Julian Assange’s Muffed Mandela Moment #wikileaks
Not since Colin Farrell’s disastrous Alexander has such a lavish setting played host to such terrible dialogue.
At 6pm London time on Thursday, Julian Assange appeared on the steps of the British High Court to the world’s rapt attention. In his brief but spectacular career as a global cause célèbre, Assange has never been presented with as ripe a chance to nail his revolutionary colours to the mast, and rally the world to his cause. His words, even if half-decent, would surely echo in every corner of the planet. This was the moment of clarity that Wikileaks and its supporters desperately needed.
Instead, we get this:
It’s great to smell the fresh air of London again.
First, some thank yous. To all the people around the world who have had faith in me, who have supported my team while I have been away. To my lawyers, who have put up a brave and ultimately successful fight, to our sureties and people who have provided money in the face of great difficulty and aversion. And to members of the press who are not all taken in and considered to look deeper in their work. And I guess finally, to the British justice system itself, where if justice is not always the outcome at least it is not dead yet.
During my time in solitary confinement in the bottom of a Victorian prison I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement, also on remand, in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me. Those people also need your attention and support.
And with that I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal, as we get it, which we have not yet, the evidence from these allegations. Thank you.
On a positive note, this is at least a very short speech, beating in brevity the Gettysburg Address by 54 words.
In every other respect, this is a truly dire piece of oratory.
First, it reveals either that Assange is unclear about what his cause actually is, or he is completely incapable of articulating it. Nothing about freedom or truth or peace or, I don’t know, transparency and accountability even? He makes no attempt to place the work of Wikileaks in any historical, political or even moral context. Aside from thanking supporters, he uses this extraordinary media moment to ask his supporters to spare a thought for every other prisoner languishing in solitary confinement — not political prisoners, or whistleblowers, mind you, but all such prisoners. This, we are left to assume, includes actual rapists, not to mention serial killers, terrorists and child abusers.
Secondly, Assange’s speech suffers from extremely bad writing. I mean, seriously, Geoffrey Robertson is standing right there! John Pilger, while an irredeemable tosser, is a great supporter of his, as well as a journalist and author. He must count dozens of other writers among his coterie of advocates and fanboys. He has no excuse for sentences like
“During my time in solitary confinement in the bottom of a Victorian prison I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement, also on remand, in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me.”
This reads like it has been translated into German and then back into English by two different translators.
The screenwriters of the eventual movie will need to employ a bit of creative license to recreate this scene as the moment of oratorical triumph that it wasn’t.