Julian Assange, who back when he roamed the earth freely used to do things like show up on the steps of St. Paul’s to protest the wrongs of capitalism, has now apparently placed his faith in the man who is arguably the capitalists’ single biggest lickspittle in Washington, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). In and of itself, this is only mildly interesting. But Assange’s admirers on the left are so seduced by his oppositionalist posture and his desire to stick it to the man (as long as the man is the government of the United States) that they seem willing to follow him off any cliff, maybe even the cliff of voting for Paul in 2016. It’s a jejune politics, and ultimately a politics of leisure. No one whose day-to-day life is materially affected by the question of who is in office has time for such silly games, and therefore, no one who purports to be in solidarity with those people should either.
In an interview over the weekend with Campus Reform, a conservative college students’ group and website, Assange offered up a range of choice thoughts, none more interesting than this one: “In relation to Rand Paul. I’m a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul for their very principled positions in the U.S. Congress on a number of issues. They have been the strongest supporters of the fight against the U.S. attack on WikiLeaks and on me in the U.S. Congress. Similarly, they have been the strongest opponents of drone warfare and extrajudicial killing.” And then this: “The libertarian aspect of the Republican Party is presently the only useful political voice really in the U.S. Congress. It will be the driver that shifts the United States around.”
Assange also praised Matt Drudge in the interview, saying Drudge “should be applauded for breaking a lot of that censorship” of the mainstream news media. Drudge, it should be recalled, didn’t break any “censorship” at all. Conspiracy theorists of left and right have always had trouble distinguishing between censorship and editorial judgment, and it was Newsweek’s judgment (long before current ownership, I note) in January 1998 that its Monica Lewinsky story wasn’t ready for print. Drudge simply “reported” on that fact—or rather was spoon-fed it by disgruntled internal sources. The Lewinsky story was getting around, and so it’s a near certainty that Newsweek, or someone, would have published it soon. But Assange elevates Drudge to hero status.
It’s true that the Pauls do take one principled position, their anti-war stance. That’s one more than some people, I guess. But they get way too much credit for it, and for their supposed “libertarian” posture. Rand Paul is not a libertarian at all. A true libertarian supports the rights of same-sex couples to marry and the right of women to make decisions about their bodies. Paul is against same-sex marriage to such an extent that he compared it with interspecies marriage earlier this summer. And he’s not merely anti-abortion rights; he’s thrown in with the “personhood” movement, which would essentially grant the rights of personhood to fertilized eggs and represents the extreme wing of the anti-abortion rights movement.
What does Assange make of these positions? And what does the Assange of the St. Paul’s anti-banking protest make of Paul’s strident free-marketeerism to the extent of insisting that businesses have the right to discriminate against black people if they want to? We’ll never know, I suspect. If ever compelled to address these points, he’ll probably say they’re side issues dredged up by people devoted to the status quo—a standard and boring “fight the power” line.
I should say I’ve never admired Assange. His is the kind of black-and-white, moral absolutist thinking about politics one should grow out of after graduate school. He put American and other lives at risk with some of his 2010 leaks of classified military material. Into the bargain he may have sexually assaulted two women—innocent until proven otherwise on that one, but nevertheless it hangs out there and is part of the reason he’s holed up in that Ecuadoran Embassy.
He’s a bad actor. But at least once upon a time he was a somewhat consistent bad actor. Now he’s just an opportunist, as much an opportunist as Paul himself. Here’s what “the libertarian aspect” of the GOP is going to bring to America in the thankfully unlikely event it is to succeed at the ballot box. First, taxes so low on the wealthy as to be nearly nonexistent (actually, in some ways the most interesting of Assange’s weekend remarks were those equating taxation with “violence,” which puts him in the company of nutcases like Alan Keyes). Second, the end of any kind of business regulation. Severe cuts to all programs for the poor. These are the only issues, after Paul’s anti-war stance, on which his libertarianism is consistent. It is interesting indeed to learn that Assange agrees.
That’s why these seemingly left-wing anti-establishment types should never be trusted. These are just playtime politics, luxuries for the leisure class. If you want a real left-winger, I say stick with Marx. At least he understood that politics is chiefly about economic relations. Anyone who doesn’t understand that is sending you down blind alleys, knows little about politics to begin with, and should be shunned by anyone who claims to be anywhere on the broad left side of the spectrum.