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Oct 10 2011

Julian Assange: The Unauthorized Biography — Review

By Sasha Mitchell


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The naturally narrative Assange’s unauthorized first draft was so adroit, so straight and secure of self, and so infectingly scribed…

Julian Assange: The Unauthorized Biography
Canongate Books Ltd.
September, 2011

I <3 Wandsworth inmate #A9379AY.  Even though he moves and shakes like this.

Said love/prisoner is Julian Paul Assange: young adult international subversive; quantum philosophical Ned Kelly; convicted hacker, implied rapist, inferred murderer, and founder of one of the mightiest implements for freedom to date: Wikileaks.org.  

In all honesty, for Assange demands it so, I feel taxed like no assignment before to review a 253 page work so pertinent, written by a man I now consider a friend — despite never having met.  The naturally narrative Assange’s unauthorized first draft (by which I was so relentlessly enthralled I only noticed a dozen or less typos) was so adroit, so straight and secure of self, and so infectingly scribed, that I still required further research into his wealth of references.  In addition to his heroic scientific prowess; kid’s a cinematic and literary savant.  

I hardly hesitate to call Assange a hero.  He was bred to be. Taking the surname of his mother’s bohemian puppeteer/activist partner, Julian — born July 3, 1971, to a distance province of a distant province (or Townsville, Queensland, Australia) — was immediately privy to the importance of optimism and the fulfillment of enacting change.  From a “moveable feast” of a childhood where “consistency was a matter of style and values;” he experienced the prejudices of human complexity early; how “bureaucracy makes a stone of the heart” and “authority drags its heels to make a point.”  Like when his family home was destroyed by fire, and because of their leanings (though not hippie, which was “appallingly apolitical”), no one really bothered to help.  

His first word was why, and his playpen reads were Tarzan, Dr. Seuss, and Animal Farm.  His life was a “heavenly” fugitivism, until the age of 9 when his mother left troubled adopted-father Brett (on this I wouldn’t have minded more delineation, but I respect Assange’s unspoken assertion that it’s a truth which wouldn’t necessarily serve me in his self-prostitution).  I, of course, refer to Assange’s opinion of the memoir; which he offers in all his blunt, Wilde-like humor.  Seriously, I love this kid.

He writes as if conceived for it, propelling an already awesome personal account with confidence and an unfailing reverence for beauty and truth.  Then his mother (yeah, you could argue she was a little self-engaged and unbalanced) fell for a cult-spawn, hateful, abusive “dark-force Heathcliff in shorts and thongs” who traded their simplicity for fear as he tracked them all over the expansive continent, introducing Assange to deceit and imbuing him with a paranoia that would adhere interminably.  This was when the itinerant nature of his life thus far would cease to be heaven. So at 10, Assange focused on being an expert beekeeper — a discipline to resurrect itself at 16 when Assange’s consciousness welded with a Commodore 64, and he would teach himself to enter the Pentagon’s 8th Command Group computers (among other classified sites, NASA much).  

Yes, maintaining a 2 story beehive almost exclusively in your mother’s runaway wagon while your younger half-brother fathers a rooster that occasionally needs to shit is certainly another component to Assange’s already unusual, Tom Sawyer upbringing.  In the interest of time, I’ll skip his fascinating genealogy; his childhood gangs (where he constantly shopped for something to oppose, a “congenital temperament”); his time in the village of Goolmanger where he learned “manly competence;” his final lesson in Australian survival and his mother’s penal run-ins (investigating the Maralinga nuclear test site and effectively ended her activism). Per Assange, life wouldn’t be life “if it didn’t cede to dark complications.”  

It’s a credit almost expected of this exceptional individual that at 16 he longed — and thusly autodidactically mastered how — to reach “an infinity point where selfhood dissolves into history;” to disappear into and serve something larger than oneself. He becomes a full-on Romeo in describing his marvel of coding, the web, and all the fish.  Like an astronaut considers space with all the love-spell of some acme Aphrodite, so does Assange the innate revolution that is computer programming. For him, hacking is betterment driven by imagination; a manner to upload oneself as an instrument of the hivemind, the pleasure of creation itself.  He may gush a bit on this point but I’m still rapt. It’s that rhapsodic.  Also his vocab is fun (scuppered?)

So in a mood for mathematical truth (the purest kind) and moral necessity (Assange’s subatomic function), this young man, now 20, and an individual who would — and will — suffer “Kafkaesque miasma’s” rather than sell out to “Faustian pacts” of government bankroll, hacks Nortel (Canada’s telecommunications corporation; another gripping account of a most cinematic cat and mouse) when he is busted by fledgling internet legislation.  And I think, in honor of Assange’s first-draft garnishes, I’m gonna let that humongous run-on stand.  

He’s the brother I never had, Bill Hicks with a command of code and the metrics of modern jounalism. For Assange, the struggle (beyond opposing the cancer of modern power and forcing a new, honest relationship between people and their governments), is “always to be oneself.”  Well, his self broke an online pedophilia ring before being arrested on 31 counts of cybercrime (none of which could prove he ever stole anything more than phone time; on one occasion allocating such to the entirety of New York for a day just cause he could).  Even some 15 years later, when he would be imprisoned for farcically contrived allegations of sexual misconduct, Assange would still only own one pair of shoes, essentially surviving as a squatter (even starting a union for it prior to the hacking convictions).  This is a rare man who has no need for materials other than the ones required to operate the non-for-profit, learn-as-they-went Wikileaks.  

Yet, this being — this prone to prose and alliteration cypherpunk — this cognoscenti who feels the “pulse of history through a flashing cursor” pangs not to divulge his faults, like being mono-minded (really just minor and understandable personality defects in the wake of his selfless global pursuits). His zero-wanking journalistic inclinations have spotlighted (and subsequently helped amend) government corruption in Kenya under the Kibaki regime; in Malaysia following the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, and during the grotesque bank-rape of Iceland — in all places Assange maintained his inordinately modest nomadism before even getting to the “fetishistic hatred” revealed in the Guantanamo, Irag, Afghanistan, and Cablegate leaks.  His methods for fact-checking and protecting sources are utterly noble.  

If anything, the kid was a little too trusting of newspapermen and ready-to-go females (the latter a criminally common trait among nerdos, of whom I’ve been known to collect, masticate, and expectorate myself).  As to the naughty with the aspiring politico/tartlets alluded to only as “A_______” and “W_______,” it was patently a chaotic time that Assange is almost embarrassingly honest in disclosing.  More intriguing, the theory of Sweden’s mainstream hardcore feminism catapulting his prosecution — but I’d still like to read his 46 page defense against the root beer who cried molestation despite having already started consensual copulation. You heard me. Admittedly, Assange is the type of occasionally chauvinist ”up for affection” nerdo to find himself in a sticky sexual situation, though it was directly after being told the US would grab his balls through illegal means as a result of the Afghan logs leak.    

He was a single dad during his “retreat to the realm of pure thinking” in “unreality” (or studying Mathematics and Science in the University of Melbourne,) when a bike accident and some Tramadol inspired him to seek “theories of change through true measure;” how to reconfigure, increase proactive observers and eliminate blockages in the “pipeline” by which flows all informational matter through all Earth’s residents.  Sure he trips on such techie gnostications sometimes, but this is a man who’s never in his life known calm, a man truly anguished by injustice.  He himself would liken to a Jesus figure, if he didn’t think the Devil had the best lines.

Also admittedly an obsessive, Assange returns with a pointed frequency to the concepts of justice, decency, and honesty.  He’s not anti-Western, he’s pro-information and anti-bastard (i.e., french nurses with hardons for paracetamol – inside joke if you read the book – and the kind of journalism which “seeks to put a curse on peoples suffering”).  His utmost and underlying point: “the truth is not anyone’s to own, but a fabric of our worlds’ reality.  To own them you’d need to be big brother.”  You’d think an Orwell pygmy was permanently attached to Assange’s shoulder, perhaps another reason I fell for him so ardently (I have Benjamin the donkey tattooed between heiroglyphs of truth on my thigh). 

Hey, if you’re alive, you might as well commit to living fully in the world (per Assange, that’s how you’ll understand your own mind).  Victims of the rampant, brutal military culture, put down your “human casualty is no different from a videogame” mentality and instead reward the torturers with further revelations of truth.  Authoritarian power strengthens itself through conspiracy, and Assange argues that to combat this, enough people need to understand the conspiracy. For the Fox News audience, I’ll report how Assange quotes Teddy Roosevelt, in that “to befoul this unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of statesmenship.”  Further, and for the rest, I’ll quote Assange directly: “You are what you know, and no state has the right to make you less than you are.”  If he’s ever verging on idealism, the prior declaration (and others like it) speak such plain hard fact that any judgment of mushiness evaporates.  

Julian Assange has inspired me immeasurably — though being a cynic, I wonder whether he was simply programming the reader to sympathize? By his own admission, virtual reality is a mainstay of modern life. But doubts and charges of poor hygiene aside, I thank this man for his efforts to hold governments accountable to those who elect and ought rule those governments.  He doesn’t want the credit, just the outcome.  I, too, hope for the day we may live in one big openness haven (maybe in the imagination nation that is the internet).  

Julian Assange, it’s been nice playing with your system. 

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