Julian Assange has to walk a fine line to be loved. And, while it would be easy to assume the founder and phenom behind the world’s all-time most popular, infamous, and loathed leaks website wouldn’t, couldn’t, and shouldn’t care about his public perception, that guess looks to be totally wrong.
Because, in a private email between Assange and the British star playing him in The Fifth Estate, Benedict Cumberbatch – an email that was, yes, leaked – the albino blonde activist sounds set to tear down the film’s production, publicity, and distribution.
Or, at least its credibility.
“I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film,” Assange wrote to Cumberbatch, according to English news site The Independent. “I do not believe it is going to be positive for me or the people I care about. I believe that it is going to be overwhelmingly negative for me and the people I care about.”
The irony, of course, is that Assange’s WikiLeaks was a threat to American national security – a website that put the blame on those responsible for it without any compassion for explanation or ulterior motivates, a website that could have caused grave danger to innocent soldiers, personnel, or traveling innocents due to the information it exposed and the outrage it aimed to cause.
(NOTE: I travelled to Poland with my family in 2008, just after Robert Dziekanski had been needlessly Tasered to death by RCMP officers in Vancouver International Airport. We were warned about travelling as Canadians then. Can you imagine how many Americans need that warning every day they’re in a foreign country, even before WikiLeaks?)
When watching WikiLeaks’s early contributions to 21st century society, it was hard to resist that outrage. Watching Iraqis and Reuters staff gunned down from an Apache helicopter’d voice that displays little empathy is enraging. It sounds insane. Comes across as anti-human.
But, there are consequences from everything, whether the intentions are good or not, and those consequences aren’t always as honourable as the actions that caused them are.
Did Assange never see Back To The Future?
Releasing that video was done for the sake of freedom of information, but its reaction wasn’t built on the same template.
“I believe it will distort events and subtract from public understanding,” Assange’s letter says of The Fifth Estate. “It does not seek to simplify, clarify or distill the truth, but rather it seeks to bury it. It will resurrect and amplify defamatory stories which were long ago shown to be false.”
Well, if the movie fabricates facts or distorts reality… we can’t possibly defend it.
Then again, those who put their faith in WikiLeaks or its founder put their faith in Julian Assange. They put their faith in his sense of truth.
His comments to Cumberbatch (you like that alliteration?) prove, however, that truth is always relative.
Sometimes, fiction is the closest thing to the truth we have. The freedom to have the creativity to underline a larger line shouldn’t be snuffed out. Assange should know that. That seems to be the whole reason we know his name.
Cumberbatch, his co-stars, his director and his screenwriter shouldn’t have to explain themselves. But, to Julian, they do.
For good reason, I guess… they’re telling his story without his approval.
“You will be used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it,” Assange writes. “To present me as someone morally compromised and to place me in a falsified history. To create a work, not of fiction, but of debased truth. Not because you want to, of course you don’t, but because, in the end, you are a jobbing actor who gets paid to follow the script, no matter how debauched.
“Your skills play into the hands of people who are out to remove me and WikiLeaks from the world. I believe you should reconsider your involvement in this enterprise. Consider the consequences of your cooperation with a project that… marginalizes a living political refugee to the benefit of an entrenched, corrupt and dangerous state.”
It should be noted: I love Assange’s work. I really do. I admire the guy as a professional and I value what WikiLeaks did, what it brought to the forefront… what it still brings to the forefront. I’m a fan of his “blow it wide-open” philosophy. I enjoyed his guest appearance (as himself) in the New York Times‘ documentaryPage One, and I can’t wait to watch the movie loosely based on his editorial career.
I can’t wait to judge it for myself, and I’m glad Assange got to do the same.
I don’t want the toothpaste put back in the tube. I’m happy to live in a leaky world.
I do believe, however, that putting yourself in the way of a camera leaves you open to its lens.
Assange wanted the world’s attention. He got it, and he still has it.
He just needs to accept that for everything it means.