Julian Assange, hero and villain

Why Americans read whatever they like into the Wikileaks founder

Julian Assange.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

To revisit the career of Julian Assange, who was arrested early Thursday after being kicked out of his hole at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the founder of WikiLeaks had been hiding for nearly seven years, is to open a time capsule. Here before us is the whole vanished atmosphere of Bush-era liberalism, of “No Blood For Oil,” mindless talk about citizens' arrests, and a lot of guff about international law. This ethos, which persisted into the early years of Barack Obama's presidency even as the new commander-in-chief escalated the never-ending conflict in Afghanistan, droned villages in Pakistan at will, fought a new disastrous war in Libya, and failed to close Guantanamo, might otherwise have vanished forever.

To argue that Assange, even when the things that WikiLeaks drew attention to were otherwise worthy of public attention, was a force for justice or peace is ludicrous. He was and remains an utterly lawless actor, a delusional, childish narcissist whose policy of absolute disclosure would, if taken to its logical conclusion, undermine and eventually destroy the security of every nation. His now-discredited wisdom belongs to the naïve early era of the internet, the too-long period when we blithely assumed that Google was a neat free service for looking up baseball stats rather than an insidious monopoly.

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Matthew Walther

Matthew Walther is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has also appeared in First Things, The Spectator of London, The Catholic Herald, National Review, and other publications. He is currently writing a biography of the Rev. Montague Summers. He is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow.