a backgrounder on ghostwriting, Robert McCrum writes that many ghostwriters are being paid 10% of a book’s takings in the current depressed climate of UK publishing. A ghostwriter of O'Hagan’s pedigree, can expect to fetch something closer to 35%. “The ghost, who starts out as a hybrid of therapist, muse and friend, enters a psychological minefield,” writes McCrum. “In France, ghosts are known as nègres, and there is a kind of slavery implicit in this transaction.”
If bookings for our WikiLeaks event on February 18 are any indication (it booked out faster than a royal wedding), we just can’t read enough about Julian Assange and his controversial website. Guy Rundle wrote sparklingly yesterday in Crikey of Assange’s extradition fight. Rundle’s piece mentions this New York Times Magazine profile of Assange, but for a more personal insight into Assange there’s this New Yorker profile from June 2010.
Those thirsting for more literary angles need look no further than Robert McCrum in the Guardian on why we still need books to make sense of WikiLeaks. And at BookForum Ken Silverstein assesses the WikiLeaks cables as literature.
Added 10 February, this from Forbes.com: “Things have gotten ugly between WikiLeaks and Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the former staffer at the secret-spilling site who left in September of last year.”
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