Julian Assange's attempt to spin his creepy romancing of two Swedish women into a Pentagon smear campaign was a huge mistake. Now Assange's role as the head of the secret-sharing website WikiLeaks is in doubt. It's about time.
Assange was accused last week of rape and molestation in Sweden, where he'd hoped to set up a more permanent base for Wikileaks. (The rape accusation was quickly dropped, the molestation charge is pending.) Assange took to Twitter immediately, casting the charges as a Pentagon smear campaign. He told the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet: "We have been warned that the Pentagon, for example, is thinking of deploying dirty tricks to ruin us. And I have also been warned about sex traps."
Was it some sort of payback for Wikileaks massive Afghanistan leak? No. As more details emerged, we learned that the only conspiracy was hatched by Julian Assange's wandering dick against his better judgment.
The "dirty tricks" dissolved in the banalities of a botched tryst with what appear to be a couple of Swedish groupies. One, Anna Ardin, was a far-left radical who helped bring Assange to Sweden. A "close friend" of Assange told the Times "what was involved were personal animosities and grievances that flowed out of brief relationships Mr. Assange had with the women." (There's also some nonsense about Assange refusing to wear a condom, but we'll avoid that—if only to spare you the inevitable "leaking" puns.)
It appears that Wikileaks volunteers are beginning to second-guess their weirdly-coiffed, improbably promiscuous leader in the wake of the scandal. Newsweek reports on internal dissatisfaction with the way Julian Assange has handled the scandal:
A person in close contact with other Wikileaks activists around Europe, who asked for anonymity when discussing a sensitive topic, says that many of them were privately concerned that Assange has continued to spread allegations of dirty tricks and hint at conspiracies against him without justification. Insiders say that some people affiliated with the website are already brainstorming whether there might be some way to persuade their front man to step aside, or failing that, even to oust him.
The thing is: Julian Assange is a megalomaniacal prick, and he knew very well what he was up to. His Twitter-based conspiracy theories were—and always have been—a disingenuous ploy to drum up sympathy and dollars for Wikileaks. Assange is brilliant, and brilliant people don't learn of rape charges against them, think "Was it the Pentagon, or those two chicks I was banging?" and choose the former. Tiger Woods' ego is big, but he at least had the modesty not to paint his sex scandal as a Phil Mickleson smear campaign.
These Wikileaks volunteers are realizing that Assange's whining about the Swedish prosecutor making public his name in the case doesn't fit their ethos of radical transparency. When Amnesty International sent Wikileaks a letter asking them to take more care in future leaks to protect Afghan informants, Assange reportedly responded: "I'm very busy and have no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses." WikiLeaks activists probably worry that's not the response of someone who fancies himself the ultimate arbiter of Truth and Light. Perhaps they realize that Wikileaks—at heart a very exciting journalistic innovation—is in danger of becoming a punchline: "The Julian Assange Show."