News of the arrest and imprisonment of Julian Assange has probably reached you by now, but, just in case, here is a recap. Julian Assange is an Australian journalist; as such, he is a towering giant among a tiny cluster of midgets. Google “great Australian journalists” and you get him and a bunch of people nobody has ever heard of, many of them already dead.
He is a towering figure outside of Australia as well. While other Western journalists run around trying to please their owners, sell advertising space, or struggle to avoid getting banned by the all-seeing eye of social media corporations, Assange has been both principled and fearless. Through his media outlet Wikileaks he has laid bare the dirty secrets of the US State Department and the war crimes of the Pentagon, corporate malfeasance and political corruption, hanging out for all to see the dirty laundry of many powerful and influential people. This made him a cause célèbre: Time Magazine pronounced him Man of the Year and he received human rights awards, standing in the same pantheon as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. But such are the vicissitudes of fortune that now he is being martyred—a sufferer for the truth, unjustly accused and persecuted by a doomed race of inveterate liars.
This was inevitable. In the process of publishing evidence of dirty secrets and war crimes he made plenty of powerful, influential enemies, and they eventually scared up some false evidence to use against him. In 2012, faced with the unenviable fate of being extradited from the UK to Sweden, there to be humiliated before a Swedish kangaroo court, Assange opted to enter the Ecuadoran embassy in London, where he spent the next seven years living in a small room. It was, in essence, a form of solitary confinement, which is commonly considered to be a form of torture.
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It’s hard to tell whether seeking refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy was a good decision or a bad one to start with, but it turned into an increasingly bad decision over time.