Alex Gibney (left), the Oscar-winning director of Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and many other political and social documentaries, has made a fascinating film about Julian Assange (right) and WikiLeaks that has already pissed off a lot of people on the left – and is about to piss off a bunch more. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks portrays the Australian hacker-hero Assange as a flawed and complicated figure.
As British journalist Nick Davies puts it in the film, the same extraordinary personality who created WikiLeaks is also the one who destroyed it. On one hand, Assange has led the fight for freedom of information in the asymmetrical conflict between the world’s citizens and fearsome Goliaths like the CIA and the Pentagon. On the other, he has allowed his alarming personal failings and his persecution complex to become much too large a part of the story, and has succumbed to what one source in the film calls “noble cause corruption.”
Many will argue that one thing is not like the other, that the greater campaign that WikiLeaks has led against the sinister forces of government and/or corporate secrecy is too important to be derailed by one man’s personal misdeeds. Of course that’s true, in the larger scheme of things. Gibney defends his approach eloquently in our interview, and I would urge people to see this film before they make assumptions about what argument it makes or whose side it’s on. One could probably summarize its Assange analysis this way: The guy has done some extraordinary things, but he’s no candidate for sainthood – and too many people on the left are ready to embrace heroic Joan of Arc figures, and to see the world in terms of a binary struggle between good and evil. It does no one any favors to pretend that the charges against Assange are not troubling, or that he has not insisted on politicizing them rather than dealing with them privately and decently, or that he and many of his supporters have not reacted to them in shameful and misogynistic fashion.
Source: Andrew O’Hehir in Salon, May 18