Assange’s initial info-optimism looks fragile in an age newly sensitive to encroachments into the private realm by states and digital corporations, and when set next to his own sloppiness of redaction and politicised publication choices. The problem has never been just that there is a secret body of knowledge reserved to the state, but that our capacity to interpret and act on it is catastrophically limited. Mere facts do not suggest their own solution. Transparency is not an intrinsic good: the disgorgement of secrets may paralyse as much as catalyse. Only one person was prosecuted because of the video that Wikileaks released under the title Collateral Murder: its leaker, Chelsea Manning.
At a meeting on Tuesday of the Bruges Group, one of the proliferating and fissiparous Tory sectlets devoted to hatred of the European Union, Mark Francois topped off a speech of near-hallucinatory weirdness by lapsing into Poetry Voice – cod solemnity with pauses and emphases scattered at random – and sweating his way through the last few lines of Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’, a doughty lump of patriotic Victoriana to ginger up a senescent audience.
Milo Yiannopoulos is done for. The Breitbart editor, who made a name for himself by peddling ‘unsayable’ things, and riding the waves of right-wing adulation and left-wing horror which followed, finally stumbled over a genuine taboo. A recently recirculated tape of remarks on the benefits of relationships between adolescent boys and older men has finally caused the American conservative establishment to cut its ties with him. He has lost his slot at CPAC, the premier right-wing political gathering in the US, which has previously hosted defenders of internment and slavery; Simon & Schuster, the publisher which gave him a $250,000 advance for a book (working title Dangerous) and defended the offer on the grounds of freedom of speech, has cancelled his contract. Last night, amid rumours of staff threatening to walk, Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart. One might marvel at what stirs the underused muscles of conscience in a Breitbart staffer were the temptation to schadenfreude not so overwhelming.
The British papers are at it again: a ‘loaded foreign elite’ (the Sun) have triumphed in their court challenge to the prime minister’s plan to use the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50; the judges have been declared ‘Enemies of The People’ on the front page of the Mail (the Telegraph, with venerable caution, has merely decided that the judiciary are ‘at war’ with the people). The judges’ personal lives are probed for telling details: one has an interest in European law, another – imagine the Mail journalist’s delight – is an ‘openly gay’ former Olympic fencer, practically a textbook decadent cosmopolitan. The Express, ever aware that it’s poppy season, says we are in the gravest crisis since Churchill exhorted us to fight on the beaches.