Assange will remain in limbo this year. The “geopolitical analyst” has few dice left to roll. To the seasoned observer, yesterday’s statement by Ecuador’s foreign minister is but another drop in the South Pacific ocean in a case that has dragged, and dragged on. Focus has now turned to his home country: Australia - where they just legalised gay marriage. In Oz, at a federal level, whistleblowers and journalists face potential imprisonment for making disclosures about certain subjects, such as national security. So, while Caitlin Johnstone’s support for Assange and his work is well intentioned, factual and certainly well written - it feels to me a tad trite.
Now I’m no political scientist - merely a current affairs aficionado - it’s easy to sit and cast judgement on a human being who has quite clearly endured the extremities of the psychological impositions that imperials have placed upon him, but if it really is all about the PR then, at a surface look thus far, a stronger strategy will be required for Assange in 2018. I respect WikiLeaks’ place as a publisher in the media world. While certainly I’ve read and heard all the tittle-tattle around what Assange is like as a person, I do think also that the UK should be engaging diplomatically with Ecuador to allow him safe passage to the latter’s turf.
A relatively lean 2017 saw Assange turn his focus to Catalonia. He went full pelt media commentator. The Australian is - like David Cameron, for signing the 2012 Edinburgh agreement allowing Scotland to legally vote on independence - a bit of a hero with Catalans for supporting self-determination on the Iberian peninsula. An unlikely pair of knights in shining armour, certainly. There was also chatter of WikiLeaks setting up their own media platform but little more information than a tweet. It was Assange’s shift to secessionist movements that most surprised everybody. Setting, perhaps, a precedent for the platform he is looking to set up.
While sure-to-fail attempts are made to have him exit the embassy in London (the current political climate is just all wrong), journalists he served to inspire with his work continue to pocket from his predicament. Yes - that book everyone’s talking about Fire and Fury was uploaded as a PDF onto the internet at some point over the weekend. I began reading it on Sunday, WikiLeaks tweeted it Monday and by Tuesday Google had taken it down. The predictable mini-narrative pieces in the Washington Times followed with hacks calling publishing experts and professors to cast aspersions on WikiLeaks. The reality is that it was all over Facebook at the weekend and WikiLeaks were relatively late to the game in sharing it so… if any copyright infringement was made by Assange’s organisation in disseminating Wolff’s novel, then the Fire and Fury’s publisher is going to have some time chasing all the other individuals who clicked and read the link where it was uploaded. Myself included.
Trump himself has been relatively quiet on Assange. It’s hard to think (the Right Honourable Theresa May aside) of a single person who hasn’t sought to gain from Trump whose first year and fellow characters in office resemble Dickensian dilettantes with little, or no idea in how to pass policies. If the copy in Fire and Fury is true, then the administration was equally as surprised that they won. The self-proclaimed stable genius, nuke-threatening business impresario, who basks in theatrics has been so pushed and taken advantage of that it’s awfully hard - perhaps impossible - to collate the infinite amount of invective that exists for one man. From hopeful burgers with Kim Jong-un to praising WikiLeaks during the primaries, the shifting sands of Trump’s deference positions him and will see him go down in history as the weakest U.S. president in history.
The opportunist Steve Bannon may have been delegated the unfortunate moniker of ‘Sloppy Steve’ - but if the book told us one thing it’s that “Trump is Trump” - unpredictable, unreliable: a force of disnature. A more radical plan will be required for the Australian, geopolitical analyst in London. Going to toe-to-toe with the most Conservative British government since Margaret Thatcher will not bear fruit.