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Julian Assange on Why Calls for His Death and the McCarthyesque Crackdown on WikiLeaks Are Good Signs

Assange and renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek discuss the release of the largest trove of classified U.S. government records in history.

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Now, I dare say that if we had seen what came out in the Iraq War Logs in February of 2007, if we had learned the story at the time after it happened, of the men with their hands up trying to surrender, there would have been an outcry. People are good, people care, people are compassionate, they would have called for an investigation. Perhaps one would have begun, but it might well have saved the lives of so many. Certainly, months later, perhaps that same Apache helicopter unit under investigation would not have done what it did. And maybe Namir Noor-Eldeen, the young Reuters videographer and his driver Saeed Chmagh, not to mention the other men who were killed and the kids critically injured, none of that would have happened to them. That’s why information matters. It is important we know what is done in our name. And today we are going to talk about this new age of information.

We’re joined by two people, many of you know well. Earlier I asked a young man, who would come to the gathering, why he traveled so far. He said, "are you kidding, to be with two of the most dangerous people?" The National Review calls Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, the most dangerous political philosopher in the West and The New York Times says he’s the Elvis of cultural theory. Slavoj Žižek has written over 50 books on philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, history and political theory. His latest book Living in the End Times—and we’ll talk about what he thinks and talks about around the world.

Now, we’re joined by another man who has published perhaps more than any one in the world. In fact he wrote a book on the underground computer information age called, The International Computer Underground. (Correction: The title of Julian Assange’s book is Underground: Tales of hacking, madness and obsession on the electronic frontier.) But with the Iraq War Logs, the Afghanistan War Logs, and now the U.S. government cables that have yet to be fully released, I would say that perhaps Julian Assange is the most widely published person on earth.

Today we’re going to have a conversation about information and I’d like to ask Julian to begin by going back to that moment in 2007, as we talk about the Iraq War Logs. And talk about the significance of them for you and why you’ve chosen to release this information.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Amy, I suspect under that criteria perhaps Rupert Murdoch is the most widely published person on earth. Something people say Australia has given to the world Rupert Murdoch and me, big in publishing. Well, in some ways things are very easy for us and very easy for me in that we make a promise to sources that if they give us material that is of a certain type, that is a significant—of diplomatic, "cryptical", ethical, or historical significance, not published and under some sort of threat, we will publish it. And that actually is enough.

Of course, we have a goal with publishing in general. It has been my long term belief that what advances us as a civilization is the entirety of our international record, the entirety of our understanding about what we are going through, what human institutions are actually like and how they behave. And if we are to make rational policy decisions in so far as any decision can be rational then we have to have information that is drawn from the real world, and a description of the real world.

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