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Reader riposte: Assange\'s motives (2)

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7 December 2010 10:48

Paul Davies responds to my tentative description of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as 'a kind of libertarian/anarchist':

 Sam, don't sell yourself short. You are most definitely on the right track in nailing Assange as an anarchist. Here's a simple mechanism for demonstrating your point. Elsewhere in his essay, Assange writes:

'Conspiracies take information about the world in which they operate (the conspiratorial environment), pass it around the conspirators and then act on the result. We can see conspiracies as a type of device that has inputs (information about the environment) and outputs (actions intending to change or maintain the environment).'

That's his definition of a conspiracy. But here's a test. Replace the word 'conspiracy' in the above paragraph with 'community'. Doing so, his statement continues to make sense. So for Assange to choose to use the word 'conspiracy' to describe a process which most of us could relate to as 'community' and then to devote action to disrupting that process surely fits the definition of an anarchist.

Paul is on to something, and it gets to the heart of my own unease with Assange's methods. As I've argued in a different context, there really is such a thing as an international society, and through his actions, Assange implies that he sees no value in it at all. But as Christopher Hitchens wrote recently:

One of civilization's oldest and best ideas is that all countries establish tiny sovereign enclaves in each other's capitals and invest these precious enclaves of peaceful resolution with special sorts of immunity. That this necessarily includes a high degree of privacy goes without saying. Even a single violation of this ancient tradition may have undesirable unintended consequences, and we rightly regard a serious breach of it with horror.