But does he have a cat?
Spies rejoice: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange is (finally!) a real-life James Bondvillain
Finally, in this world of chaos, we've got a baddie we can truly sink our teeth into.
Sure, there's no shortage of less-than-savory characters in the news lately: Koran-quoting terrorists, corrupt politicians, Tucker Max. But, with the exception of cave-dwelling Osama bin Laden, there hasn't been a villain that combined a criminal mastermind, a publicity hound, and a desire to wreck havoc since the emergence of Julian Assange, founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.
Like all the best cinematic antiheroes, the issues surrounding Assange are far from black and white. He started out as a hacker, but it was his founding of WikiLeaks in 2006 that made him an international celebrity. With its launch he styled himself an activist for government transparency and freedom of information, publishing essays including "Conspiracy as Governance" preaching "radical democracy:"
The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie.... Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance. Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what's actually going on."
As WikiLeaks exposed, among other things, the operations manual for the American detention center in Guantanamo Bay, corruption and extrajudicial killings in Kenya (Assange takes credit for swaying the election there with this information), an American attack helicopter in Iraq appearing to shoot down Iraqi civilians, materials from the secretive Church of Scientology (releasing thousands more when the organization attempted to suppress the documents) and the contents of Sarah Palin's e-mail while she was the Republican vice presidential candidate, Assange was hailed as a crusader by activists with an anti-authoritarian bent. Controversial but mainstream, he even appeared on The Colbert Report.
But the tide of public opinion seems to have turned with his release of 250,000 U.S. State Department diplomatic cables. Though there were few smoking guns in the files, their publication was embarrassing for U.S. officials (to put it mildly) and some speculate it will set diplomacy back for decades if officials fear they can't speak with candor.
In case anyone still felt the jury was out on Assange, he went on Canadian television, stating, "I’m a combative person and I like crushing bastards. I find what I’m doing to be deeply, personally satisfying.”
A statement like that has only previously been uttered by a James Bond villian like Ernst Stavro Blofield or Le Chiffre. Plus Assange has the look — white-blond hair, vague international accent and a face that seems most natural when settled into a look of mild disdain.
Assange seems to have decided upon his principled villain status years ago. He travels frequently between countries, never staying in one place too long. His habit, once dubbed paranoid, now seems justified. Attorney General Eric Holder says the Justice Department is looking into possible charges and Sarah Palin and a former government official in Canada both called for his assassination. Interpol (an organization founded to pursue international thief Carmen Sandiego) even issued an international warrant for his arrest for alleged sex crimes.
Of course perception could change next year, when Assange says he'll release documents from an American financial institution — possibly Back of America, according to speculation.
Evil genius personified of just delightfully nefarious? Either way, it's clear that Assange is the outlaw that everyone loves to hate.