He Steals Security: The Psychoanalysis of Assange
One cannot have gone a lifetime without hearing the cliché ignorance is bliss. Julian Assange—the face of Wikileaks—is both blamed and respected for the mass out poor of globally protected secrets, thus shattering the bliss of millions. In doing so, he manipulates emotions and exercises the control over others he felt he never had growing up. This article examines and qualifies the potential reasoning Assange is so committed to upsetting the public’s naive serenity, and whether it is an attempt to compel distrust and discomfort among all—the same way Assange felt throughout his lonely history. Assange’s upbringing, often accurately deemed nomadic, consisted of a lack of consistency. His mother and father split apart before his birth, and the string of father figures he had afterwards each proved to be temporary as well. Predominantly raised by a single parent and having no sibling(s) to interact with, one can infer his shallow emotional depth. In addition, he was moved over thirty times to different towns before his mid-teens, preventing any type of genuine emotional roots to take hold. The culmination of these factors produced a desire for control to compensate for his unstable childhood, control he could accomplish through his knack for hacking. This knack caught attention when he was convicted for hacking into a Canadian multinational telecommunications corporation. Within these 1996 court proceedings Assange had been found—and pleaded—guilty to numerous counts of hacking, and avoided a harsher sentence because the judge perceived an absence of malicious intent and sympathized with his disrupted childhood. Interesting to note here, the Wikileaks coverage of this topic refrained from mentioning the judge’s sympathy, seeming to validate some truth to my claim through his refusal to show vulnerability. While the perspective of a now disenfranchised associate of Assange, those he comes in acquaintance with often dehumanize him and refer to hacking as his “primary was of interacting with the world.” He himself views hacking as an intellectual liberation, but whether his deeds were motivated by malice remained ambiguous as he engineered Wikileaks birth. Now a household name, Wikilikeaks publishes thousands upon thousands of government secrets, sometimes to the detriment of those governments, but always executed in the name of freedom—or at least partially. The site itself, and the purpose of the site itself, is clear. Assange reached out to the masses through the site and called for whistle blowers to leak information deemed too secretive, yet directly pertinent to the public. The ideology behind this lengthy endeavor is to produce a just society based on transparency. Assange described his own dedication to the project as one based on “defending victims and crushing bastards” through the inventive channels necessary to perpetrate actual truth. While to some extent his drive is absolutely centered on these goals, in uncovering these secrets Assange became both idolized and detested by the public. Thus, achieving the most emotional interaction and fulfillment his solidary life seems to offer. This leaves us to ask are the bastards being crushed his demons? And is he himself a victim being defended by finally having both his own power and control? While not the first controversial release, but one of the largest, through his then unnamed—and still unconfirmed—source Chelsea (previously Bradley) Manning, a video detailing the murder of several civilians assumed to be carrying weapons was released. The video contained Apache pilots’ dialogue discussing the possible threat of the civilians, and upon deciding the threat was imminent, several civilians were killed as the pilots carelessly laughed and applauded their decision. Despite the lack of any actual weapons, no consequence was inflicted upon the pilots. Assange reflected upon the event as “deeply wrong” and criticized the rules of engagement, thus his way of validating the video’s exposure to the public. As Americans, seeing such conduct from our own soldiers makes the video deeply unsettling and promotes government distrust. Despite the controversy of the video’s release, it did not endanger any American lives, only the public opinion of government which has been at stake since scandals like Watergate regardless. In providing yet another reason to doubt those leading the country, Assange instills paranoia amongst the public while bolstering his own reputation, as he avoided any physical harm to soldiers by publishing the video. Despite being a foreigner, to Americans he initially appears like an ally by unveiling the government’s shortcomings. By doing so, he himself gains the trust of his readers and is accepted by them, something he must yearn for even if only subconsciously. Not only does he have their trust, but his tendencies towards paranoia—constant country hopping and wearing a bullet proof vest to name a few—make him feel alienated. By causing the same paranoia and alienation amongst the American public he has a place to belong with people who now understand him to some degree. However, this understanding is compelled. Assange progressively increases the severity of secrets released and pushes people past reasonable discomfort. With the video’s release along with 75,000 released documents relating to Afghan war logos, Assange was launched into the public eye. His name became inseparable from Wikileaks, propelling him to an “untouchable” status. Those being his own words, it is clear he views himself as a powerful and prominent figure, but within this batch of released documents he blurs the line between visionary and playing God. The 75,000 documents contained names of Afghan citizens, and while the majority of names were didacted, about 100 were still published. For objectivity’s sake it is important to note the material was over 7 months old, but the potential threat to Afghan citizens the documents posed during active military conflict was disturbing to say the least. Assange moved past causing discomfort to causing alarm. Assange’s rise to fame was accompanied by the realization that he is not a man trying to be part of the people, but merely subjecting them to his constant state of unease. He does not wish to feel connected with his public, instead he views the leaks as a formula and the results as none of his concern. Were he invested in actually building the ideal system he describes, he would aid government reformation after wreaking havoc on nations’ internal affairs, instead he moves on to the next target. He has allegedly announced his campaign to run for Australian senator, exemplifying his interest in politics, but the politics of his own country, thus reinforcing his disinterest in rebuilding the infrastructures he helped destroy. Aside from disrupting the peace of numerous countries without looking back, Assange’s increasing narcissism contradicts his ethics. His fame fueled corruption translates to hypocrisy in how he dealt with his alleged sexual crimes in Sweden. Considering he was one to claim “public trial” was the only way the receive justice—in reference to Iceland bank failures—Assange avoided his own legal ramifications. By avoiding trial in Sweden—he believes a trap is waiting there—he both undermines his own philosophy and lengthens the backlash for the women he was involved with. For two years those women endured endless abuse from Assange’s fans and he stood by despite proclaiming himself a defender of victims. It is fair to mention Assange is fully convinced their claims are part of a government ploy to capture him, he has made numerous enemies. However, by assuming himself above the law his ethical prowess has morphed. How can one living a double standard hope to inspire the change he speaks of? Assange managed to garner both support and resistance by breaking the status quo, and represents a revolutionary mind determined to out any tempting secrets. While his motivations—perpetuating classified information for freedom’s sake and receiving personal validation from such—are not synonymous, they act in tandem to produce the groundbreaking discoveries acknowledged already. More are sure to follow as long as unnerving secrets and Assange’s ego persist. *When critically interpreting the claims laid out do account for the fact that the majority of information is gathered from the Wikileaks hosted manuscript of “We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks.” This source proved valuable because it contained both Assange’s critiques through Wikileak sidenotes along with the original documentary, so the bias of both sources must be noted for the sake of objectivity.