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Is Julian Assange a hero or a villain?

Xavier Zapata | 09:56 UK time, Tuesday, 7 December 2010


This topic was discussed on World Have Your Say on 07 December 2010. Listen to the programme.

This man, with his shock of ghostly white hair, has been drifting in and out of the public sphere with an uncanny persistence.

Love him or hate him, the founder of Wikileaks is everywhere - and has been particularly so for the past nine days since the secret US cables started to be released.

His name, and assessments of the effects of his work, are all over blogs and social media.

And opinions are divided. As you'll see further down this blog.

Today, he's making headline news after being arrested by British Police, after a warrant from Sweden for Mr Assange's arrest was issued in connection with alleged sex crimes. He's since been remanded in custody after being refused bail, following a court appearance.

Now, we don't want to get into the legal case against Mr Assange. The exact specifics of what he has been accused of are not the point of our discussion today.

But with all eyes on him, what do you make of one of the world's most talked about men and the job he's doing?

For blogger Antonio Lupetti Mr Assange's decision to leak the US State Department's diplomatic cables is one of his biggest mistakes. He calls it childish to be surprised that American dilpomats secretly criticise other countries, and says Assange is motivated by

Anti-Americanism dressed up as love for transparency and truth. This is Assange's biggest mistake. His one-sided accusation against the United States itself undermines the credibility and defensibility of his mission.

But this blogger goes further, rubbishing the assumption that he's a strident left winger

He strikes me as being more of an anarchist, an individual bent on inflicting his warped ideology wherever he sees the chance. People of his ilk are notoriously difficult to manage, as they have a tendency to press on with their crusades even in the face of certain defeat.

David Samuels praises Mr Assange for freeing up the press, in a world where the chilling effect of legal action can stifle good journalism:

Wikileaks is a powerful new way for reporters and human rights advocates to leverage global information technology systems to break the heavy veil of government and corporate secrecy that is slowly suffocating the American press.

This blogger celebrates Assange for using technology to change the way individuals relate to authority

In the long run, it is more effective to change society by changing the tools through which people interact, than by direct confrontation with the state. The state exists only because people think it exists, and is therefore far more fragile than it seems.

Are you fascinated by Julian Assange? Is he a freedom of speech hero, blowing a gale through the establishment's injustices? Or is he just a nihilistic and dangerous time waster?


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