Whatever the motivation was for the WikiLeak releases it certainly was not to encourage the free exchange of ideas or foster a range of discussion on contentious issues in public, especially on the internet and especially by people who do not share Julian Assange’s world view. Anyone who is critical of Assange or expresses a viewpoint contrary to his or his followers on any number of subjects could easily find themselves victimized through a cyber attack. The internet being what it is and his acolytes being what they are their bank accounts could be compromised, their personal information could be disseminated to all and sundry, lies and distortions could be spread about them, their website could be taken down and so on. The releases won’t lead to open and frank dialogue or honest debate. They will have exactly the opposite effect. People will be afraid to express dissenting opinions and will choose to silence themselves for fear of being harmed in some way.
For example, a particular individual might take issue with Mr. Assange’s professed noble intentions in releasing the documents and wish to express the opinion that he is really a megalomaniac who requires constant media attention to maintain his sense of self importance, which is why he released them in the first place…what better way to get the whole world to focus on him? Another individual might wish to express the opinion that he is in reality a spoiled child and a thief and that his actions have caused a great deal of damage to people who actually do an enormous amount of good in the world. A third person might wish to express the opinion that Assange is a coldblooded bully and simpleton who is incapable of understanding anyone or anything outside his frame of reference or of recognizing the truly terrible nature of his deeds. A fourth person might wish to opine that he be prosecuted to the full extent of the law on a wide variety of charges, including treason. Any or all of these people might choose not to express themselves because ‘some things are better left unsaid.’ Encouraging free expression and open and honest discussion through the WikiLeaks? Not so. Discouraging is much more like it.
What do I think? All of the above, that’s what. Julian Assange is many things, but a hero he is not.