Is this the face of a hero or a villain? Julian Assange is unquestionably one of the most well-known characters of the new millennium, but have his “thoughts” brought about change for the better or for the worse? Proponents are not hard to find for either side of the argument. Assange is, for lack of a better term, a “prophet pariah” of our time. Some would like to see him hang for his actions. Others applaud loudly and anoint him as a “savior” of modern society.
On December 31, 2006, Julian Assange published what has become known since as the “Wikileaks Manifesto”. In it, he claims, “The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie.” This is a righteous statement. He is basically telling us that corrupt organizations (and governments) live in fear of exposure. He goes on to say, “Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what’s actually going on.” Again, on the surface, nothing wrong here.
Taken as a stand-alone argument, these proclamations inspire action and provide a catalyst for positive change. These are not, in and of themselves, bad things. The development and cultivation of these thoughts in human consciousness is what makes Assange a thought leader. Unfortunately, like the teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels before him, his ideas are flawed by the human tendency to politicize and polarize even the most noble sentiments.
Zuckerberg and Parker set the Stage
In many circles, Julian Assange is viewed as a villain today for exposing secrets that the rich and powerful would prefer remain hidden. To understand how that metamorphosis from good to evil came about, it’s important to first look at the tandem of Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker, men often vilified themselves, who provided Assange his world stage.
There’s no denying that Mark Zuckerberg is a genius, but Facebook was hardly an original idea. Friendster was online in 2002, two years before Facebook was launched, and was instrumental in the Howard Dean presidential campaign. The success of Friendster (2002) and Myspace (2003) motivated Zuckerberg, but it was Sean Parker’s ideas that ultimately shaped the worldwide communications juggernaut we see today. He is the one who provided thought leadership in that relationship.
The launch of Facebook (2004) and subsequent creation of dozens of interconnected social media platforms, created a new venue for thought leaders to air their views. As the phenomenon spread across the globe, innovators recognized the opportunity for global messaging. Idealists and capitalists have lined up to propagate their respective treatises, theories, ideas, images, and like Assange, manifestos. Many of these thoughts have brought about positive change; others have not.
Amending the CFAA for “Hacking Conspiracies”
The use of social media has certainly not been restricted to the private sector. Howard Dean’s success, though it didn’t culminate in victory, did lay out a blueprint for future political candidates. Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders have each utilized Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms to secure votes, both for themselves and for each other.
Ironically, as Clinton now battles Trump for a presidential seat, with Sanders and Obama campaigning on her behalf, Julian Assange remains in exile for exposing their secrets on the very same social media platforms being used to win the election. In 2008, Barack Obama signed off on an amendment to the “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act” which makes it a “criminal offense for conspiring to commit a computer hacking offense”. This somewhat vague regulation and the little-used “Espionage Act of 1917” are the proverbial “sticks” being used to threaten Assange’s freedom. Julian has been in exileinside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2011.
Meanwhile, in the reality TV show known as the presidential election campaign, insults and bullying on the internet have evolved into a full-blown war of words between candidates on opposite sides of the aisle. Voter confidence is at an all-time low and our “best and brightest” nominees for the Oval Office are viewed with ridicule and contempt. Is this an anomaly or perhaps the result of our collective push for more “freedom of information” through unedited media channels?
Celebrity Influence vs Government
The “edited” media channels are showcasing celebrities who instill more trust in Americans than our politicians do. Ellen Degeneres has been an activist for LGBT rights since she first “came out” back in 1997. Miley Cyrus recently proclaimed herself to be a “Pansexual”, a formerly unknown sexual classification that will almost certainly be added to a dictionary somewhere this year. Her influence in pop culture and over our young people is that powerful.
A sad testament to our society in America is that we are more likely to be passionate about a Kardashian television event than something that happens in real life. Our children have been raised on video games and their parents have been anesthetized by a barrage of pop-up ads, email solicitations, and empty promises from our politicians. Celebrities and athletes have become our “go-to” people, because those who are supposed to fill those roles are not worthy. This culture is the perfect environment for Donald Trump, the consummate celebrity, to run for President. Think about that for a moment.
A Nation on the Brink of Revolt
This shot, taken at a Trump rally earlier this year, paints a disturbing picture of “the enemy within”. It could very easily have been an ISIS photo or even extreme members of the BLM movement. All three groups have used messaging that segregates America by race, creed, religion, or color. This may very well be our greatest enemy – internal strife.
The actions of Julian Assange and the antics of our political candidates have ignited a fire that was already smoldering. When times are tough it’s easy to look over at “those people” and place the blame on “them” for our misfortunes. White Americans blame affirmative action and outsourced jobs for their financial struggles, Muslim Americans hear anti-Muslim rhetoric and are more likely to believe the message of ISIS, African Americans see their loved ones gunned down by law enforcement officers and fear there is no justice. Most folks spend time blaming others; few actually offer solutions.
Internal Changes Needed for Restoration to Sanity
Julian Assange has been classified as a criminal, but he’s not our real problem. This country is splitting apart internally and our two most powerful rivals, Russia and China, are taking advantage. Conquest in the new millennium doesn’t happen by force of arms anymore; wars are fought by promoting economic uncertainty and publishing negative propaganda on social media. Collectively as a people, we have fallen prey to both. Insanity has taken hold on our city streets and in small towns across America.
The changes required to fight and win this war are deeply personal and need to be implemented individually before they will take hold on a societal and cultural level. The seeds of distrust among racial classes were sown centuries ago, so there’s no simple fix for those. Residents of this nation have to start categorizing themselves as “Americans” with no adjectives or qualifiers. National identity and pride are two missing elements in our psyche. That makes us vulnerable.
As for economic uncertainty, the current unemployment rate in the United States is 4.9%, nearly a full percentage point less than the 5.82% we’ve been averaging for the past seventy years. Our manufacturing competitors in China are dealing with rising labor costs, so our factories at home can now compete with better technology and vertical integration. Clean energy jobs were up 5% last year; domestic solar employed over two hundred thousand people. “Economic uncertainty” is perception and speculation, not statistical reality. Look at the numbers, not the online opinions.
When we fight amongst ourselves and lay the blame for our problems at the feet of others, we are destined to fail. Politicians have lied to us, Assange broke the law and exposed some of those lies, social media is filled with hate and intolerance, celebrities are more outrageous, and our presidential candidates are two of the worst ever. This is the norm we live with; accept it. Now, make a choice. Feed the negativity or help change things for the better. If not, look in the mirror to see who the real enemy is.