Julian Assange really, really doesn’t like Hillary Clinton. His bile for the Democratic presidential nominee is so uncontainable that it even spewed onto fellow antisecrecy icon Edward Snowden, whom the WikiLeaks founder has accused of sucking up to Clinton in hopes of gaining a future presidential pardon. At a time when many on the left are wrestling with whether to vote for Clinton despite her well-known shortcomings or risk that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named will somehow win the presidency in November, Assange evinces no doubts: Hillary must go down. Meanwhile, Assange himself is under fire from gays in Saudi Arabia, dissidents in Turkey, and nonconformists elsewhere who complain that WikiLeaks’ unredacted release of their names and personal information has exposed them to persecution from the very authorities that Assange claims to oppose.
Assange and WikiLeaks (the two are indistinguishable) landed a punishing blow against Clinton on July 22, with the release of hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee revealing that the supposedly neutral party organization had deliberately favored Clinton over Senator Bernie Sanders during the primaries. Assange brushed off concerns that damaging Clinton might help elect the man whose nasty, racist, unhinged rhetoric has repelled even lifelong Republicans. Appearing on Democracy Now!, the WikiLeaks founder seemed to argue that Trump is no worse than Clinton. “Well, you’re asking me, do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea?” he said.
Invoking a sexually transmitted disease to describe a political opponent might not be the best choice of words for someone two women have accused of rape. But Assange, the white-haired Australian whose disclosures of sordid official secrets have repeatedly rocked the established order since WikiLeaks’ emergence in 2010, revels in sharp-tongued provocation. (Assange denies the accusations of rape, which he attributes to unnamed “enemies” and “a mad feminist conspiracy.” A request by Swedish authorities for his extradition to face questioning in the cases led him to take refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London four years ago; Sweden has now accepted Ecuador’s proposal that Assange be questioned inside the embassy.)
Assange promises more embarrassing disclosures about Clinton in the run-up to the election, and he is willing to pay for them. WikiLeaks has announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to the killer of Seth Rich, a 27-year-old DNC staffer who was felled by two gunshots to the head on July 10. Roger Stone, a veteran black-ops propagandist who occasionally advises Donald Trump, has declared, without evidence, that Hillary Clinton ordered Rich killed to prevent him from talking to the FBI. Assange doesn’t go that far, but his offer of reward money helps legitimize such conspiratorial talk. The police suggested the killing resulted from a robbery gone wrong, an opinion shared by Rich’s grieving parents. “I don’t want to play WikiLeaks’ game,” the dead man’s father told The Washington Post. Nevertheless, Assange hasn’t withdrawn his reward offer.