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Wikileaks' Julian Assange: 'Don't Be a Martyr'

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, June 17 2010

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks much in the news of late, most recently for repeatedly being a subject of attention by the Pentagon, was a speaker at the Personal Democracy Forum Europe conference held in Spain this past November. A somewhat grainy and echoey video clip has been dug from the archives. In it, Assange sketches out his theory on how the smart government watchdog operates: willing to anger the powers-that-be, but clever enough to get away with it.

"I encourage you not to become martyrs," Assange advised the crowd assembled in Barcelona, "but instead to intelligently understand how far you can push government into doing something just by exposing injustice."

Assange used as a positive model journalists in Kenya who engage in such practices as writing incendiary reports just before leaving for a week's holiday in Tanzania, or knowing how to agitate only up to the point that the official response is a resume-burnishing half day in jail. As context for his talk, Assange used the question of why few journalists or transparency activists in Europe don't similarly find themselves in law enforcement custody for their work.

Journalists and activists smart about managing the risks of their work, suggested Assange, can serve as inspirations to others. Agitation done well "shows people that that act was not an act of martyrdom, but rather it was an intelligently designed act that succeeded." Assange, it seems, has been avoiding the United States since government attention to his and his team at Wikileaks' work has heated up over the last few weeks.

"It's the combination of intelligence and courage," argued Assange, "that allows us to push our way forward in the world." Here's the clip.

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