Andrew O’Hagan was an ardent supporter of WikiLeaks, or at least the romanticized idea of it, when he began ghostwriting Julian Assange’s autobiography in January 2011. O’Hagan, one of Britain’s finest contemporary essayists, is passionate about speaking truth to power. He believed the world needed a transparency organization exposing power’s lies and abuses, such as those committed by the American and British militaries during the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
After years of in-depth conversations with Assange, O’Hagan came to believe that Assange had sabotaged the transparency agenda. The biography project collapsed before Assange moved into the Ecuadorian Embassy during August 2012, but O’Hagan tried to help Assange until late 2013.
As would Trump, by this point. They share this too. They’re both embarrassingly mono-mined leaders with such a gigantic chasm where their empathy should be. The idea that each of these men are not only leaders but see themselves as being sui generis, one-off leaders of mankind, is absolutely flabbergasting self-delusion. They can’t speak to people. The idea of weakness obsesses them. Again and again, they fail to lead.
I feel absolutely bamboozled that anyone would be as naive to imagine that promoting Donald Trump, seemingly in league with Russian forces, would be a freedom-fighting act. … This is the kind of person Julian decides to campaign for. And it is baffling and ruinous to the cause, his cause…
“He is thin-skinned, conspiratorial, untruthful, narcissistic, and he thinks he owns the material he conduits,” you describe Assange, “abusive and monstrous in his pursuit of the truth that interests him … he is probably a little mad, sad, and bad.” Any further thoughts since you wrote those words?
…It’s what somebody like Assange and somebody like Trump have in common: You get into a room, and they just run at the mouth. They’re so confident and self-involved they don’t understand that there are degrees of difference, of opinion, of experience. They’re mono-minded, and they don’t listen. Ultimately they’re careless. Trump doesn’t have the character to be president; carelessness will bring him down. Assange is similar, up to the present minute: His confidence, and his old fear of appearing weak, is fatal.