Dec 012010
 
Authors: Shane Rohleder

Sunday, Julian Assange, and a board of nine other members in charge of WikiLeaks, released approximately 251,000 cables to media organizations across the globe, many of which were considered “classified,” by officials. Needless to say, days after these releases took place, Assange was placed on Interpol’s wanted list for allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.

The investigation of his sexual interaction with a woman the weekend of Aug. 14 was opened on Aug. 20, then closed, and reopened by authorities in September. As of now, Assange is said to be hiding somewhere in Great Britain, and his Twitter account relating to WikiLeaks has been on hiatus since the beginning of the most recent cable releases.

Days after these releases, Assange was placed on Interpol’s wanted list; as of now, he is wanted in Sweden for sex crimes, in the United States for espionage, and the Australian government (after being pressured by America) said Assange may face criminal charges should he return to the country. I think it’s safe to say Assange is getting under the skin of “The Man.”   

I don’t want to focus on the “wrongs and rights” about the WikiLeaks themselves. Opinions are widespread about exposing documents of a sensitive nature because of the obvious risk to private citizen’s lives, and national security. One could argue all year about these things.

What is interesting, but not surprising, is that Assange has now been forced into hiding for his actions. Apparently not much has changed about the lives of activists throughout history, only the media by which information can be distributed.

Is Assange a modern day Marx? Will he die as Marx did, poor, with few people to mourn him? Perhaps. Will it have been worth it? I think so.

All this goes to show: It isn’t easy sticking it to the man. This guy has got to be one of the most hated and also beloved human beings on earth. He currently ranks 23rd on TIME’s list of “100 Most Influential People,” while at the same time being accused (with flimsy evidence thus far) of rape and espionage by the U.S. government.

It’s odd that what the people see as an activist the authorities see as a terrorist. Perhaps that is why there is such a conflict of interest in our political system today; the government doesn’t hear anything they don’t want to. But if you do happen to get your hands on a megaphone (i.e. the Internet) and shout loud enough to be heard you’re in trouble.

I’ve only read minimally on the subject. In all honesty, I hate politics. I’m 23 and I’ve never considered voting for more than five minutes, throwing out the activity as a waste of time.

Perhaps I’m a little cynical. Big whoop.

I do admire people who go against the grain. I admired President Barack Obama during the 2008 election campaign because of his demonstrated ability to sway public opinion. I admire Julian Assange, not for his organization, or what WikiLeaks has released, but for his drive to connect humans around the world and perhaps fight injustice by living by the letter of the law (I’m talking about freedom of the press and free speech).

The 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, embodied my enthusiasm for the power of public opinion; it used to be the way the country was run.

Whenever faced with a tough decision, Roosevelt cast the decision on the people. Isn’t that what a democracy is? Are not the people the saving grace? I feel over the past 60 years or so, America’s public has been beaten and battered into complacent citizens at the mercy of corporations and big government.

The attacks on Assange seem to support this claim. I hope Assange (and more like him) can live to see the day when public opinion once again rules as a way of conducting government abroad and at home.

Hemingway once wrote, “The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for …” I’d say the latter is getting harder and harder to pull off. Instead of fighting you just get stuffed in a prison cell and gagged.

Shane Rohleder is a senior communication studies major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:34 pm

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