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article imageOp-Ed: Is Julian Assange’s paranoia getting the better of him?

By Michael Cosgrove     Dec 24, 2010 in Internet
Julian Assange’s latest interview and his bizarre claim that there is a good chance he would be killed “Jack Ruby-style” if he ended up in an American jail are indications that he needs to get a grip on himself.
Call it Christmas fever or an end-of-the-year nostalgia moment, but I’ve been getting the impression lately that much of what the press is getting excited about just is not real. My suspicions were confirmed yesterday.
After weeks of visiting news sites to find myself assailed by the dusty contents of years-old diplomatic cables which nobody except red-faced U.S. diplomatic security personnel cares a whit about (not one call for an inquiry to be heard on any subject whatsoever) followed by each site’s “Best Stories of 2010” list, along comes Julian Assange to top it all off nicely.
His words can be read on The Guardian, which is a good place to get interesting news on Assange given that paper’s amusingly schizophrenic attitude towards him, oscillating wildly as it does between lucid analysis and pandering bias. Yesterday saw option two, with the article dramatically describing Assange as “living under virtual house arrest”. They preferred that more dramatic description to the truth, which is that he has been released from prison on bail with conditions whilst awaiting an appeal against an international arrest warrant, and that he is living where his own lawyers said he would, not where they imply that the authorities placed him. Unless the Guardian is trying to say that his own lawyers have put him under virtual house arrest.
We are treated to a cozy attempt at scene-setting which is worthy of a Woman’s Own interview of George Clooney. “Sitting in front of a log fire, his Apple MacBook Pro perched on his lap” (they call this “living under virtual house arrest” remember) Assange begins what are some very strange and confused ramblings indeed.
He considers it to be "politically impossible" for Britain to extradite him to the United States on charges of espionage, and that the final word on his fate if he were charged would rest with David Cameron. Excuse me if I haven’t understood something here, but if he says the final word rests with Cameron that must mean that it is “politically possible” for him to be extradited and not the opposite, mustn’t it?
No matter because he goes on to contradict himself in confusing terms by claiming that "Legally the UK has the right to not extradite for political crimes. Espionage is the classic case of political crimes. It is at the discretion of the UK government as to whether to apply to that exception." So it’s politically impossible but Cameron can make a political decision and it’s at the government’s discretion whether he is extradited. Confused? Don’t worry, you are not the only one.
In fact his reasoning is based on the assumption that strong support from the British public would stop him being extradited. The only problem with that idea is that there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that Britain would not comply with an American extradition request for Assange because of public opinion.
But maybe he thinks he is protected as he seems to think he’s British these days, according to his assertion that America may try to influence Britain and “influence the perception of our standing as a moral actor.” “Our” standing? Well, they do say he’s a master of disguise so getting his hands on a British passport wouldn’t be a problem for him.
All that said, it mustn’t be forgotten that we are talking about a situation which doesn’t exist, and even The Guardian felt obliged to drag us back to reality with a reminder that “there is no evidence of any imminent US move to indict him.” One could arguably be forgiven for having forgotten that detail.
He may well be right however to assume that America is "trying to strike a plea deal" with Bradley Manning, the source of more than a quarter of a million US diplomatic cables which WikiLeaks has in its possession. But that’s just how it goes. Assange has expressed his hostility to the United States on many occasions so he shouldn’t be surprised that they are trying to nail him by using plea bargaining which, like it or not, is a legal procedure in the United States.
It doesn’t take him long to get confused again though. He says that if the Americans did manage to jail him he would be kept in solitary confinement and that "Solitary confinement is very difficult. But I know that provided there is some opportunity for correspondence I can withstand it.” Maybe he should reconsider that too. After all, ‘correspondence’ is an exchange of communication between people who are not in the same place, whereas ‘solitary confinement’ means first and foremost that the person concerned is denied contact with anyone else. It is often used for prisoners who are kept ‘incommunicado’ for national security reasons. In other words, if you can correspond with people you are not in solitary confinement. Still, it all adds to the impression he is trying to create.
Julian Assange  founder of Wikileaks
Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks
But his worst fear is that of being murdered in the event of him being incarcerated in America and he insists that there would be a “high chance” of him being killed “Jack Ruby-style.” Now I appreciate that it must be tiring and nerve-fraying to live in constant fear of imminent death but I really do think it’s time he calmed down.
Jack Ruby was accused of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the man suspected of killing John F. Kennedy. He was found guilty and sentenced to death before being freed on appeal. He died of natural causes and was not killed. Or was Assange trying to say that he would be killed in the manner that Oswald was killed by Ruby? Difficult to tell.
But whatever he means, what worries me here is that like many such stories, that of Ruby attracted conspiracy theorists who held – and still do – that Ruby was somehow deliberately infected with cancer to kill him off to hide the fact that…but let’s not go there. Other conspiracies contend that Oswald was framed, or that he was not Oswald but a Soviet double to hide the fact that…and let’s not go there either. Is Assange trying to create the same kind of mystique around what is happening to him deliberately or is he just being paranoid?
Then again maybe all this has something to do with the news that publishing sources say he has already landed a seven-figure advance for a book on his life and work to be published next spring. There’s nothing like a touch of intrigue and conspiracy to push book sales along these days.
In fact I wouldn’t be surprised at anything to be honest, and maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that Julian Assange would give an incoherently rambling interview like this either. His words betray some worryingly confused thoughts which hinge on vague ideas of plots and conspiracies which neither he or anyone else has been able to support with any evidence.
The symptoms of what have variously been described as Julian Assange’s paranoia and-or persecution complex seem, if they exist, to be getting worse. He appears to be confusing reality with fact and if he is not careful he may soon end up with a full-blown illness to deal with.
Merry Christmas Mr Assange, get some rest, fire your lousy and sensationalist legal team, get up there to Sweden and do what needs to be done then get back to what you do best, which is working to improve transparency in government. You’ve been learning a lot of hard lessons and your work will be all the better for having done so. But for all that to happen you urgently need to get yourself back into good shape.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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