Wiki paradoxes

Plus, kudos to Council and DeLeo
By EDITORIAL  |  December 8, 2010

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Trust us: It is only a matter of time before Hollywood brings the saga of WikiLeaks impresario Julian Assange to the big screen.

Assange may not have brought the United States government to its knees — at least not yet. But he has triggered serial migraines in embassies, on battle grounds, and among national leaders around the world.

Cambridge-born Matt Damon of Bourne Identity fame would be the natural pick to play the (until recently) elusive Assange, who, according to NPR, changes cell phones as frequently as others change their shirts.

Assange is the essence of geek chic. He may not make it onto People's "Sexiest Men Alive" list, but Assange must be a contender for corporate journalism's second highest honor: Time magazine's "Person of the Year" cover spot.

When Assange surrendered to London authorities several days ago to face charges of sexual assault in Sweden, the series of conflicts provoked and represented by WikiLeaks became even more paradoxical.

Is Assange, as hard-line defenders on the left suggest, an information-age Robin Hood? Will the long arm of the US government use Swedish proxies to nail Assange on sexual-assault charges, much as they got Al Capone for income-tax evasion when Capone couldn't be got for being a gangster?

Maybe. Of course — as left-leaning feminists point out — we can't dismiss the charges of two young Swedish women out of hand. To do so would be to trivialize the seriousness of their accusations.

But Sweden defines rape far more broadly than most Western industrialized nations; if a New York Times report got it right, sex without a condom can in some circumstances be considered non-consensual.

Just as the WikiLeaks disclosures have forced some hard thinking about political issues, so it appears that Assange's sexual-assault case will prompt a challenge to some American concepts of sexual assault.

But there is at the root of the WikiLeaks episode another paradox: Assange's intent has been to unmask the imperialist overreach of American power, but in doing so he has unwittingly provided evidence that the "bad guys" as seen by the US are indeed bad, as in the case of Syria which claims to be anti-terrorist but supplies Hezbollah; or Iran, which claims international victim status, when many if not most in the Mideast are secretly urging the US to take out Iran's nascent nuclear capacity.

Like it or not, WikiLeaks is the future. That doesn't mean you must embrace it, but odds are, you can't fight it.

Council kudos
The Boston City Council last week expelled one of its members, Chuck Turner, who had been convicted in federal court of taking a bribe. It was a distasteful but necessary job, which the council performed with a sense of duty and professionalism.

At a time when elected officials in Washington and on Beacon Hill cannot get out of each others' way, and when difficult votes are too often used as a pretext for cheap grandstanding, the council's conduct should remind voters everywhere that dignity can and should be an essential component of public life.

Turner's removal was a first for the council, which until recently had no mechanism for policing its own. Council President Mike Ross executed the precedent-setting process with exemplary skill and sensitivity. And Councilors-at-Large Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley risked the wrath of some of their core supporters by voting to eject Turner. It was an especially tough vote for Arroyo, who once served as Turner's chief of staff.

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  Topics: The Editorial Page , Barack Obama, Chuck Turner, Boston City Council,  More more >
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