Is Julian Assange worth protecting?

To some, the uber WikiLeaker is a hero. To others, he's just a raging egomaniac whose days of relevance are past.

Two days ago I wrote a post about our 21st century surveillance state – how, in a world where the spooks get to decide who is or isn’t a “terrorist,” we are all automatically and permanently under suspicion. Amazingly, I managed to write that 1458-word post making a single reference to George Orwell. I must be slipping.

In it I took a gratuitous swipe at Julian Assange, which attracted the ire of some readers, who displayed their umbrage in the comments below it. I thought I’d spend today’s post expanding on what I said and why.

First, the gratuitous swipe:

I know some people worry about the safety of Julian Assange. (Others fantasize about him being killed in a drone strike.) Not me. Assange is not nearly as important as he likes to think he is. Assange is like a guy who goes to bed in a dark room, wakes up with the lights blazing, and thinks he invented electricity in his sleep.

I also mentioned him here:

So far, I think, the Guardian and others have exercised reasonable restraint in what they have reported. They are at least attempting to understand the data before presenting it, and to maintain a balance between the public’s right to know and putting lives or even countries in danger. Reasonable people can disagree about how good a job they’re doing at that, but it’s clear they’re trying to achieve a level of responsible disclosure (unlike, say, Julian Assange did when he released 250,000 unredacted state department cables from Bradley Manning).

I’ll summarize the complaints thusly:

1. I was just using the reference to Assange as a blatant attempt to get more traffic.

2. I wrongly accused Assange of posting all 250,000 unredacted state cables to WikiLeaks, potentially endangering the lives of the people mentioned within them.

3. I suggested Assange was not a real journalist.

4. I enjoy the piquant yet memorable aroma of my own flatulence.

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