What makes Assange tick from somebody who should know

Suelette Dreyfus collaborated with Julian Assange to write Underground, a 1997 book about hackers in Australia and across the world.

She writes today in the Australian media about the motivations behind Wikileaks and gets inside the mind of Assange himself:

If you want to improve the lot of the poorest, most oppressed people in the world, you can go to a destitute, corrupt African country and work in a community-aid program. It is a noble and self-sacrificing choice. But it only saves one village. Therefore, although it works towards greater justice (in this case economic justice) it is not optimal. A computer geek would consider it sub-optimal. To be optimal, it must be on a much larger scale. Larger than one village, larger than one country, even than one continent. The only way to do that is to use information which can be replicated endlessly – and cheaply – to promote change for the better. But it must be good information, not trashy information or PR spin. It must be the kind of information that plucks at those little threads of curiousity we all have in one measure or another.

It must be the kind of information news media organisations would publish for their readers.

Not everyone wants change, however. Tin-pot dictators like to steal money from their countries.

Average people may think they are happy in their ordinary lives: they don’t want change. Yet imagine if there was a secret world these average people did not know about. What could be in that world? It could be a world of classified logs from the front line of a war. It could also be a world of secret diplomatic cables that tell the truth about what really happens behind the mahogany doors of power. The average people might actually want that information – if someone revealed it to them.

WikiLeaks has taught people to “long for the endless immensity of the seas”. Who wants to go back to their cramped dog-box apartment now that they have tasted the salty air and seen the ocean’s infinite horizon?