Friday, 11 February 2011

Assange and Virtual Reality

How many of you who RP in Second Life have had this happen: you meet someone at a dance or event and you simply can't stop thinking about them. You spend a few months utterly obsessed about their avatar and crave spending time in front of your computer staring at a poor quality UI in order to "be with" that avatar.

Then, after a few months, the person just vanishes, or you just vanish on them. Maybe they type something that is so intensively racist you are shocked. Maybe they say something in chat that strikes you as dumb, maybe they let you see something of their true selves and you feel they have been lying to you.

Suddenly its like you wake up, you were in love with a internet constructed identity which presented very little solid evidence to you. The very silence of Second Life avatars give them a power over our imaginations. We can't smell them, since we generally don't hear them much, since we don't have to see them waking up in the morning or worry about issues like condoms. They are presented to us as mostly silent electronic illusions, commodities for our own dream world.

This is what seems to have happened with Assange.

He presented a certain trained silent look over the last year that many in the cyber community feel for. There has been great frustration with users of the Internet that this great communication tool has really done nothing to increase freedom or democracy in the western world. The same cynical authoritarian powers are there now that were there 30 years ago.

Assange presented a vision many of us wanted in our imagination. A face connected to our desire for cyber-liberty. But also a persona which Assange had perfected in online dating. One that Violet Blue noted was loaded with sexual reference and, for many people, the power of desire.

Now we are starting to hear "the truth". Today to defend Assange, as Assange wants you to defend him, is to accept a conspiracy between the NYT, the Guardian Newspaper, members of Wikileaks, Leftist activist in Sweden, the Government of Sweden and its courts and the CIA.

Assange is, and probably always was a kind of madness.

And that is the danger of our age. A rumor that we all want to believe is spread on Twitter and RTed over and over again until the cable news is reporting it and then BBC is reporting. Our delusions can get ahead of our more leveled and compromised thinking very quickly.

And we can end up like Micheal Moore. He came out as an early defender of Assange. Assange returned the favor by leaking an unvetted leak that made Moore look like a propaganda tool for Castro. The report turned out to be untrue but raised a number of serious questions about Assange's judgement. Did a man you demanded such loyalty form others not even think to fact check leaks from one of his biggest allies and financial supporters? Was Assange and Wikileaks doing any fact checking at all? And what was the story? Why did it matter if Sicko was shown in Cuba or not? Given current world events why did the fact that something was leaked by Assange simply make it major news.

Before the Cable Leaks thing died down I was tweeting a number of the more silly or banal Cable leaks. Its hard to remember which ones are jokes and which ones really were leaks. They ran like "people in dictatorships don't have much freedoms", "America has concerns about China", "war kills people." It was mostly a set of inconsequential observations which one could much better information from journalists familiar with that area.

But a brown skinned 34 year old African woman is not as interesting to many of our imaginations in the West as the light skinned, fair haired freak. The West, even the Left Radical West, is still the West.

One thing I am learning right now is to even mention Assanges name in Twitter is to invite people to stop following you. Right now most of his former supporters are turning off that part of the Internet. Not so long ago people were willing to break laws to show support of him, now we are left with someone we know is a disturbed freak, who should never have gotten this level of attention.

I guess the big question will be what the Internet did to Assange? Why was someone who was so mentally unbalanced, so clearly out of touch with reality and disturbed become such a massive hero so quickly only to be dumped just as fast.

In the future, which may involve jail time in Sweden, Assange will certainly suffer because from his experience, his life will not be a happy one but a lonely twisted experience that separates him more and more from his fellow humans, while the rest of us will just forget him.

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