Two weeks ago I wrote on this blog that Wikileaks guru Julian Assange had made one of the most fundamental mistakes in journalism, in that he had become the story instead of simply reporting it. I noted his histrionic attacks on human rights organisations who would not pay his organisation to redact documents that should have been redacted before they were put online and said that I thought it would all end in tears. Ironically, his correspondence was leaked and Assange complained bitterly about that.
In the time since then Wikileaks has been involved in a pointless spat with the Pentagon about who said what to whom over redacting the remaining 15,000 unpublished US Army documents on Afghanistan.
The news from Sweden, where Assange has once again been in the news for all the wrong reasons, highlights the fact that the Wikileaks project, as set up by Assange, is flawed. Whether or not he is guilty of any crime or misdemeanour in Sweden, Assange's decision to become a public personality has been a disaster. We all know that if you cannot attack the message the most effective strategy is to attack the messenger.
With a project that was bound to involve high-stakes leaks and was likely to upset powerful governments, Assange, who believes that he is the victim of a US-inspired smear, should have stayed out of the limelight and left the handling of sensitive documents to someone who was better qualified. If he believes that all documents should be in the public domain, no matter what they contain, then he is an idiot. Either way, he is now damaged goods.
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