The Megaspectacle of WikiLeaks

The saga of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange has seemed to take a life of it’s own.  The media has surrounded and jumped on the story like vultures on a dying animal.  New developments surrounding the issue are made the front-page story, and large opinion pieces are dedicated to the topic.  There are now activist groups, and regular protest movements for the cause.  Everyone has to have a say on the issue, either you love the mysterious blonde figure of Assange and think he is a modern day hero and that a great injustice is being done to him by the bully western governments; or you hate the man, wanting the smug hacker to spend the rest of his life in prison to pay for his crimes.

This issue has all the elements to make it into a megaspectacle, “political extravaganzas that characterize a certain period”, as defined by philosopher Douglas Kellner.  This saga involves conspiracy theories, powerful governments, controversial secret files, figures with mysterious backgrounds, sex scandals, court cases that extend across international borders, war & conflict, wrongful imprisonment and so many more elements that can make the issue appear at times like a television show, a little over the top and unreal sometimes.  It can indeed be said that this story is often sensationalized, the details often brought to us in a dramatized and entertaining manner, emphasizing certain elements and leaving out other parts.

For example, recently, the highly famous pop-star Lady Gaga visited Assange in his room within the Ecuadorian embassy to have dinner.  Because Gaga is an elite individual, this became front-page news, even though no new important developments had occurred in relation to WikiLeaks or Assange.   After dinner, the two then posed for a photo together before Gaga left.  This image of these two together was highly important and powerful, and arguably encouraged a lot more individuals to pay attention to the issue, but will they keep paying attention when there isn’t constant drama to follow?  And will they be paying attention for the right reasons?  Do they care

An unverified photograph of Lady Gaga and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Image courtesy Gagadaily.com via Supplied

about Assange’s cause, or are they simply excited by the story?  One website’s reporting on the story practiced high quality journalism in the comment, “Dressed in black and wearing a witches hat, she posed with a beaming Assange with the images posted immediately on the web. Assange had a stain on his shirt.”

In a further bizarre twist to the story, Assange himself has evolved into somewhat of a sex symbol for many.  The Julian Assange tag on the Internet, particularly through social media will largely find posts detailing the attractiveness of the man himself behind the controversial WikiLeaks.  Blog posts such as “Julian Assange Makes Me Go Wiki in the Knees” are not uncommon, and even blogs dedicated to him have sprung up, such as http://julianassangeisgorgeous.tumblr.com.

A telemovie about the mysterious figure and his past entitled ‘Underground’ was even made and broadcast on channel 10 this October, due to the growing popularity of the story.  This telemovie reportedly received up to 1.34 million views on its premiere night.  However, the director Robert Connolly has been accused of changing and making up of events, but to the audience of 1.34 million, this hardly matters.

This is where the line begin entertainment and real life begin to blur, and the megaspectacle of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange begin to takeover from the real issues within the story, that are slowly getting smothered by the media circus.

Jessica Zuzic, Psychology student at the University of Wollongong, in regards to the issue said this, “The media is required to be drawn to only the ‘exciting’ parts of a story, those parts that will sell the most papers or attract the most views on a webpage.  Consequently, the media circus is largely responsible for branding the issue of WikiLeaks as an entertainment and action packed story, emphasizing what small insignificant events actually occur and leaving out the actual important so called ‘boring’ parts, as people are either not interested or do not understand these technical sides to the story.  The emotional/entertainment sides to the story are more thrilling than ideological concepts.”

It is perhaps the irony of the topic that also makes the reporting of this story within the media interesting, are people being given all the information?   Are people protesting the important issues here?  Or are they instead getting all wound up in the drama and interfering with real life legal processes and not informed of the whole story?

It is indeed up to the individual to look past the skewed angle that the media provides on WikiLeaks and Assange, and turn to other sources of information that will be more likely to produce beneficial and intellectual discussion.

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