Home / Culture and Society / Julian Assange, International Man of Mystery: Portrait of an Anarchist

Julian Assange, International Man of Mystery: Portrait of an Anarchist

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We have all heard more than enough about the plethora of sensitive, as well as a few classified, United States government documents which were released via Wikileaks, an Internet network for whistleblowers, last week. While, at the moment, it appears that the nature of what found its way into the open arms of the so-called mainstream media is not so much threatening to our national security as it is embarrassing, the nature of this diplomatic catastrophe serves as a wake-up call to all major powers across the globe. It marks the beginning of a new era, one in which a lone wolf, so to speak, has the power fundamentally to alter the course of international diplomacy. With the advent of the World Wide Web, the times have changed to the point that an activist armed only with a consumer-grade laptop is capable of doing what the most cunning of villains in James Bond movies of yesteryear could only dream of: igniting strife and chaos so far-reaching that none, from the Prime Minister of Sweden to a low-level bureaucrat in Israel, is left unaffected.

The question which everyone should be asking themselves is, quite obviously, who is responsible for all of this? I am not referring to the fact that we live in a cyber-media age, of course, but rather to the mastermind behind the distribution of these documents. That individual, one Julian Assange, is a 39-year-old expatriate Australian hacker and professional flamethrower who apparently lives out of his backpack in true nomadic style while gallivanting around Europe. While many of my center-right contemporaries choose to dub Assange a flaming left-winger, I do not believe this to be the case in the slightest. He strikes me as being more of an anarchist, an individual bent on inflicting his warped ideology wherever he sees the chance. People of his ilk are notoriously difficult to manage, as they have a tendency to press on with their crusades even in the face of certain defeat. One need only look back at the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901 at the hand of Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist so radical that even Emma Goldman rejected him from her clique. I believe that he and Assange are far closer in their beliefs than the latter would be to, say, Che Guevara.

It is very possible that Assange’s actions will lead to a new wave of anarchism, inspiring an array of like-minded ne’er-do-wells to rise up and enter the ring of transnational destabilization. Let us hope not, but then again, the time-tested adage that it only takes a single person to change the world does ring true. That, as I am sure everybody can agree, is both a blessing and a curse, and in this instance, most definitely a curse of the most vile sort.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • Jordan Richardson

    That’s not so much a portrait as it is a crayon sketch on a napkin. And you only used one colour.

  • zingzing

    assange is just a figurehead. wikileaks is a large network of people. it’s been argued that wikileaks should have never put a public face on itself, and that is, given the witch hunt assange now is facing, obviously true.

    this isn’t “a single person” trying to create anarchy, it’s a large number of people trying to expose the truth. if you just think it’s assange, you’re in for a rude awakening. he may go down, but wikileaks, or some organization like it, is going to be around from this day forward.

    you’re right in that “the times have changed,” but too bad. the governments of the world are being held accountable for their actions. that’s a bad thing? i think not.

  • Cannonshop

    2: Depends on your perspective, Zing. certainly Joe’s picture of him is more “Legend Worthy” than his being just a front-man for a larger group. Hell, even the aborted “Sex scandals” help build his legend-(note: both rape cases were dropped shortly after they became ‘news’…)

    I have to say, I’m more comfortable with the idea of kids wearing Assange’s face on tee-shirts, than their parents displaying the edited mug of Ernie Lynch (aka “Che” Guevara), without regard for anything else, there is at least some moral justification in publishing what those who govern would rather keep hidden, especially when it embarrasses them and fails to do much REAL damage.

    Seriously, it’s not like Wikileaks is running the kind of data that could be used by state or non-state actors to kill civilians, and in at least one case, it’s actually proved to be of use in exposing Copenhagen for the political circus it really was, as well as revealing information about what the Arab World REALLY thinks of Iran’s nuclear programme.

    It’s certainly provided me with ample opportunities to look at things Uncle Sugar doesn’t want me looking at…

  • El Bicho

    “It marks the beginning of a new era, one in which a lone wolf, so to speak, has the power fundamentally to alter the course of international diplomacy.”

    That has always been the case, and if you think wikileaks is a lone wolf, you know less about the subject than your article indicates.

  • zingzing

    “certainly Joe’s picture of him is more “Legend Worthy” than his being just a front-man for a larger group.”

    that’s certainly true.

    “It’s certainly provided me with ample opportunities to look at things Uncle Sugar doesn’t want me looking at…”


    then we can agree. joseph’s “portrait” was rather off-base. and wikileaks is not “a curse of the most vile sort” by any means, it’s a window into the real world, whether anyone likes it or not.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    It’s not often that zing and Cannon are on the same page. This is encouraging. Of course, Mr. Cotto article shows him at last for being the political hack he ultimately is. He has no problem severely criticizing the Democrats when they are at the helm while giving a pass whenever the GOP runs the show, as though there really was a great deal of difference these days. Indeed, he fails to see that it’s the vagaries of statehood as essentially a terrorist organization, and US is the paramount example, that are being on display here, thanks to the folks as Wikileaks, regardless of who runs the show. But such a fine point is too much for any political hack to grasp.

    So yes, I do agree that “it marks the beginning of a new era,” and I say, it’s about time that institutions such as the State be degraded.

    By the way, Assange was arrested in London today, on a variety of unrelated charges, and about to fight extradition order to the US. It promises to be an interesting contest. I do hope that public opinion will prevail over the forces of darkness.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Julian Assange in custody.

    Let the games begin.

  • zingzing

    why would they extradite him to the us? on what charges?

  • doug m.

    I believe the extradition is to Sweden, Roger

  • zingzing

    mhmm. they are trying to extradite him to sweden. the problem there is that sweden and the us have an extradition treaty or agreement or whatever. so he feasibly could be extradited to the us if they wanted to trump up some charges.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    As per link, zing, for “violat[ing] the 1917 Espionage Act by publishing classified material with the intent of damaging U.S. national security.” Dianne Feinstein

  • zingzing

    i’d say they have a better chance of convicting him on trumped up rape charges than they do on that. plus, if the us gov’t wants to avoid any more embarrassing international incidents, it would be wise to not seek extradition. can you imagine that circus?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    I’m surprised that Roger did not specifically address one of Mr. Cotto’s points about Julian Assange. “He strikes me as being more of an anarchist, an individual bent on inflicting his warped ideology wherever he sees the chance.” Asserting that Assange is a modern-day Leon Czolgosz, Cotto predicts, “It is very possible that Assange’s actions will lead to a new wave of anarchism ….”

    Yet as I understand it, Czolgosz’s assassination of President McKinley did not lead to a wave of anarchism. To the contrary, many anarchists disowned Czolgosz. Some suspected that he was a secret government agent, and others were convinced that, even if sincere, he’d done more harm than good to the movement.

    I confess I know nothing about anarchism as a political construct. But hasn’t Roger written extensively about that? I’m hoping Roger can briefly set aside his animus against Mr. Cotto as a “political hack,” and please tell us whether or not Assange truly does qualify–from a historical and ideological standpoint–as an anarchist. To me, this aspect is far more interesting than Assange’s legal predicament.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Actually, I’m looking forward to it and it say, bring it on.

    And Hillary too is showing her true colors. Sal Alinsky’s strategy and tactics, her avowed credo during her law school years, are out of the window once she’s part of the establishment.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Mr. Cotto,

    What do you have against anarchism and anarchists? I can think of a few likely reasons someone would hold that view:

    1) They don’t understand what anarchism is.
    2) They have bought into flawed assumptions about human nature.
    3) They like to be oppressed.
    4) They like to oppress others.
    5) They are insane.

    So, tell me, how can and why would a person be against real and meaningful freedom and liberty for all people with their direct input?


    From what I have read by anarchists, it seems like all speculation. He could be, though. Or, he could be a free market libertarian. I have seen somethings that suggest that.

  • Clavos

    Just for the record, Assange was “arrested by appointment,” which is the term in Merrie Olde England for “he turned himself in.”

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    And also, as far as I understand Che Guevara was a Stalinist revolutionary who held a government position. Why would anyone compare him to an anarchist?

    You would have better said Julian Assange is no Nestor Makhno, to convey the idea I think you were going for.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    That’s not so much a portrait as it is a crayon sketch on a napkin. And you only used one colour.

    Lmao, Jordan. That is a keeper.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    In response to Alan’s query, yes, I do intend to develop this topic further, in a sequel or two to my last piece here, “In Defense of Anarchism.”

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Thanks, Roger. I look forward to that. Assange is a fascinating figure. He may not be the first to use the Internet in this way, but he’s the first to use it on such a massive scale.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/joseph-cotto/ Joseph Cotto

    Wow. So many replies to make and so little time.

    zingzing, I obviously know that Assange is a mere figurehead for the organization that is Wikileaks, hence me referring to it as a “network” in the article. Also, I do not believe that it is an especially good thing that a band of keyboard warriors can destabilize international relations at the drop of a hat. Nonetheless, these are the times in which we live, so I have no choice other than to accept them for what they are. We will have to agree to disagree on that one.

    El Bicho, I referred to Assange as a lone wolf, but by no means was I speaking of Wikileaks as a whole. See my response to zingzing’s comment above for more insight on my description.

    roger, it is highly ironic that you would refer to me as a “political hack” while I have written about the danger of radical Palinites, theocrats, and all-around loons taking over the GOP on numerous occasions over the past several months.

    Alan, as I am sure you can discern, the basis of this article was my personal opinion concerning Mr. Assange’s motivations for releasing the documents. As far as I can tell, he could most definitely be considered an anarchist, though not necessarily in ideological lockstep with Czolgosz, who, aside from politics, was a quite insane individual.

    Cindy, perhaps the most comprehensive argument ever made against anarchism was done by Ayn Rand. While her critiques are far too numerous and long for me to list here, you can easily find them in her lexicon, which is available at no charge online. Simply type “Ayn Rand” and “anarchism” in any search engine and you will understand exactly where it is that I am coming from on this matter.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Assange’s op-ed in The Australian.

    I’m aware, Joseph, of your critique of GOP for some of its ultraconservative stance on social issues. But that’s not what’s in dispute here, is it?

    As to Ayn Rand, her critique was directed against totalitarian societies. And by assuming that she was therefore critiquing anarchism as well shows that you’re short on understanding anarchism as as political philosophy and the communist mode of organization of production in the pure Marxist sense.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    “…perhaps the most comprehensive argument ever made against anarchism was done by Ayn Rand.”

    But Ayn Rand’s ideology is pathological and baseless.

    Anyway, I was asking what YOU thought, not what Ayn Rand thinks. I was asking about the basis of your article and its points. Surely YOU wrote this article, not Ayn Rand.

    I suppose I won’t get an answer either.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Next thing you will tell me is that L.Ron Hubbard had some good arguments.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Rand, interestingly or not, didn’t seem too fond of libertarians either. I think she called them “hippies of the night” on more than once occasion.

    I bet she was a charming woman. Merely a victim of a bad haircut, really.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy


  • Jordan Richardson

    Ah, the Hubb. His “tone scale” is really an incredible thing – for morons. Homosexuals and other “sexual perverts” actually “ranked” lower on the scale than sociopaths.

    Both of these groups, the sociopaths and the dreaded gays, were below a 2.0 on his tone scale. And how do you deal with people below the 2.0?

    “…any person from 2.0 down on the tone scale should not have, in any thinking society, any civil rights of any kind, because by abusing those rights they bring into being arduous and strenuous laws which are oppressive to those who need no such restraints.”

    Happy Holidays, Tom Cruise.

  • Cannonshop

    #27 It’s funnier than you think, Jordan-story is, Hubbard wrote Dianetics to win a five dollar bar-bet with his publisher-the bet being that he could write a book that would start a religion.

    In other words, “The Hubb” did it as a joke, and the vain-and-foolish have taken it seriously-making him a rich man in the process. Kind of like PT Barnum or Aleister Crowley.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    This article was a major disappointment, full of lazy thinking and political clichés.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Yeah, I knew that Hubbard was a self-admitted fraud. I didn’t know about the five dollar bet though. Too funny and yet strangely awesome.