Hey now fake left
Of course, nothing shockingly revelatory, nor really even mildly interesting, has been obtained from the leaks themselves. Primarily, these are low level diplomatic communiques, and as anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with British cold war spy literature knows, diplomats aren't ever privvy to the real games of international intrigue which lie beneath the public surface.
Julian Assange is now a hero, and rightfully so, as he battles with the hostile forces of world governments, particularly the US, in an unprecedented public relations media war over freedom of speech, freedom of the internet, and freedom of the press.
Complete transparency of the public sphere will someday obtain a court hearing, but it isn't at all clear that one will happen around Assange or WikiLeaks. There is too much to lose on both sides to bring this thing to court, IMHO.
The court martial of the pitiable Bradley Manning will surely be used to warn off future leakers who work for the goverment and hold security clearances. Manning is the man who suffers from this affair, and unfortunately, has really only himself to blame for his outing and subsequent arrest. In fact, the very same can be said for the self-described James Bond of journalism, who blamed two of his "fans" for his legal problem in Sweden.
The lesson that every blogger already knows: never trust anybody you meet on the internet.
There has been much sabre rattling rhetoric from an embarrassed US Government, some coerced corporate backlash against WikiLeaks and a sustained, rather weak but of course well-hyped retaliation of sorts by the teenaged "revolutionaries" of 4chan, whose computer game tactics have generated lots of heat, disavowal from Assange, and have had little to no effect on the commerce of its targets.
So far, the corporations seem to be winning this cyber-battle, which is still interesting and maybe even possibly game changing, nonetheless. 4chan and affiliated sites have actually suffered more downtime than the sites they have attacked. None of the credit cards have experienced any actual loss or slowing of their processing businesses. But, 4chan is not done yet and are disseminating their DDoS software to more people every day, who are joining in the game. The size of the game matters more than the results. Which side you are on matters, too. I am backing the kids, because, after all, the children are the future.
To date, the US Government has not sought an indictment, despite heavily publicised breathless rumours by Assange's legal team to the contrary, nor had they taken any legal action at all to suppress WikiLeak's release of the cables or previous disclosures. They have announced that they are looking into avenues for prosecution, but as Greenwald and many others have pointed out, there seems to be zero legal basis for such action.
For his hesitation, President Obama will face the vituperation of the Republicans in time, unless he wilts pre-emptively, as is his style, and his AG finds some bogus grounds on which to indict Assange, either for espionage or conspiracy to steal secret government documents. The espionage gambit seems almost laughable, and conspiracy would require evidence that Assange materially aided and encouraged Bradley Manning's leaking activities.
Julian Assange, it should be fairly noted, has created a new media business model that is likely to be copied and spread, regardless of his personal fate. He has demonstrated a wide range of courage, intelligence, egomania, as well as stupidity. He has and will continue to gain fame and fortune from his activities, even in the very unlikely event that he ends up behind bars for the leaks.
As with most entrepreneurs, however, he will likely not be the one to maximize the success of his creation. That will probably come later, in subsequent iterations of the new form. One such, OpenLeaks.com, started by former WikiLeaks staffers who became disenchanted with Assanges hubris and moved on, opens for business on Monday. This is a modified model that likely has a better chance for longterm sustainability: acting solely as a clearinghouse between the leakers and the media. Assange's model is to be the media and the front man, a sort of cult of personality. The leakers lose all control over their efforts once Assange takes over the process with the media, although as we have seen, it is leakers who bear the brunt of the legal burden. OpenLeaks promises to be different. Time will tell.
Like most truly creative people, Assange has both soared the heights and scoured the depths, and in the age of the infoboobtubes, has done so in a remarkably short span of time.
Without a doubt, Julian Assange is the historic troll.
His coming legal challenges, if he has any, will be landmark international media events without precedent. Will the internet remain free? Is it free now? Will the piracy of the anonymous groups lead to a severe conservative backlash like occurred in reaction to the activism of the 1960s/70s New Left?
Julian Assange is a transcendent celebrity, trending hotter than the Texas sun in August. Indictments will only increase and extend his worldwide stature. Conviction seems impossible without publicly railroading him, which in turn would make him a worldwide martyr on the level of a cyber-Mandela.
The very first virgin sacrifice offered to the cyber Gods of infotainment.
Yes, that statement too is overhype, as is so much in this important, yet banal, saga unfolding in real time inside a million servers housed in thousands of undisclosed locations somewhere near you.