Shaping Public Opinion


By Tim Allan

The modern pace of the media in our society is faster than at any other point in human history. People face a constant influx of opinions, polls, and organizations fighting for influence.  It is a battle the group WikiLeaks has been involved in since October, 2006. WikiLeaks is a nonprofit organization that allows so called “whistleblowers” around the world to report on the misdeeds of organizations they work for.

WikiLeaks has taken on a number of shady banks, corporations, and dictators over its brief career. The only time the organization hit a brick wall was when it took on the U.S. Department of Defense.

Considering that WikiLeaks has only been operating for 7 years it is rather impressive that the exploits of Julian Assange and his pet project have already generated an in-depth documentary called We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks and the feature film The Fifth Estate.  

 The fact that neither project was received positively by Assange is perhaps predictable. He said the title We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks shows immediate bias.  “No one claims in the entire documentary that we steal secrets. Not even our critics.”  He referred to the The Fifth Estate as merely “Hollywood propaganda” and a film that “only the U.S. government could love”.

Thus began a battle of how Mr. Assange would be portrayed in the eyes of the public. Critics fought to expose him as a dangerous egomaniac with no concern over who his information might hurt. His defenders painted him as a Messiah of free information, an underdog in a world of corporate and government abusers. However there is one aspect of this story that Assange’s detractors and defenders alike seem to agree on. Assange is WikiLeaks.  To talk of one is to talk of the other.  There can be no separation between the two.

A recurring line in The Fifth Estate that Wikileaks has “hundreds of volunteers” combing through all the data. In reality there is just one: Julian Assange. So if it may seem trivial when WikiLeaks publishes an essay about The Fifth Estate arguing over such small details as to whether Assange’s hair is naturally white, in reality the reputation of Assange, and therefore, Wikileaks is at stake.

Just imagine if a movie was made about you. How frustrated would you feel if it got the details of your life wrong?  Even the insignificant ones.  Then imagine you are a political activist whose software contributed to the largest collection of information on corporate rule breaking and abuse of government authority in the history of the world. That is how Assange is feeling. Would you not also fight tooth and nail to get every aspect as correct as possible?

It seems however that Assange need not have worried. The Fifth Estate flopped at the box office during its first weekend. Produced with a budget of 28 million dollars, it has made less than 3 of it back so far. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks was likewise a financial failure.

Media is always on the lookout for new stories and it would seem that, natural white hair or not, the public has moved on from WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

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