When Wikileaks was launched in 2006 it revolutionized the function and purpose of online activism (I can’t use the term ‘hacktivism’, not everything has to have a clever abbreviation).
They had all kinds of epic leaks and, most would argue, were a valuable service to democratic transparency.
But by putting a name and face on the organization, Julian Assange made the whole idea of Wikileaks so much less than what it’s supposed to be. This is an organization that had a mandate of anonymity, and then their director is suddenly on the cover of Time as Person of the Year.
If you’re familiar with the Wikileaks site you’ll also notice that these days the banner at the top has a picture of Assange. He’s looking some sort of part that doesn’t fit.
American publications have made such an effort to honour his courage that they’ve forgotten that the real danger in leaking information is on those who extract the information, not on those who release it. Assange further protected himself from whatever little danger he was in by soaking up publicity.
And this self-obsession isn’t what people want to read about. I haven’t read it yet for that reason, but I’m sure Assange was against its release because it may reveal who he really is, and it likely isn’t what people want him to be. It’s in this way I see him as so much less than a Tom Paine, and more like a Mark Zuckerberg. Either way, nobody seems to give a shit.