Underground: The Julian Assange Story is an interesting biographical film based on the early years of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as he rises in the ranks of a budding hacker to infiltrate major military computer databases and wreak havoc on nuclear missile test launches. It also stars Rachel Griffits (Muriel’s Wedding) and Anthony LaPaglia as an investigator who works day and night to bust Assange, all the while exhibiting some underlying fascination and perhaps even admiration for the kid.
When he was in high school, Assange would help his mom with her anti-nuke protests. At one point he becomes angry with her saying that her efforts are in vain, that no one sees what she does. There were maybe 20 people at the rally that day and Assange is frustrated at their inability to reach more people. This back-story helps to explain why Assange might be so driven to expose governments for their covert activities. The end of the film makes a particularly strong statement about this.
Being a hacker, Assange was able to access documents and learn about horrible things governments were doing. He seems fond of focusing on the US government for obvious reasons. His mom was as well. The film did not show Assange to be particularly anti-American, however, just a kid from Australia who discovered atrocities through his passion for IT and a seemingly genius ability to hack into just about anywhere.
Being that the film pre-dates Wikileaks, its main focus is on his high school and home life, showing him as the son of a single mom, who has a little brother in elementary school and a girlfriend with whom he has a child at a fairly young age. At first his girlfriend is fascinated by his world but she eventually grows tired of playing second to his true passion, which is of course hacking.
A few late night missions to break into offices or dumpsters to steal stuff help spice up an otherwise pretty normal childhood for Assange, as well as a creepy ex-stepdad who’s a member of some cult called “The Family” who keeps showing up threatening to take Julian’s little brother.
So what exactly is Wikileaks? Although we may hear about Wikileaks from time to time as a source in news media, there really isn’t too much out there about the organization or Assange (unless it’s bad) and it’s obvious why that is. This is who they say they are….
“WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organization. Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box). One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth.”
Origin stories are fun mainly because you are able to see how and why someone became the thing they are today. Wikileaks is definitely one of the shakers of today, because they are one of the few organizations who fight for the rights of people, particularly our right to privacy, which the group Anonymous has been making noise about also.
There has been no accountability in the US government for some time. The news media has become nothing but puppets to corporate interests. There is no one really to trust when it comes to being informed. According to Wikileaks: “Publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organizations. A healthy, vibrant and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals. We are part of that media.”
Because Assange is so adept at covering his tracks over the internet by encrypting his activities (and the film deals with this also), perhaps his two biggest targets – the US and British governments, have been trying but failing to prosecute him for his publishing practices for some time. Recent rape charges have definitely hindered Assange in his personal life, who is now holed up in an Ecuadorian embassy insisting on his innocence.
Some are saying that facing his accusers would prove his innocence but for Assange, who knows all too well how governments really operate, he has an understandable mistrust of the so-called “justice system” in any country, much less Britain who is one of the US’s strongest allies. Here is a statement Assange posted on Wikileaks regarding himself and the whistle-blower Snowden.
Throughout history, we’ve seen many figures persecuted for daring to break stride with the status quo and trying to stop the unfair practices of the powers that be. Back when Nelson Mandela was first imprisoned, they didn’t bother with trying to destroy his credibility like what is happening to Assange with the rape allegations. Why someone would dedicate his life to exposing the truth then screw it all up by trying to rape two women seems unfathomable, considering the obvious personal risk he takes every time he exposes one government or another for their dirty laundry. Recent photos of Assange with one of his accusers smiling for photo ops just 48 hrs following the alleged incident definitely casts a shadow of doubt over her claims.
Could this be like the UK pro-feminist site Bella Caledonia calls “a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction?” I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if Assange will be able to continue fighting the good fight or if he will be systematically eradicated by global powers like so many before him.
But if you’re interested in how the Wikileaks founder came to be, you can catch Underground streaming on Netflix now.