There was a time in the northeastern United States when an innkeeper could expect a few curious customers to respond to signs reading: "George Washington slept here." The man must have laid his head to rest somewhere during his founding travels. Why not at Aunt Sally's bed and breakfast? This is a form of marketing unique to the region, I suspect. It's hard to imagine a similar sign drawing tourists in, let's say, Texas or California.
But the world is changed. We are now everywhere and all at once. The Internet makes the illusion of omnipresence seem almost real. When I press this button, the words will travel seemingly worldwide. (Of course, this begs the questions of whether words sent into a void have impact if they are not read.) Instant communications render geography almost obsolete.
So let me announce loudly and proudly: Juilan Assange slept here.
The founder of WikiLeaks is a marked man just now. The last report I've read had him hunkered down somewhere just South of London with friends. There is an Interpol alert out for him, asking the 155 member nations to keep a wary eye out for the man: He must be detained on questions regarding whether he had condomless sex in Sweden, a nation known for an otherwise free and easy attitude toward consensual couplings. The world's governments are also banning WikiLeaks, and so, too, are large corporations. Julian Assange is becoming a real life John Galt, the Ayn Rand hero whose independent ways were a sore point for autocrats everywhere, and whose name was a rallying cry for those who loved liberty more than security. "Who Is John Galt?," was less grafitti than manifesto. It's time to re-read Atlas Shrugged.
Yes, I sort of like the ring of it: Julian Assange slept here.
He has a friend here and everywhere that freedom of thought and expression are valued more than the dead hand of the autocract. While the likes of Mike Huckabee, a sometime presidential contender, wonder why Assange is not assassinated, we wonder why Huckabee is viewed with something other than scorn. And what of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who this weekend told Meet the Press that Assange is a "high-tech terrorist?" When did it become a crime to expose your lies, Senator? What nude photographs are you quaking in fear over, fretting that Assange may out you, too, as a naken emperor?
Even the Canadians, usually beyond this sort of sectarian silliness, are warming to the glow of authoritarianism. A former campaign manager for Prime Minister Stephen Harper opined the other day on CBC's Power and Politics that Assange should be assassinated. Gail Davidson, a co-founder of a group called Lawyers Against the War, has filed a complaint with the Vancouver police asking for an investigation of Tom Flanagan for inciting the death of another, a violation of the Criminal Code of Canada. That is a non-starter, but her heart is in the right place.
WikiLeaks has done more in the past year to foster accountability in government than any other organization. While government lies, and the mainstream press, dependent as it is on fostering relationships with power, pussyfoots around the edges of the truth, WikiLeaks has dived head first into deep waters. The mainstream press is now forced to report these truths, and the leaders of the world's government scurry like rats on a sinking ship. They threaten prosecution of those who tell the truth, and mutter death to the man who tells it.
Government is a necesary evil. It will always exists, and it always has in one form another. Whenever ten or more people gather, impersonal rules take shape and seek to direct and mold the behavior of others. Bonds of initmate association are easily attenuated. Formal rules and norms are necessary. But just as necessary are free spirits ready, willing and able to prod the emperors among us. Taking too seriously the legal fictions we use to coordinate our joint activities cripples the spirit and empowers those whose love of power ought to make them suspect.
Juilan Assange slept here, I say. I hope his snoring disturbs the peace of others.