Time and Politics 9: WikiLeaks Turns Political

Assange's Interpol wanted page (2010). Image Source: Interpol via The New Observer.

In the 21st century, global media ensure that you don't have to be anywhere near your constituents to be elected locally. On 23 March 2013, Julian Assange founded the new WikiLleaks political party. Assange is running for election to the Victorian seat of the Australian Senate in Rapunzel-esque fashion from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The elections will be held in mid-September and the Wikileaks party is fielding 7 candidates, including their silver-haired leader. In April, the Sydney Morning Herald cited early polls which indicated that Assange's party enjoys a high level of support:
Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks Party are in the running to win Senate seats in Victoria and NSW, according to research by the Labor Party's pollster.
A national poll conducted by UMR Research found 26 per cent of voters said they were likely to vote for Mr Assange and his political party.
UMR found support for Mr Assange and WikiLeaks is highest in NSW, with 36 per cent of people interviewed saying they are likely to support the new party in the Senate.
Support in Victoria is 23 per cent, in Queensland 22 per cent, and in Western Australia 18 per cent.

UMR managing director John Utting said that while he expected the eventual vote for Mr Assange and WikiLeaks will be significantly lower than the latest figures, the polling ''clearly shows the potential of what [Mr Assange] can do''.
Assange's main aim is to "keep the bastards honest":
Spokeswoman for the WikiLeaks party, Samantha Cross, said that ... Assange spoke about the party's platform of transparency and how they have very highly skilled candidates with academic, social justice, legal and journalistic backgrounds and were 'not your traditional politicians' having interest in transparency and scrutiny, who want to bring the Senate back to a house of oversight.
The party is run through a Skype link from London to Melbourne's Fitzroy library. If WikiLeaks' leader wins a seat and cannot return to Australia, a running mate will physically take his seat for him. However, this would embarrass Australia:
WikiLeaks Party national council member Sam Castro said that if Mr Assange wins a seat but cannot return to Australia by then, the party can choose a replacement. But she said the onus is on the Australian government to ensure an elected senator could sit in Parliament. The situation would be unprecedented, she said. “Wow, what would that mean if the Australian government did nothing to assure the safe passage of an elected representative who has been granted asylum?”
Getting elected? That's a very clever way to get out of that embassy! This is another example of the ways in which members of Generation X are changing the political landscape through the use of social media, new communications media, and online networks. They are hybridizing the old system with the new and coming up with curious ways to counter conventional power plays.

The New Observer, a right wing outlet, takes a dim view of Assange, an "alleged rapist ... [and] confirmed hacker." It is certainly true that public virtues are now media-driven and any larger social or political consensus on what constitutes those virtues has disappeared. Assange's fitness to act as a self-appointed Millennial arbiter of justice enters grey areas, depending on which press report you believe and what your personal attitudes are. Assange claimed in 2010 that right-wing supporters of the US military threatened to kill him and his family for 2008-2010 Bradley Manning leaks which embarrassed the military. Then again, Assange turned around and aligned with Russia Today in 2012, a deceptively Anglo-Americanized online news mouthpiece of the Russian government. That year, Forbes wondered about "The Breathtaking Hypocrisy of Julian Assange, Kremlin Pawn."

Assange asserts that his party will be most attractive to female voters. The Wikileaks party Website (here) announces that it is "shining a light on injustice and corruption"; its motto is: "Transparency, Accountability, Justice: It's Time for a Real Change." Assange promises that "one of the party's first [post-election] action[s] would be to insist on full disclosure of the current refugee arrangement with the Papua New Guinea government." Further, the party will address "a gradual decline in Australian democracy during the past 30 years."
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