A legend in his own mind, Russian television propagandist Julian Assange has asked the United States to stop its “witch hunt” against whistleblowers. The self-important tone of his speech speaks volumes:
As Wikileaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies. We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America.
Will it return to and reaffirm the values, the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world, in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark?
I say it must turn back. I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch-hunts against Wikileaks. The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation.
What Assange really wants is to look like a hero without having to run any risks. Serious people have decided at times that their duty required them to break the law. Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King all broke the law to achieve important political goals. But unlike Julian, they believed that they were required to face the consequences of their acts.
Assange does not believe that he should face the consequences of anything. He wants the rewards of moral heroism without actually having to do anything difficult or heroic.
Worse, he isn’t even trying to avoid living up to the higher standard required by moral heroes. He is attempting to avoid the responsibility of every citizen. He stands accused of rape in Sweden, yet he wants to avoid extradition and the kind of investigation that ordinary citizens have to face.
To think that Sweden is a puppet of the United States is both delusional and insulting to a very proud and independent government which has repeatedly defied the United States when it believed the U.S. was in the wrong. To refuse to appear for an investigation is cowardly.
There is nothing here that looks like moral heroism or even smart politics. Modern information technology seems to have put an unbalanced man in a position of more prominence and importance than he understands or can deal with. The kindest thing the world can do is to ignore Mr. Assange.
We hope he enjoys a quiet life in the beautiful embassy of Ecuador in London.