WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is ‘mad, sad and bad’, claims ghost writer Andrew O’Hagan

O’Hagan was contracted to ghost write a memoir but the deal collapsed because Assange was 'mortified' by the idea of revealing his own secrets

Julian Assange’s ghost writer has broken his silence to describe the WikiLeaks founder as a “mad, sad and bad” narcissist.

Andrew O’Hagan was contracted to ghost write a memoir but the deal eventually collapsed because Assange, despite all his promises, was “mortified” by the idea of revealing his own secrets.

The deal had sold to 40 countries and was worth $2.5 million before is fell through acrimoniously with Assange publicly attacking his publisher.

A 26,000-word account by O’Hagan has now been published online by the London Review of Books in which he details the WikiLeaks founder’s inconsistencies and character flaws.

O’Hagan described Assange as a vain man who, for all his idealism “is an actor who believes all the lines in the play are there to feed his lines; that none of the other lives is substantial in itself”.

He wrote: “He sees every idea as a mere spark from a fire in his own mind. That way madness lies, of course, and the extent of Julian’s lying convinced me that he is probably a little mad, sad and bad, for all the glory of WikiLeaks as a project.

“The impulse towards free speech…is only permissible if it adheres to his message. His pursuit of governments and corporations was a ghostly reverse of his own fears for himself. That was the big secret with him: he wanted to cover up everything about himself except his fame.”

Assange was characterised as a flawed personality who in many ways was an enemy to himself because of his capacity to alienate his friends and supporters, and seemed overly concerned with portraying himself as a hero.

“Julian treated his supporters as subjects, and learned nothing when they walked away,” he wrote. “He hardly mentioned the right-wing press that called him a criminal and a traitor: he expended all his ire on the journalists who had tried to work with him and who had basic sympathy for his political position.

“He had a strange, on-the-spectrum inability to see when he was becoming boring or demanding. He talked as if the world needed him to talk and never to stop. Oddly for a dissident, he had no questions.”

O’Hagan, who said he has many hours of tapes to substantiate his account, said that when Jemima Khan broke with Assange after he breached bail terms by seeking sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy, he responded with rudeness.

“It takes a bigger person than Julian to see what they did wrong, and many of us, including several of those who stood bail for him, hung back and continued to flatter him with our tolerance,” wrote O’Hagan.

“When Jemima Khan publicly broke with him, he didn’t pause to ask why a loyal supporter might become aggrieved; when I raised it with him he simply made a horribly sexist remark.”

Assange initially collaborated with The Guardian and The New York Times to get WikiLeaks documents into the open but he fell out with them and felt as if they had betrayed him.

Assange, said O’Hagan, had also convinced himself that he was worshipped by people who came into contact with him. Speaking of Nick Davies, a Guardian reporter who had worked with WikiLeaks, the ghostwriter recalled Assange saying: “The problem was he was in love with me. Not sexually. But just in love with me. Like I was this younger guy he wanted to be.”

O’Hagan continued: “He said the same thing about the Icelandic politician and activist Birgitta Jónsdóttir: ‘She was in love with me.’ I knew from then on that any understanding of him would involve a recognition of his narcissism.”

The account recorded Assange’s fear of being followed, spied upon and even killed because of his leaks. One day when the writer accompanied Assange to a police station Sarah Harrison – Assange’s assistant and girlfriend – got out of the car to check if anyone was in the nearby bushes. When O’Hagan asked if she was looking for paparazzi he was told, “Assassins.”

Assange is wanted in Sweden for the alleged sexual assault  of two women, which he denies. O’Hagan's account considers the hacker's interaction with women.

He recalled Harrison revealing how Assange was angry with her simply for having given a friendly hug to a member of staff. She told him: “Julian was like “that’s so disrespectful to me” and went off on one. He said I’d said the guy smelled nice and that was humiliating. He did smell nice; he’d just had a bath. Julian was furious.” When he asked her about the sex allegations she insisted:  “He didn’t rape them but he was really fucking stupid.”

But O’Hagan, who has attempted to remain friends with Assange, also spoke of the good that his subject tried to do: “One of the things Julian found it hardest to admit to was the amount of hacking he did himself….. At the time of the Egyptian uprising, Mubarak tried to close down the country’s mobile phone network, a service that came through Canada. Julian and his gang hacked into Nortel and fought against Mubarak’s official hackers to reverse the process. The revolution continued and Julian was satisfied, sitting back in our remote kitchen eating chocolates.

“What Julian lacked in efficiency or professionalism he made up for in courage. What he lacked in carefulness he made up for in impact.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all