by Lexander Magazine Editors
I think it’s embarrassing for a head of state to go on like that for 45 minutes and say almost nothing … The real concern is that when you have an organization as powerful as National Security Agency has become and its Five Eyes allies and the cost of engaging in mass surveillance is decreasing about 50% every two years because of the cheapness of computers and the cheapness of bandwidth, that is a threat to constitutional government in the United States. And also in other countries …
What I wanted to see today was a mechanism that would retard that tendency, reducing a long-term threat to constitutional government. I don’t see that. I don’t see that individuals are protected from those surveillance abuses. I don’t see any prosecutions. You know government is serious when it starts talking about someone is going to be prosecuted.
—Julian Assange, on US President Barack Obama’s dubious promise to rein in the NSA.
Hollywood is the most insidious and corrupt propaganda machine on this planet, aggressively promoting, by violent force and psychological terror, an antihuman agenda founded upon objectification, exploitation, and deception—the Hollywood concept of “freedom” is that of perverse indulgences in all manner of pornography, ultraviolence, and sociopathy … this is not freedom, but the worst kind of slavery and inhumanity. Put simply, Hollywood is terrorism of the mind and the rape of the soul … If people wish to believe democracy exists in America and elsewhere in the so-called “free world,” they might as well believe Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny exist in reality.
Before 2010, most people—whether in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, or anywhere else for that matter—had never heard or encountered even the slightest mention of the name Julian Assange. In point of fact, so obscure was Assange that Wikipedia possessed no article on the man until 2 February 2010, when one individual got around to creating the initial stub. Like most other controversial and oft disputed articles, it is overlong (normally such articles would have their major sections branched out into several subarticles—this is the World Wide Web, after all.)
As a species, we are perpetually prone to taking all the elements of our lives and the world that surrounds us for granted, and how rapidly everything is subject to inevitable change. The more unrestrained and ubiquitous technology has become, the more it has come to control and regulate our lives, the more the global economy—long since dominated by worthless fiat paper currencies—and the digital economy—with its anarchic mixture of gift and labor economies, digital currencies, and alternative paradigms of investment and trade—have converged as one.
From the moment the Internet was deregulated by the US government in order to allow for its quick takeover and consolidation by the top technology and media conglomerates across the planet in order to maintain the status quo, lines were drawn in the sand between those who sought to push forward this agenda and those who opposed the commercialization and privatization of the global network. Al Gore, one of the rare few politicians and bureaucrats in Washington who had championed the Internet since the late seventies, along with his zealously pro-censorship wife, had long expected the global media conglomerates and financial institutions to dominate the Internet as quickly as they had radio and television.
Not only did the likes of Ted Turner, Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch, Michael Eisner, Al-Waleed bin Talal, and David Rockefeller not step in to wrest control of the Internet due to their (fortunately) ignorant myopia, they sat back idly while a whole slew of next generation start-ups from Yahoo to Amazon emerged to dominate the rapidly evolving digital economy. The global conglomerates and old school industry barons have been paying the price ever since. Collective efforts by industry associations—the two most notable being the RIAA and MPAA—to restore their power and control over content distribution and intellectual property protection have been abject failures and public relations nightmares that have ignited one public backlash after another.
In the late nineties and the first decade of the twenty-first century, both the record industry and Hollywood viewed “illegal” sharing and downloading of music albums and movies to be a worse offense than even terrorism, resulting in a number of high profile kangaroo trials in the US that created such a fierce negative reaction among the public that mainstream album sales, movie rentals, and box office ticket sales plummeted to unheard of levels, resulting in back-to-back bankruptcies and closures of movie theaters, record stores (including entire chains as Tower Records, The Wherehouse, among many other), and video rental shops and chains. The only reason the music industry and Hollywood have rebounded in recent years is due to their switching from overt persecution and harassment of ordinary citizens to more subtle and covert methods targeting the eradication of net neutrality.
The founding of Wikileaks in 2010 was the latest digital salvo against the hegemony of governments and media corporations over the control and flow of information. Despite dozens of incidents throughout the twentieth century demonstrating that the “freedom” and “liberty” that supposedly form the basis of our society is nothing but an illusion, a mere sentimental anachronism of eighteenth and nineteenth century idealisms having no basis in reality, governments and media organizations still parrot the absurd fallacy that those of us fortunate to live in the West are blessed with the priceless luxury of existing within “free, open, and transparent” societies. Keep in mind that these are supposedly grown adults—professional politicians and journalists, who, if we are to inject some bit of truth into the equation, are all, in actuality, professional liars.
If as human beings we are to be honest with each other, we must acknowledge the facts, and the most truthful fact about our world is that not only does democracy not exist—not anywhere—but even worse, democracy is not at all even possible. It is arguable whether it is even something to be desired, given that all attempts at equitable and fair representation at the state level have always degenerated into the worst sorts of tyrannies. Governments are, by their very nature, authoritarian. There is no getting around this fact. People can vote however much they want in the hope of some elusive and dubious idea of “change.” In the end, the only change is that which benefits the governments, multinational corporations, and ruling elites.
Exactly what is the difference between a government and a crime syndicate? The government has the legal right to surveill, invade, terrorize, and murder anyone it so chooses with impunity. It can do whatever it wants, just as a police officer can pull you aside and search your person and vehicle without reason. And if you thought the United States was bad, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Scandinavia and France are a thousand times worse and more authoritarian, in spite of their perceived “liberal” credentials.
All of this, the entire worldwide authoritarian infrastructure that maintains the status quo, is only able to sustain its grip so long as it is able to keep its secrets. Secrets and secrecy, the cornerstone of any healthy, robust dictatorship. And this is where we begin to approach the reality behind the intense hatred for Julian Assange boiling over in Hollywood and its partners in allied governments and agencies throughout the world. But this all began long, long before Assange ever entered the public consciousness.
In 1992, Universal released a pro-establishment propaganda film entitled Sneakers, starring Robert Redford and Ben Kingsley. It is no coincidence that in the year previous, Phil Zimmerman had released the strongest, most powerful encryption algorithm the world had ever seen—called Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP—, so powerful that even today no one has ever come close to cracking it, let alone developing a new encryption standard that is anywhere close to the level of strength that PGP offers. Upon first releasing PGP, the US government attempted to use export restriction laws to prevent Zimmerman from releasing the algorithm to the public, going so far as to zealously prosecute him as an enemy of the state. Fortunately for all of us, they were miserably unsuccessful, making that much harder for governments and multinationals to wage effective campaigns against cypherpunks and information activists.
In the film, Kingsley plays the principal antagonist (“Cosmo”), a radical anarchist seeking to crash and overthrow the global economy in order to help bring about a classless society free of state oppression and tyranny, his personal motto being, “Too many secrets.” He is opposed by the hero, played by Redford (“Martin Brice”), who, like Cosmo, was a radical anarchist in the sixties, but has since “reformed” himself—meaning that he has “grown up” and become a yuppie who has embraced the pseudo-capitalism of social democracy (“socialism for the upper classes, slavery for everyone else”)—and though a fugitive from the federal government, is the owner of a lucrative security firm. The character of Cosmo is portrayed as a murderous psychotic for suggesting that a society without classes (“no more poor people, no more rich people”), an idealism which Martin derides as a childish fantasy of his college years that he has long since discarded and grown out of. If you haven’t seen the film, we highly recommend that you do so, or at least read the synopsis. It was the first overt Hollywood propaganda film intended to portray information anarchists and cypherpunks as evil, deranged psychopaths who want to destroy the world, in stark contrast to the previous film penned by Lasker and Parkes, WarGames, which portrayed the hacker protagonist played by Matthew Broderick as just a curious kid who ended up getting in way over his head and almost becoming a victim of a hopelessly incompetent government and military bureaucracy.
Sneakers was particularly notable for being the first Hollywood film to not only focus on modern cryptography, but also the first to connect crypto with hacking, phreaking, and contemporary theories concerning the possibility of a “universal crypto key” that could be able to unlock any form of encryption, no matter how strong or bulletproof. A very few astute commentators—not a single one from the mainstream media—have noted the eerie similarity between the portrayal of Cosmo in Sneakers to the portrait of Julian Assange in 2013s The Fifth Estate, the latter being the latest Hollywood propaganda product aimed at discrediting antiestablishment hackers, political anarchists (as opposed to the so-called lifestyle anarchists, who form part of the wider hipster subculture), and pro-transparency whistleblowers.
Before we analyze The Fifth Estate, there is one additional film that factors significantly in this whole sordid affair, Takedown, a 2000 film produced by the Weinstein brother’s Dimension Films about the FBI’s pursuit of Kevin Mitnick. Takedown, like The Fifth Estate, is an adaptation of a bitter, biased book written by the principal subject’s self-styled nemesis. With Mitnick, this dubious honor goes to Tsutomu Shimomura, a computational physicist who, despite having no official status or legal warrant to do so, illegally helped the FBI (with notorious New York Times reporter John Markoff quietly assisting in the background, also quite illegally) track down Mitnick across the US, culminating in his final capture and arrest in Raleigh, North Carolina. The absurdity of this particular case was the fact that Markoff and Shimomura were able to get the FBI to embed them within the investigative team, in spite of the fact that the FBI was well aware of the duo’s intent to publish a semi-fictional, self-congratulatory chronicle of their anti-Mitnick exploits posing as concrete fact.
To make matters worse and even more convoluted than they already were, the Dimension movie was more an unlawful adaptation of Jonathan Littman’s 1996 book, The Fugitive Game, since the filmmakers found Shimomura and Markoff’s book, for which they had paid considerably, to not only be lackluster but virtually unfilmable, but could not afford to shell out the money to purchase the film rights to Littman’s book.
There are significant similarities between Takedown and The Fifth Estate, but the cases and characters of Kevin Mitnick and Julian Assange couldn’t be any more different. Much of what was propagated about Mitnick by John Markoff in his New York Times articles (written with his then-partner Katie Hafner in the early nineties, along with their first book on Mitnick, Cyberpunk), and expanded upon later in his book with Shimomura, were totally false allegations and ridiculously over-the-top claims having not the slightest basis in reality. Like most other American hackers and phreaks—and unlike most British, European and Australian hackers like Assange—Mitnick was neither politically motivated nor an activist of any stripe, but simply someone driven by a compulsive and often pernicious curiosity to see what there is to see. Yet, Markoff and the US government spread absurd lies that Mitnick was a threat to national security to such an extent that he had the admittedly superhuman ability to launch ICBMs by whistling into a payphone. Such absurdities were used by the government to force Mitnick to remain in solitary confinement in federal detention for years without charge, before such tactics began to be regularly used and abused on a routine basis following the September 11 attacks.
The story of Kevin Mitnick is incredible not simply because of how the government railroaded him in the worst way possible, but for the simple fact that they did what they did against him despite the fact that he posed no threat to national security nor had any political motivations or agenda. Taking that into consideration, it isn’t difficult to understand that if the US government would go out of its way to try to utterly destroy someone with no political agenda, that it would go that much further when actually faced with an actual political threat.
That threat today is Julian Assange. That he is still alive is only due to the fact that he released to the public the thousands upon thousands of US diplomatic cables before the authorities could have him assassinated. If Assange had not released the cables, if he had done things the way Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the New York Times, Guardian, and Der Spiegel had wanted, he would have been a dead man long before he was able to seek sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Whether the appropriately named Domscheit-Berg was a government agent or informant implanted into Wikileaks to help discredit Assange from within is difficult to say. It is more likely that he was a useful idiot who Assange made the mistake of trusting (as Steve Jobs did with John Sculley) and who the government, through its proxies within the mainstream media, helped to convince that Assange was a terrorist who needed to be stopped by any means necessary.
Like Shimomura’s Takedown, Domscheit-Berg’s “memoir,” Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website, reveals no insights or legitimate data, but is rather filled with useless anecdotes, dull gossip, subdued hostility, and jealous backbiting against Assange—the whole book reads like something written out of spite by a jilted lover, making Domscheit-Berg that much more pathetic and stupid, even more so than his flunky predecessors, John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura. Given this background, story-wise, The Fifth Estate is a vast improvement over the source material, but still cannot escape such juvenile stupidities as obsessively focusing upon Assange’s personality quirks, while desperately attempting to prove that Domscheit-Berg was right to sabotage WikiLeaks on behalf of the US and its NATO allies. As we’ve noted earlier, if Assange had not released the cables and decided to instead listen to Domscheit-Berg (and the mainstream media flunkies) and take the time to spend countless hours to censor and redact the cables prior to release, not only would Assange have been killed (along with most of his crew), but the cables would never have seen the light of day—Bradley Manning’s efforts would have all been for naught and he would still have been railroaded by US government informants Adrian Lamo and Kevin Poulsen.
Domscheit-Berg’s role in Lamo and Poulsen’s sting operation against Manning on behalf of the US government has not been fully revealed, nor has Wired’s position and stake in the whole sordid affair been brought to light. Based on what little evidence has been made available, it is more than certain that these four parties were all explicitly involved in the effort to sabotage and destroy WikiLeaks, and in the attempt to have both Assange and Manning permanently silenced.
Why the US government and NATO would seek this needs no explanation—governments and militaries are required, by their inherent authoritarian natures, to keep their secrets absolutely secret, by any means necessary. What is not so obvious to many is why Hollywood would be so determined to help the government, but this is a common fallacy—beginning in the 1920s, as the modern studio systems began to take form across the world in the aftermath of World War I, governments began to realize the exceptional value and importance of using film to further their propaganda efforts in manipulating public opinion in collusion with the mass media corporations.
Just as it wasn’t a coincidence that Sneakers was released in 1992 immediately following the 1991 breakthrough of PGP by Phil Zimmermann, neither was the timing of Dreamwork’s The Fifth Estate, which quickly went into principal photography just a couple months after the October 2012 release of Warner Bros.’s bombastic anti-Iran propaganda piece, Argo (produced by Ben Affleck, Grant Heslov, and George Clooney, all three of whom notorious for their blind servitude to the Democratic Party leadership), the November 2012 US presidential elections, and the genesis of Edward Snowden’s attempts to leak confidential NSA data to the media (for which he was, at first, completely rebuffed by the likes of The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald.) The fact that The Fifth Estate was rushed through pre-production and went into principal photography without a solid script (which, due to complaints emanating from several disparate quarters, went through several revisions during production and additional changes in post, as did Takedown) speaks volumes about the blatant nature and purpose of the film as pure disinformation.
So, why exactly is Julian Assange considered by the establishment to be the most dangerous man in the world? Many take it for granted that WikiLeaks was ever even founded, that Assange was quite literally the only person in the world willing to do what he did at the time that he did it, not only not backed by any organization or entity of any kind, but also totally, completely on his own. It wasn’t until 2007 that Assange was able to find others willing to volunteer and help, and as he eventually learned after the Domscheit-Berg affair, when you choose to take on entire governments and multibillion-dollar institutions, trust becomes an exceedingly rare commodity that you can’t share without potentially risking life and limb.
There is no one more dangerous to authoritarian and totalitarian institutions as someone who is willing to go it alone in the struggle for freedom and human rights, even when the odds are so completely stacked against them that they’d have to be either very crazy or very brave — or both — to continue forging ahead.
Whatever anyone wishes to say or think about Julian Assange, he is one of the rare few individuals in the annals of history who, by virtue of his lifelong vision and ambition, has been able to force the world to play by his rules rather than the other way around.