Dissing Assange

Why does TechCrunch decide to join the chorus of insinuations about the sexual habits of Wikileaks' Julian Assange?
Tony Curzon Price
Tony Curzon Price
7 September 2010

There are very serious questions raised by Wikileaks' release of the Afghanistan papers. The greatest is whether Wikileaks' treatment of the information has endangered individuals in Afghanistan. If it has, and if Julian Assange, the peripatetic face of Wikileaks has been irresponsible with this sort of information, he needs to be brought to task for it. Zittrain is, as usual, cool and reasonable on what questions the leak raises.

But none of the questions around Wikileaks' treatment of the information, it seems to me, is much illuminated by the question – in itself also possibly important – of Assange's treatment of any women.

Is there a slur campaign? Who knows. But even if one was not started to discredit the man, there is certainly a rather odd bandwagon of slurring. Why, for example, does Techcrunch think it needs to comment on the matter. TechCrunch is a successful technology blog. It keeps me up-to-date with what's interesitng in the (mostly) Silicon Valley world of software start-ups. It has a refreshingly young gonzo style that makes me all nostalgic for the Internet bubble of the turn of the century.

The insinuating piece about Assaange, however, was not about technology and had no art to it at all. It relates sexual mores - the accusations are certainly reprehensible if true - to a judgement about Wikileak's handling of the Afghan material. The central argument seems to be that:

... delicate diplomancy and skirting the choppy waters of international issues which involve thousands of lives – like releasing highly sensitive government information about the Iraq war – is not the kind of thing you want someone who is careless about their personal life to take charge of.

When TechCrunch reports stories about the mores of one of their poster boys, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, there is plenty of giggling, but no implication that the software suffers from his dating habits.

So why the link here? And what possessed an influential Technology blog to wade in like that? When they report on software, they know that it's about what the code does, and only peripherally about who does it. Without knowing whether what Assange has done as Wikileaks is good or not, I think it needs answering in terms of its influence on political and military events, and not with reference to what he may or may not have done as a casual sex partner.

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