Strength through Peace
Julian Assange & Wikileaks, Part III
Before you see Dreamworks The Fifth Estate, I recommend reading from Assange's early writings here
http://web.archive.org/web/20071020051936/http://iq.org/ and also here
Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the film playing the part of Julian Assange. Most people know the actor for his role as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series. There was a bit of correspondence between Cumberbatch and Assange. Cumberbatch asked to meet with Assange to prepare for the role. Assange would not meet the actor and instead expessed his concerns about the movie. Here is the full text of the last two letters.
Thank you for trying to contact me. It is the first approach by anyone from the Dreamworks production to me or WikiLeaks.
My assistants communicated your request to me, and I have given it a lot of thought and examined your previous work, which I am fond of. I think I would enjoy meeting you. The bond that develops between an actor and a living subject is significant.
If the film reaches distribution we will forever be correlated in the public imagination. Our paths will be forever entwined. Each of us will be granted standing to comment on the other for many years to come and others will compare our characters and trajectories. But I must speak directly.
I hope that you will take such directness as a mark of respect, and not as an unkindness. I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film. I do not believe it is going to be positive for me or the people I care about. I believe that it is going to be overwhelmingly negative for me and the people I care about. It is based on a deceitful book by someone who has a vendetta against me and my organisation. In other circumstances this vendetta may have gone away, but our conflict with the United States government and the establishment press has created a patronage and commissioning market – powerful, if unpopular – for works and comments that are harmful to us.
There are dozens of positive books about WikiLeaks, but Dreamworks decided to base its script only on the most toxic. So toxic is the first book selected by Dreamworks that it is distributed to US military bases as a mechanism to discourage military personnel from communicating with us. Its author is publicly known to be involved in the Dreamworks production in an ongoing capacity.
Dreamworks' second rights purchase is the next most toxic, biased book. Published and written by people we have had a bitter contractual dispute with for years, whose hostility is well known. Neither of these two books were the first to be published and there are many independent authors who have written positive or neutral books, all of whom Dreamworks ignored. Dreamworks has based its entire production on the two most discredited books on the market. I know the film intends to depict me and my work in a negative light. I believe it will distort events and subtract from public understanding.
It does not seek to simplify, clarify or distil the truth, but rather it seeks to bury it. It will resurrect and amplify defamatory stories which were long ago shown to be false.
My organisation and I are the targets of political adversary from the United States government and its closest allies.
The United States government has engaged almost every instrument of its justice and intelligence system to pursue—in its own words—a ‘whole of government’ investigation of ‘unprecedented scale and nature’ into WikiLeaks under draconian espionage laws. Our alleged sources are facing their entire lives in the US prison system. Two are already in it. Another one is detained in Sweden.
Feature films are the most powerful and insidious shapers of public perception, because they fly under the radar of conscious exclusion. This film is going to bury good people doing good work, at exactly the time that the state is coming down on their heads. It is going to smother the truthful version of events, at a time when the truth is most in demand. As justification it will claim to be fiction, but it is not fiction. It is distorted truth about living people doing battle with titanic opponents. It is a work of political opportunism, influence, revenge and, above all, cowardice. It seeks to ride on the back of our work, our reputation and our struggles. It seeks to cut our strength with weakness. To cut affection with exploitation. To cut diligence with paranoia. To cut loyalty with naivety. To cut principle with hypocrisy. And above all, to cut the truth with lies.
The film's many distortions buttress what the prosecution will argue. Has argued. Is arguing. In my case, and in that of others. These cases will continue for years. The studio that is producing the film is not a vulnerable or weak party. Dreamworks' free speech rights are not in jeopardy – ours are. Dreamworks is an extremely wealthy organisation, with ties to powerful interests in the US government.
I must therefore question the choices and motives behind it: the opportunism, fears and mundanity; the unwritten rules of film financing and distribution in the United States; the cringe against doing something useful and brave. I believe that you are a decent person, who would not naturally wish to harm good people in dire situations.
You will be used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it. To present me as someone morally compromised and to place me in a falsified history. To create a work, not of fiction, but of debased truth.
Not because you want to, of course you don't, but because, in the end, you are a jobbing actor who gets paid to follow the script, no matter how debauched. Your skills play into the hands of people who are out to remove me and WikiLeaks from the world. I believe that you should reconsider your involvement in this enterprise. Consider the consequences of your cooperation with a project that vilifies and marginalises a living political refugee to the benefit of an entrenched, corrupt and dangerous state. Consider the consequences to people who may fall into harm because of this film.
Many will fight against history being blackwashed in this way. It is a collective history now, involving millions of people, because millions have opened their eyes as a result of our work and the attempts to destroy us.I believe you are well intentioned but surely you can see why it is a bad idea for me to meet with you. By meeting with you, I would validate this wretched film, and endorse the talented, but debauched, performance that the script will force you to give. I cannot permit this film any claim to authenticity or truthfulness. In its current form it has neither, and doing so would only further aid the campaign against me. It is contrary to my interests, and to those of my organisation, and I thank you for your offer, and what I am sure is your genuine intent, but I must, with inexpressible regret, turn it down.
And here is Cumberbatch's response.
To have the man you are about to portray ask you intelligently and politely not to do it gave me real cause for concern, however, it galvanized me into addressing why I was doing this movie. He accuses me of being a “hired gun” as if I am an easily bought cypher for right wing propaganda. Not only do I NOT operate in a moral vacuum but this was not a pay day for me at all. I’ve worked far less hard for more financial reward. This project was important to me because of the integrity I wanted to bring to provocative difficult but ultimately timely and a truly important figure of our modern times. The idea of making a movie about someone who so far removed from my likeness or situation who brought about an ideal through personal sacrifice that has changed the way we view both social media, the power of the individual to have a voice in that space, and be able to question both the hypocrisies and wrongdoings of organizations and bodies of powerful people that rule our lives… This resonated deeply with my beliefs in civil liberty, a healthy democracy, and the human rights of both communities and individuals to question those in authority. I believe that the film, quite clearly, illuminates the great successes of wikileaks and its extraordinary founder Julians Assange. As well as, examining the personalities involved and what become a dysfunctional relationship within that organization. While the legacy of his actions and the organizations continue to evolve and only history will be the true judge of where this is leading us. The Fifth Estate is a powerful, if dramatized, entry point for a discussion about this extraordinary lurch forward in our society. I wanted to create a three dimensional portrait of a man far more maligned in the tabloid press than he is in our film to remind people that he is not just the weird, white haired Australian dude wanted in Sweden, hiding in an embassy behind Harrods. But a true force to be reckoned with, achieved the realization of the great ideal. I’m proud to be involved in tackling such a contentious character and script. There is only personal truth in my opinion, and the film should provoke debate and not consensus. It should be enjoyable and ultimately empowering to realize that Julian has spearheaded a movement that is the foundations stone of The Fifth Estate, people journalism and what that is capable of including finding out the “truth” for yourself.
Julian Assange & Wikileaks, Part II
Since June 2012, Assange has been in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Ecuador has granted him diplomatic asylum. Since the Wikileaks release of "Collateral Murder" the case of Bradley, now Chelsea, Manning has dragged on, and Edward Snowden has revealed the massive spy network of the NSA. Massive credit card breaches have been in the news and we have learned that the United States has lagged behind nearly every othe country in the world in ts failure to adopt chip and pin technology. Forbes Magazine has a very good article on this topic here
Julian Assange & Wikileaks, Part I
The most spectacular stage trick is to make someone disappear. Enemies of states and other entities are routinely disappeared as if by magic. Jittery people parked in front of flickering screens have the attention span of a gnat. Easily bedazzled and quick to forget, they live on caffeine, cigarettes, and a few still firing brain cells. So ...
Julian Assange? Remember him? Recipient of the Amnesty International Media Award, The Sam Adams Award, LeMonde’s Person of the Year Award, and the Sydney Peace Medal and founding member of WikiLeaks, he did not catch the attention of the powers that be until the release of Collateral Murder. http://www.collateralmurder.com/ He is now awaiting extradition charges in England, having been accused by two women for not using a condom while having consensual sex with them in Sweden. Evidently, he has also been spotted dancing badly and accused of eating his housemates’ food, including but not limited to their spam.
Bank of America can rest easy now. Julian Assange has been disappeared by big media.
These are times that demand creative dissent. To those who would limit poetry to the dubiously ‘private sphere’ of singular reflection and ‘master narrative,’ I ask, isn't this conventional role ultimately a disabling one? Might poetry instead be the space where private and public urgencies meet and invent a third place of possibility? – Heather Thomas
American civic life needs an honest broker, one who possesses the poet’s core values of illumination, imagination, reflection, and sincerity. American democracy needs the citizen-poet to address a gamut of difficult-to-solve public issues such as cultural fragmentation, national health care, decrepit infrastructure, threats of terrorism, energy consumption, climate change, nuclear proliferation, warfare, poverty, crime, immigration, and civil rights. David Biespiel
Julian Assange and Wikileaks
In response to concerns about the possibility of misleading or fraudulent leaks, WikiLeaks has stated that misleading leaks "are already well-placed in the mainstream media. WikiLeaks is of no additional assistance.
Only in rare cases does secrecy serve a benevolent purpose. The sheer number, 250,000, of sealed diplomatic documents speaks to how ridiculous this whole business has become. The calls for extrajudicial treatment of Julian Assange are very telling. There is a move in this country to redact the Constitution and/or ignore it as one of those quaint and archaic documents, like the Geneva Conventions. Hysteria in the halls of Congress. Hyaenas on the hunt. Bradley Manning, who has been in solitary confinement at a military jail in Quantico, Virginia, since July 29th. He is not allowed to exercise in his cell; has been denied a pillow and sheets; is under constant surveillance; and is allowed no contact, even indirectly, with the media. He has not been convicted of any crime. In the meantime the Department of Justice has subpoenaed the Twitter Records not only of Assange and other with close ties to Wikileaks, but also those of the 635,561 followers on Twitter, among whom I am proud to count myself. Any journalist worth her salt would be doing the same thing, following the primary sources. I began really trying to do this during the lead up to the Iraq war. Remember the "Winnebagoes of Death?" I decided I would read the UN IAEA reports to learn what they really said. No surprise, it was not what the media was telling us. I am not a journalist. But I do want to be an informed citizen.
Written in response to the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords
I do not fully trust the government. I strongly disagree with a lot that is going on. Almost a return to the feelings I had in the 60's. But, like then, I will not resort to violence. I do not think it is necessary to wear a diaper or wander the streets barefoot in order to create a more peaceful world. We are ordinary people and we can start with our words. I am no fan of Sarah Palin, but she is not responsible for the tragedy in Arizona. We can not point our fingers at others and wash our hands of responsibility. We must ask ourselves, how can I create a more peaceful world. We are not helpless. We must do it, one kind gesture, one kind word at a time.