Christina Patterson: How a prophet of protest lost the moral plot

Julian Assange has just revealed more of himself than was wise

Share
Related Topics

I probably shouldn't have laughed, but I'm afraid I did. It was the moment when he said that women had been "extremely helpful and generous". Being "helpful and generous" in WikiWorld meant, it soon became clear, a range of supportive activities, from the secretarial to the – well, I'm far too much of a lady to spell it out.

And Julian Assange, it seemed, was far too much of a gentleman. Asked by John Humphrys on yesterday's Today programme to throw a little light on the sexual behaviour that has garnered him a "hi-tech" house arrest, a request for extradition, and, according to his own account, 30 million web pages, Assange declared that it was "private business". To the question that got the Deputy Prime Minister a nickname that was rather hard to shake off, he replied that "a gentleman certainly doesn't count". The women, that is, not the mentions on Google. One thing, however, was clear. The fearless crusader for truth and transparency was slightly less relaxed when the free information being sought was about him.

He also seemed a little confused. When Humphrys asked if there was "any truth" in the sexual allegations made by the two women in Sweden, which largely amount to non-consensual sex without a condom, he said "no". Asked if he denied having sex with the women, he also said "no". Asked if it was "a honey-trap", he said that he had "never said" it was. But then he said that he had "never said" it wasn't. It was a bit like having a conversation with Paul the Octopus. You only hoped that, in the grand country house where the interview was taking place, some less gnomic answers were being conveyed by those languid limbs.

On certain things, he was clear. It was, he said, "ridiculous" that the women had gone to the police. The women, he said, had "gone into a tizzy" about whether there was "a possibility of sexually transmitted diseases". A "tizzy", presumably, because a man who had found so many women so helpful and generous, and who, if the women are right about his lack of enthusiasm for a condom, may well have been enjoying widespread freedom of access without the barriers that only prosaic mortals impose. A "tizzy", therefore, that a brief encounter, and one which, on one occasion, according to the allegations, happened when one of the women wasn't actually awake to give her consent to it, might leave rather a long-standing mark. I don't know what other women thought when they heard this man dismiss the allegations of a couple of distraught women with such casual contempt. To me, it was evident that this was a man so convinced of his probity that he couldn't believe that any woman, anywhere, could ever find his approach to sexual mores anything other than helpful and generous.

He couldn't believe that the Swedish legal system could, either. When asked why he wouldn't go back to Sweden to face the allegations, he said that the Swedish authorities could come to England, or they could do "a video link up" or "accept a statement". The mountain, in other words, should come to Mohammed. "I have," he said, "a serious organisation to run. I have my people to defend... My work," he said, unlike everyone else's, clearly, "is serious".

Well, you can say that again. It is certainly serious to decide that every piece of information relating to every government everywhere needs to be made available to everyone all the time. It is certainly serious, if a little confusing, to say that WikiLeaks is an organisation that "does not promote leaking" and that Sweden, that bastion of social democracy and fairness, is "a bit more of a banana republic", and that the sexual allegations made by two women whose lives have been made a misery have been "quite helpful" for your organisation, because they will "expose a tremendous abuse of power", and that you are "in a very beneficial position" if you can be "martyred without dying".

It is certainly serious, because Julian Assange appears to be deadly serious about every single aspect of it, and every single aspect of his life and work. He appears, in fact, to be a man unencumbered by even a shadow of a sense of humour, or the tiniest flicker of a doubt.

He's a man who believes that the world "has a lot of problems" which need to be fixed, and that he is the man to fix them. He's a man who claims to have had no time to think about how he perceives himself, but when given the chance, in solitary confinement, he looked upon his creation and saw that it was good.

He is, in other words, a fundamentalist and, like many other fundamentalists, accountable only to a higher truth. Like all fundamentalists, he has his followers and they, whatever the evidence, will continue to believe what they want.

Some fundamentalists sometimes do some good. Julian Assange may have sometimes done some good. But I wouldn't trust him with a barge-pole, or a condom.

When John met Julian: The 'Today' interview

Excerpts from the interview on BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme yesterday:

On extradition

John Humphrys Why can't you go back to Sweden?

Julian Assange I don't need to go back to Sweden.

JH You do, because the law says you must.

JA Well no, the law says that I also have certain rights. I do not need to go and speak to random prosecutors around the world who simply want to have a chat...

JH But they don't just want to have a chat, do they?

JA No, they do.

JH That rather belittles what this is all about. Very serious allegations have been made...

JA I have already spoken to them.

On privacy

JA I am not going to be exposing other people's private lives or my own more than is absolutely necessary. That is not what a gentleman does...

On the complaints against him

JH One of those women at least did make a complaint against you.

JA Not even a complaint. It appears, from the records that we do have, the suggestion is that they went to the police for advice and they did not want to make a complaint. What they say is that they found out that they were mutual lovers of mine and they had undertaken sex and they got into a tizzy about whether there was a possibility of sexually transmitted diseases. They went to the police to...

JH They wanted you to have a test as well.

JA ... to have a test.

JH Did you have a test?

JA Ridiculous thing to go to the police about.

On his sex life

JH Are you a sexual predator?

JA That's ridiculous. Of course not.

JH How many women have you slept with?

JA That's a private business. Not only does a gentleman not tell... a gentleman certainly doesn't count.

JH Many, without being specific?

JA I've never had a problem before with women. Women have been extremely helpful and generous.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon and her former boss Alex Salmond  

I voted Yes in the referendum – but that doesn't mean I'm going to vote for the Tory-esque SNP

Alasdair Clark
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid

Marina Warner
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power