Broadcast yesterday in Australia was a half-hour interview with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange. Conducted by Leigh Sales for ABC‘s 7.30 programme, the interview starts off well enough, with Assange discussing the nature of modern media corporations, their relationship with states, and the role of bodies such as Wikileaks. Assange is articulate in his delivery, and displays his considerable intellectual skill.
That said, Assange is soon put on the defensive by Sales, a skilled interviewer who dissects her subject in characteristically understated style. In this case she provides Assange with a shovel, with which he promptly sets to work contributing to the massive hole he has dug for himself and Wikileaks during these past months. Assange’s characteristic haughtiness is on full display, as is an all too apparent physical discomfort in response to some gently probing questions concerning his and Wikileaks’ strained relationship with the Guardian and other media outlets.
One of Assange’s more obvious character flaws is a tendency to treat everyone else as an idiot. Good leaders do not suffer fools gladly, but at the same time they never underestimate those around them, and show respect where respect is due. Assange seems incapable of this.
Assange’s spat with the Guardian is just one of a number of difficulties touched upon in the interview. He looks tired, and would no doubt attribute this to a war of attrition waged by his detractors. While that onslaught is real enough, it can only explain part of Assange’s current malaise; the rest I would put down to a realisation on Assange’s part that for him personally the writing is on the wall. The danger is that in his arrogance he will take Wikileaks down with him.
The question is: do Assange’s Wikileaks associates have what it takes to deal with the threat to the whistleblowing body presented by its self-destructing leader?