Don't Fool Yourself, Wikileaks Never Had the Moral High Ground

Wikileaks's bizarre crusade against Hillary Clinton and its plunge into a toxic sea of lunacy and conspiracy theory shouldn't surprise anyone. It's always been a blunt instrument at the whim of one man.
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Chez Pazienza
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Wikileaks's bizarre crusade against Hillary Clinton and its plunge into a toxic sea of lunacy and conspiracy theory shouldn't surprise anyone. It's always been a blunt instrument at the whim of one man.

Update, 8.23.16: From AP: "WikiLeaks' global crusade to expose government secrets is causing collateral damage to the privacy of hundreds of innocent people, including survivors of sexual abuse, sick children and the mentally ill, The Associated Press has found. In the past year alone, the radical transparency group has published medical files belonging to scores of ordinary citizens while many hundreds more have had sensitive family, financial or identity records posted to the web. In two particularly egregious cases, WikiLeaks named teenage rape victims. In a third case, the site published the name of a Saudi citizen arrested for being gay, an extraordinary move given that homosexuality is punishable by death in the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom." 

Also today, CNN is reporting that the FBI is investigating a Russian hack against reporters for The New York Times. The breaches are thought to be part of a larger effort aimed at damaging the U.S. political system, an effort that included the DNC hack -- which Wikileaks was more than happy to provide a worldwide outlet for.

Go ahead. Tell me about Wikileaks is an eminently ethical organization and how Julian Assange is doing an unequivocal good.  

For completely unknown reasons, it seems to be coming as a surprise to a lot of the internet left that Wikileaks has gone from being an outlet dedicated to transparency to one dedicated to indulging the fever dreams of anti-Hillary Clinton conspiracy theorists. It once had such moral authority, they say. It was once self-imbued with an unmistakably noble purpose: to blow the whistle on the corrupt as only those who live below the radar in the digital age can. It used to do such good works. And now it's tweeting out laughably absurd polls that show Donald Trump beating Clinton, releasing relatively meaningless hacked material from the DNC aimed at hurting Clinton's chances in November, and offering a $20,000 reward to anyone who can supposedly help it "solve the murder" of DNC staffer Seth Rich -- a guy Wikileaks has implied was killed on the orders of Hillary Clinton. 

 "What happened to Wikileaks," the articles cry. Why have they "lost the moral high ground?" The answer, of course, is that nothing happened to Wikileaks because the site and its founder, narcissistic asshole Julian Assange, never had the moral high ground to begin with. 

Oh, sure. Wikileaks has done some good. The outlet's "Collateral Murder" video, released in 2010, which showed a 2007 incident in which U.S. military choppers killed a large group of innocents -- including two journalists -- during an air-to-ground attack on Iraqi militants drew much-needed attention to the ease with which collateral damage on a grand scale could be covered up during the war in Iraq. But the thing to keep in mind is that Wikileaks was always a breathtakingly powerful organization that operated with impunity and without oversight, always as at the personal whim of one man -- a guy who's spent the past four years holed up inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London because he doesn't want to face a rape charge out of Sweden -- and always with an anarchic eye toward upending the established order just because it could.  

Wikileaks's purpose may have appeared heroic but it was always only destined to be for as long as its patriarch was feeling benevolent toward mankind. The truth is that the whole operation was always on the verge of, at any point, being used as a personal battering ram by Assange. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, then Assange was a tyrant in the making from day one, given that he wielded a power few had ever had before him: the power to deal in everybody's secrets, because he had created for himself and become the recognized face of a global hub for hacker activity and worship. 

Assange could certainly, if he wished, use his awesome might for good, or at the very least acknowledge that the information he trafficked in had the capacity to harm living, breathing people and therefore proceed cautiously. And to a small extent he did that for a while. But he and the network he created didn't have to play by the rules or behave responsibly -- and that's the point. It was only a matter of time before Assange and Wikileaks abandoned the ideals allegedly at their center because, well, why shouldn't they? They didn't need to adhere to anybody's idea of principled behavior, not with the kind of preeminence they had and the lie of incorruptibility to shield them.

So this is what you get now: Wikileaks openly plotting to help take down Hillary Clinton and plunge the United States -- and the globe -- into a Donald Trump hellscape just because Assange is a vengeful, misogynist prick who wants to watch the West fall. Wikileaks publishing the credit card numbers of DNC donors, acting as a tool of a genuinely oppressive Russian government, pushing anti-Semitism, releasing unvetted information of no public interest that puts people in danger just for the hell of it, and, of course, offering money to help it prove a lunatic conspiracy theory.

None of it should come as a surprise. It's the kind of thing that was always lurking right at the core of Julian Assange's fractured psyche and staggering God complex and just beneath the gloss of its noble mission statement.