Julian Assange's arrest in London has brought forth predictable howls of outrage from those who view him as a hero of press freedom, from perennial anti-American propagandist John Pilger to indifferent actress turned semi-coherent political activist Pamela Anderson. But is the Wikileaks founder the saint they make him out to be?
Wikileaks was certainly founded on a moral principle: the belief that governments use their control of information to lie to, deceive and manipulate their own people, and that ordinary people should have the opportunity to see this information and know what their government is hiding from them. A noble idea, though somewhat marred by the fact that the most repressive governments - like those of Russia and China - tend to spawn the fewest whistleblowers, meaning that in practice most of the secrets exposed by Wikileaks come from relatively open societies - in particular the United States of America.
When it came to the 2016 Presidential election in America, Wikileaks got hold of a large cache of emails from parties related to Hillary Clinton's campaign. What we now know from the Mueller investigation and other sources is that Assange released these in stages in a way calculated to hurt Hillary's campaign and get the odious Donald Trump into the White House. In other words, Assange was doing exactly what Wikileaks purports to be campaigning against - using his privileged access to information to manipulate political outcomes. In the process, he helped to elect the worst President in American history - but even if he had thrown his influence the other way, he would still be not a hero, but a hypocrite.