Can Wikileaks afford to back the undiplomatic Julian Assange?

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“He’s a classic Aussie in the sense that he’s a bit of a male chauvinist.” That quote comes at the end of a piece on the recent escapades of Julian Assange, founder and chief spokesman for Wikileaks. It seems apt, because it’s becoming increasingly clear that an organisation which aspiries to transparency and the high ideals of open information is going to have problems going forward if it continues to entertain an individual who lacks transparency and whose private life is alleged by his female accusers to be be riddled with low ideals.

Because let’s be clear, delicate diplomancy and skirting the choppy waters of international issues which involve thousands of lives – like releasing highly sensitive government information about the Iraq war – is not the kind of thing you want someone who is careless about their personal life to take charge of.

How would you react if you heard this story: A guy sleeps with two women in quick succession, annoys both with his sexual habits, they talk but he dismisses their concerns. When they go to the Police he calls it an “international conspiracy”. Uh… what?

This is more or less what appears to have happened. The Daily Mail newspaper’s delving into how Assange had consensual sex with the women but was reported to police after he refused to use a condom or, later, take an STD test, make the affair seem more like a bedroom farce than the actions of a high-minded individual.

At least it was clear that a high minded Anna Ardin helped bring Assange to Sweden for a speaking engagement. She allegedly let Assange stay in her one-bedroom flat in Stockholm. They went out to dinner and – as consenting adults will – later had sex, according to a “police source”. During this he insisted the condom had split. To quote LOLcats: orly?

Woman No. 2 met Assange the next day at the conference organised by Ardin, was later invited out for lunch with Assange and his entourage. She lent him a charger for his laptop, paid for his metro card and they went to a movie, becoming “amorous”. A few days later they had sex without a condom, despite her insistence that he wear one, according to the Mail.

Woman No.2 then called Ardin and the pair put two and two together. They claimed a fear of STDs and pregnancy, but one can also see another angle – both were deeply concerned by Assange’s care-free approach to them.

I asked a Swedish friend about this. She says “Most women I know in Sweden/Stockholm take the pill or have a sterilet/copper ring. I have never heard of anyone demanding that their sex partner take a STD test after unprotected sex unless the woman knows for a fact that she has been infected and then in order to trace/stop the source the partner can be asked for an STD test.”

But at any rate, how would a normal, more sensitive, man react? Apologise, maybe? Certainly a man with a lot at stake and concerned about how something like this might look would think twice about his next moves.

No, Assange refused an STD test asked by the women. Incensed, they went to police and a warrant for Assange’s arrest was issued. A prosecutor decided there was no evidence of rape but by that stage the news was out. Now another Swedish prosecutor has reopened the investigation saying there was “reason to believe that a crime was committed” citing “sexual coercion and sexual molestation”.

But instead of apologising Assange calls the claims a Pentagon smear campaign and that “Australian intelligence” had warned him to expect such “dirty tricks”.

So, ultimately, it is completely unsurprising that there is internal dissatisfaction at Wikileaks about the the way Assange has handled this scandal.

There is no suggestion of course that Assange is in any way guilty. He remains innocent under the law until a case is proved. What we are calling into question here is his handling of the affair and its impact on Wikileaks.

Indeed, According to The Daily Beast, this is the last straw for some organisers of WikiLeaks, who are demanding that Assange step aside.

I can see how all this appears to the quite moral society of Sweden. Swedes are pretty open about sex and are happy to talk about it. But with that openness comes also some fairly high expectations about how you handle yourself. Having worked in Sweden myself and knowing plenty of Swedes, I know that they would think Assange’s action to be extremely arrogant. People there rarely behave like Assange, and his alleged behaviour is quite frowned upon.

If a Swedish man had done something like this he probably would have thought nothing of taking the STD test if only out of respect for the women he’d offended, even if he was innocent.

A WikiLeaks organiser and backer, Icelandic politician Birgitta Jonsdottir, has told The Daily Beast that while she does not believe the assault allegations, she has asked Assange to step aside as WikiLeaks’ public spokesman until after the criminal investigation is over. It was Jonsdottir that called him the classic Aussie “male chauvinist”.

Another WikiLeaks organizer says Assange has been resisting efforts over the last two weeks to step down, but this is creating “a mess for everyone”. I can imagine. The site is preparing to release an additional 13,000 classified American military reports from the war in Afghanistan.

There’s even a suggestion that engineers on the site have taken it down in protest several times in the last few days.

And incredibly, Assange has told a a Swedish newspaper that he was “losing confidence in the Swedish justice system” as a result of the investigation. This is the opposite of diplomatic – this is the very country that has shepherded him and his organisation with its long tradition of freedom of the press and where he is trying to obtain a residency permit.

Increasingly Assange’s approach to this controversy has reminded me of another famous Australian who is chauvinist, sexually promiscuous and at the centre of regular diplomatic storms: Sir Les Patterson, a fictional Australian diplomatic invented by comedian Barry Humpreys.

Sir Les is of course a caricature of an uncouth, loud mouthed Aussie diplomat, always chasing girls and offending people. So quite unlike Assange, of course.

But if he continues on his current path, Assange will look more and more like that comedic creation, even as he tries to grasp the moral high ground for Wikileaks.

  • Sam

    Err…google chrome says contains malware.

    That can’t be good.

    • Mike Butcher

      Thanks, we are now aware of the problem and trying to fix it.

      • Greg

        international conspiracy!

      • igniman

        Mike Butcher needs to take an STD test!

    • dude

      you guys are just all so prude.. I think it’s a personal issue of him and nothing to do with his work.

  • nmsblogs

    Sir Les is of course a caricature of an uncouth, loud mouthed Aussie diplomat, always chasing girls and offending people. So quite unlike Assange, of course.
    Good conclusion

  • T

    ….google chrome says contains malware

    maybe its just bad karma for what your trying to do to the man

  • Kwyjibo

    It’s very possible that Assange is an asshole. But the work that Wikileaks has been doing has been a great service.

  • vibrunazo

    Sigh… of all news sites and blogs, I wouldn’t expect techcrunch to take part in this defamation. A long time ago I would come here and expect to read unbiased news from a neutral perspective.

    But lately what I’ve read was paid fuds and propaganda disguised as tech articles, random rants about one’s personal daily mishaps. And now taking part in the pentagon’s agenda to discredit their critics?

    It’s sad to see such a great site become yet just another sensationalist tabloid. :(

  • A Finn

    Hey – this was a very bad post. You are just referring to the tabloids, and taking everything at face value.

    It is clear there are many people wanting to take Mr. Assange down. They rely on tabloids, and people wanting to do “dirty work” for money.

    And they rely on people like you, Mike Butcher, to believe in the tabloids.

    I live in Sweden, and have been following this closely. The picture you painted in this point is just ridiculous — wake up!

    • jay

      i agree. tech crunch is going way too far with this article. this author is really full of it. who is this mike butcher and how does he know anything of value in this case other than reading it from other mistrusted sources?

      • GooDoo

        Interesting, is TechCrunch joining Gawker in their Assange dirt campaign? I don’t see any other reason for this kind of action other than to do someone a favor…

  • John N

    Without wanting to detract from the seriousness of the subject matter, it is unfortunate that so much of this article comes back to The Daily Mail.

    Its hard to believe much of the content from a paper where “journalistic integrity” is very much an option, if its present at all.

  • Erhan

    Why does every semi-public figure have to be a saint?

    This story just proves Mr. Assange is a smart, but otherwise average guy. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Go write about something important.

  • Nigel

    This is a decent article but it’s littered with more spelling and grammar errors than beer cans at a Brisbane barbie on Boxing day.

    Fair dinkum!

  • Daily Reader

    Smear campaign indeed. shame on you.
    I’ve lost respect for TechCrunch for posting this crap.

  • Gregg

    “…not the kind of thing you want someone who is careless about their personal life to take charge of.”

    Scary. Even worse. Imagine if we had someone like that as President of the US… numerous times.

  • TS

    So Techcrunch joined the Wikileaks defamation gang.

    Jumping The Shark: The Sequel

  • Regular

    Tabloid nonsense. TechCrunch, get a grip.

  • RN

    Very puritanical and biased article. Let the guy do whatever he wants in his personal life, it is not of our business. If he likes ladyboys, good for him.

    The work he does at wikileaks is awesome tough and he deserves our utmost respect and admiration. The guy has balls, most of us don’t.

  • Tim

    … doing a little bit “Bill O’Reilly” Mike?

  • Dan

    After reading this whole nonsense I am shocked that TechCrunch doesn’t have any quality criteria before publishing material like this. I thought I was reading a tabloid at grocery checkout line. TechCrunch owes an apology to its readership for such a distasteful piece.

  • zed

    As I understand, this is how Techcrunch handles accusations:

    1. Someone is accused of something “bad”.
    2. That someone is immediately assumed guilty beyond any doubt.

    Would the author of this article apologise for raping someone if he were accused (but not convicted) of it?


    I find it interesting that until several months ago, nobody knew who this guy was, nor cared. Most Americans still don’t know who he is and those who do are still trying to figure out how to pronounce his name.

    None of this would be of any consequence if he did not get his hands on the truths that have been hidden from Americans and the lying the government has done to engage in two perpetual wars. Still haven’t seen any WMD’s or yellow cake, who leaked a CIA operative or why we got into Iraq in the first place.

    Let’s just say that Mr Assange is slated to star in Showgirls II as Cristal who will once again, be shoved down the flight of stairs by Nomi.

  • LutzVA

    lol. your 0.2$ to this topic are worth nothing. hahahaha Stay with playing geek

  • Bryan

    Butcher..uniformly canned by your own readers. This torching deserves a response. Now what will it be? A humble apology upon reflection or an ego driven assault on your own readership?. Maybe Techcrunch will be unable to back the un intelligent Mr Butcher.
    Worst. Journo. Ever.

  • Peter


    This must be the most ill-informed post of the week. You do realize that the “information” you rely on is extremely biased? This is intellectually challenged journalism at its best.

    If you want to write something of substance about this topic, I urge you to write about the cracks in the Swedish justice system that are being exposed as we speak.

  • Neil Hepburn

    Agreed, Julian Assange is not a perfect human being.

    So what.

  • Torsten

    Wikileaks should worry about its credibility aside from the rape allegations. Wikileaks makes few statements that are available for fact checking, but when they do their track record is bad.

    For example: Assange claimed for years, Wikileaks contributors were protected by the Swedish law. A Wikileaks lawyer even threatened to sue anyone who tried to expose a Wikileaks source.

    But if you read the Twitter-stream of Wikileaks carefully, you will see this:

    “Confirm our editor applied for Swedish residency on Aug 18 to obtain prior-restraint protections

    When you follow the link, you will read nothing about “prior-restraint” protections – in fact Wikileaks has until now no protection at all under the Swedish press laws. And they will not get it soon, because Wikileaks did not fill out the application correctly.

    “Another migration board spokesperson, Gunilla Wikstroem, told Swedish news agency TT the application was on hold since some information was missing,…”

    This is only one of the countless contradictions Assange was caught on. For example Assange claimed in 2009 a 17 year old Wikileaks contributor by the police in Iceland to press him for information about Wikileaks. In fact the juvenile was caught breaking into a business premises and was subsequently interrogated in the presence of his parents, police did not even know about any Wikileaks connections. Even when he had to wait for less than 30 minutes at an airport in Australia Assange did spread conspiracy theories about foul play and intelligence agency involvement.

    • Glo

      Sounds like you should have written this article instead of Mike Butcher.

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  • Amrut

    Hey, Firefox is reporting as an attacked site.

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