I’d like to note a well-deserved takedown of Assange’s pissant ex-associate Domscheit-Berg who, like jealous John Young of Cryptome, has smeared Assange in the media circuit at every opportunity. Personal attacks on Assange have so frequently hinged on his supposed egomania, it’s important to point to the utility of that characterization against serious political dissidents in this day and age, when only status-quo politicians are allowed to be egomaniacs:
It’s the same old argument the Right has always used: anyone who seriously challenges the status quo is just a narcissist.
Many more great points here; I’d call it required reading in the Wikileaks saga:
But now I want to move on to cover one particularly important observation made there:
Dickhead or not, at least Assange can deal with pressure. He’d rather go fugitive, sleep rough and live on his wits than surrender his servers. This is the guy I’d trust in a guerrilla war campaign, the old “inflict-and-endure.” Compare that with Domscheit-Berg, who claims to give homelessness a try for half a year before running to his fiancee’s doorstep. Even his tolerance for messy hotel rooms is much lower than any of Assange’s other lackeys.
In other words, a pussy. But aggressively marketing his pussy-ness, with the goal not so much of making the reader like Domscheit-Berg, as in trying to peel away Assange’s crucial left-progressive supporters.
… and that, I believe, gets at the brilliance of the psychological campaign of FUD attacking Assange; by drawing “left-progressives” who are so frequently distracted by issues of political correctness and gender to question his behavior with regard to women, no matter how suspect the situation with regard to his accusations, it was possible to peel some of those crucial supporters away. The “respectable” Domscheit-Berg’s anti-Assange campaign is another way.
All that is necessary is to spread FUD about Assange and Wikileaks that matters to some supporters, and cause them to wander away scratching their heads, preferring not to commit, not to get involved, and not to speak out on his behalf. It is unnecessary to strip everyone away at once, because the process can be repeated using different tactics of smears and attacks, different accusations and “insiders” with reputed personal information. And in fact, all that is necessary is to dissuade enough supporters to cause Wikileaks difficulty operating—not to break them completely. A hamstrung Wikileaks cannot necessarily contend with immense pressures of more overt attacks by government powers, e.g. on hosting and volunteering and financing, by passing anti-leaks laws, by legal charges, etc.
This campaign may not be one of centralized design by an agency or organization (though it may be), but a collaborative effort. Many agencies and personalities want to see Assange fail, for a variety of reasons including personal ones as well as political ones. A common motive may draw actions together as a result, without any precise, conspiratorial coordination of the tactics, beyond the plans particular intelligence agencies have pursued. These spook agencies may or may not have been behind the Swedish-feminist accusations against Assange or Domscheit-Berg’s media campaign, but almost certainly have seen the cleverness in utilizing both, and probably helped to aid and promote them opportunistically.
A non-centralized campaign does not make the strategy less effective against Wikileaks’ supporters, many of whom have the Achilles heel that they imagine their heroes must be politically correct, personally moralistic and never hubristic. To say more, many are uncomfortable with heroes as characters who stand out—probably, masculine men who are unapologetic.
Still others, like John Young of Cryptome, have spread classic conspiracy-theory FUD—that Wikileaks is a CIA front. This fits in perfectly well with the worldview of those who always suspect that behind any purported hero there is a leering Illuminati. Fortunately, the loss of potential support among the fringe of anti-government activism is questionable; these are the people who make it a point to doubt everything ostensible, because they have found evidence unnecessary and Occam’s razor wanting, compared to their confirmed worldview of a global elite in virtual control of everything but internet rants of the elite of paranoia who always know better than the sheeple.
Still other fickle would-be supporters may be turned off by some other flaw they perceive in Wikileaks or Assange—and of course it will be possible to point to excesses and errors of judgment by an imperfect man undergoing enormous strain, and in a wholly-new type of organization undergoing growing pains—as though they imagine that it will be possible to reserve their support for a more ideal personality or organization at some time in the future. The noncommittal have no such finicky luxury, in my opinion. It is unlikely this war over public knowledge of secrets being kept from them, and over keeping the internet open will be waged a second time if it is lost. Like it or not, Wikileaks and Assange have become Important to that fight. Picking at minor flaws seems to me well out of place at this time, like complaining that the only knight on your side of the battlefield is not white.
UPDATE: Danny Weston has drawn my attention to another classic FUD vector being applied to Assange: purported anti-Semitism in hearsay. Note that at the same time, conspiratorial accusations against Assange include Israeli/Mossad sponsorship!
UPDATE 2: It’s worth noting that FUD has also become standard operating procedure whenever mass protests have challenged the status quo, also. Antithetical political parties, wings and cliques elsewhere cast aspersions on the organizers and protestors and their motives, as neoconservatives et al. have recently in Egypt, claiming an Islamist agenda, against all evidence. Meanwhile, since the “color revolutions” of some ex-Soviet republics like Georgia and substantive charges about their funding and orchestration by “pro-democracy” (US) agency, conspiracy theorists have duly circulated the flimsiest claims about puppet-master orchestration of each and every protest (including Iran) and each potential or successful revolution (including Egypt).
As with all FUD, it’s not necessary to convince others to actually become convinced of these claims, because the memetic infection of rumors carries the fear, uncertainty and doubt much farther afield. The FUD effect is predominantly indirect and subtle, not requiring true believers but only an unconscious reaction.