Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A very naughty boy.

AND LO, it came to pass the Messiah entered the embassy, and demanded protection.

"Infamy! Infamy!" cried St Julian of Assange, for it was he. "They've all got it in for me! Suffer the little Ecuadorians to come unto me, for blessed are the WikiLeakers, and save me from these Pharisees who conspire to entrap me!"

Never mind that his attitude towards protection in the first place is what led St Julian to this sorry pass, and never mind that the ancient right to claim asylum is for those fleeing political or religious persecution. The fact is that St Julian feels persecuted, and he thinks he's at the centre of his own new faith.

Anyone who denies his messianic status is an unbeliever. Those who point out he is of questionable mental health are denounced. Mentioning the possibility he might be a bit odd, or even in the wrong, makes you an infidel in the world of the internet where the ability to understand computer code makes you 30 per cent more powerful than other mortals.

The fact is St Julian is mortal, and just like prophets of the past if you take a prosaic look at what he gets up to you start to wonder whether he's a bit unhinged.

First St Julian nicked the name of his website from another, unrelated one in a bid to piggyback on its success. His disciples issued a press release saying he was setting up the "Wikipedia of secrets", which prompted the real Wikipedia to register a few domain names in case they were under cyber attack.

They had a chat and things were resolved, so Wikipedia let St Julian have some of those domain names. He failed to change the register about who owned them, and hey presto it still looks like he's linked to the world's most popular online encyclopedia. He's not.

A 'wiki', in simple terms, means a website which the public can log on to and edit. WikiLeaks doesn't allow that, so it's not really right to call it wiki-anything. Not unless you want to pretend it's something it isn't, anyway.

The site he runs has revealed some amazing things; there was a period a couple of years ago when it dominated the news agenda all over the world. WikiLeaks released 250,000 pages of confidential documents, and in so doing proved two Reuters journalists were killed by a US helicopter gunship in Baghdad, that 15,000 more civilians than thought were killed in the Iraq War, that prisoner abuse was ignored, that governments worldwide covered up torture and carried out spying, and Prince Andrew is a bit of a pillock.

Good stuff. Well done, even though we could have guessed most of that anyway. Despite hysterical claims the leaks would lead to deaths of servicemen in retribution, the Pentagon has had to admit there's no evidence any such thing happened - not least because the people who want to kill soldiers are doing it anyway, leaks or no.

But you can't do that kind of thing without upsetting the big boys, and moves were made to cut off the money supply, to court martial a US soldier who had leaked lots of the cables, and to indict St Julian for - whether you approve of what he did or not - quite plainly breaking the law.

At which point WikiLeaks became less about the information we ought to know, and more about sanctifying one of the people who set it up.

St Julian began to sermonise and preach, to insist he had a higher calling to wage an online guerilla war against the powers that be who were persecuting him for his efforts. He wrapped himself in a cloak of sanctimony, and the flood of leaks slowed to a trickle.

On a visit to Sweden St Julian had a diddle with two disciples, and they later complained to the police that he may have assaulted them because he either didn't use a condom or removed it during sex. The police ummed and ahed, they talked to him about one accusation but not another, he caught a plane out, and then the police decided they wanted to talk to him some more.

An arrest warrant was issued and Interpol alerted, and eventually St Julian - sadly not riding on a donkey - presented himself at a London police station. Efforts began to extradite him, he dug in his heels, and he lost a series of legal moves which other people paid for. He agreed to write a book about his fight for more openness, then refused to answer personal questions and fell out with a lot of the people who had tried to help him.

St Julian thought it was all a conspiracy, that Sweden was like Saudi Arabia, while his followers claimed the women were CIA plants and it was all part of a plot to get him to America and kill him.

That's as may be. Most of it sounds pretty mad, and in my experience that means it probably is mad. The fact is that St Julian hasn't been charged with anything and the Swedes want only to ask him if what the girls say is true. If it is, and if they decide it's worth prosecuting him, there'll be a trial and sentence before anything else happens.

Maybe after that they will deport him to the US. Maybe if they do he'll be dropped into solitary at Guantanamo Bay, go on trial and potentially face the death penalty.

But unlike the rulers of pre-Christian Jerusalem I doubt any American president would want that on his watch. Assange has been in Britain for 18 months and we happily deport people to the US all the time, but our Government doesn't want to be seen sending him off to a possible death sentence.

Sweden will be in the same tricky diplomatic position if he goes there, and so would Ecuador. Australia doesn't want to get involved for the same reason. Crucifying people for saying unwelcome things, these days, doesn't look good.

So if St Julian's life is not at any serious risk, why run to the Ecuadorian embassy and ask for shelter? Why, for attention of course. Assange is so self-obsessed these days he makes Kim Kardashian seem plagued with self-doubt. WikiLeaks is not about the information, or freedoms, or knowledge - it's all about him, now.

It's not about the leaks, which have all but dried up and most recently revealed Robert Mugabe might have prostate cancer but is pretty healthy for it, a fact your average Zimbabwean would merely shrug over.

It's not about the sources of his information, many of whom have been tracked down, jailed, tried, convicted. He doesn't use his airtime to decry the treatment of whistleblowing US soldiers or Swiss bankers whose principled actions made him a media darling while they suffer for it.

It's all about St Julian, the man at the centre of a cult where he wants everyone to do as he says and not look too hard at what he does.

And all he does, as far as I can see, is feed his own persecution complex while leeching off others' good will. A variety of people paid £200,000 bail for him, and as he broke the conditions to stay in the embassy they will lose it. The value of his leaks, now quite distant, seems to be almost incidental rather than part of a thought-out campaign to change the world or improve the lot of anyone but himself. And with all the attention on him they've all but stopped altogether.

He was a hacker who spent too much time on his own in a darkened room; then he became an international celebrity, living out of suitcases and cocking a snook at blundering governments. Now he lives in a mansion for free, and if he goes to Ecuador there'll be more of the same.

There is one major difference between St Julian and the prophets he models his little cult on - most of them did what they did knowing it might lead to their deaths, and even welcoming it. He wants all the benefits of sainthood without the cost or questioning, which is the one evidence of sanity I can see in him. And if he's done all this while being sane, he's a calculating conman rather than a freedom fighter.

The truth is that all he's seeking asylum from is questions about whether he molested two women, that he might not get that ticket to Ecuador and will have to be arrested, no doubt with lots of photographs and an air of martyrdom. Maybe he'll even wear some thorns and a bedsheet for the full effect.

The truth is he's not the Messiah. He's not even close to it, and frankly the sooner he ascends the steps of a plane the better for all concerned.

And he dances like a twat.