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Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 01:39 | SYDNEY
Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 01:39 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Assange\'s motives

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6 December 2010 16:35

Julian Rowberry responds to my claim that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is 'really not interested in changing US policy; he's a kind of libertarian/anarchist, whose ultimate aim is to completely gum up the workings of government.'

This is not true. His aim is to publicize government and institutional workings that are secret so that they become accountable. 

Julian cites some lines from Assange's essay to support his argument:

We must understand the key generative structure of bad governance. We must develop a way of thinking about this structure that is strong enough to carry us through the mire of competing political moralities and into a position of clarity. Most importantly, we must use these insights to inspire within us and others a course of ennobling and effective action to replace the structures that lead to bad governance with something better.

I should have been more precise. Assange's essay does indeed suggest that he seeks reform of what he calls 'authoritarian' governments (among which he no doubt counts the US). But if Assange's essay is a guide, that's where his connection with conventional progressive politics ends. Assange thinks of authoritarian governments as conspiracies, and his aim is far more ambitious than merely to change their policies in specific ways. Rather, as this analysis of Assange's essay puts it, his aim is to make it impossible for the conspiracy to function, by incapacitating its ability to communicate:

Wikileaks does not leak something like the “Collateral Murder” video as a way of putting an end to that particular military tactic; that would be to target a specific leg of the hydra even as it grows two more. Instead, the idea is that increasing the porousness of the conspiracy’s information system will impede its functioning, that the conspiracy will turn against itself in self-defense, clamping down on its own information flows in ways that will then impede its own cognitive function. You destroy the conspiracy, in other words, by making it so paranoid of itself that it can no longer conspire...The leak, in other words, is only the catalyst for the desired counter-overreaction; Wikileaks wants to provoke the conspiracy into turning off its own brain in response to the threat.