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From hero to zero

india Updated: Nov 03, 2011 23:16 IST
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The Swedish view of Julian Assange, who lost his appeal against extradition to face sex allegations on Wednesday, has changed in a year from the James Bond of the internet to a paranoid chauvinist pig.

WikiLeaks really was a historic mom-ent in the history of journalism, but little is left of Assange’s kingdom now. It is ironic that Sweden, the country Assange once admired because of laws that shield freedom of expression and of the press, should have been the place where his sun began to set.

Last April, journalist Johannes Wahl-ström conducted a grovelling interview in the left-wing culture pages of the Stockholm tabloid Aftonbladet, in which his hero appeared almost supernatural: "To meet Assange is a bit like meeting James Bond. The man behind WikiLeaks has no public background. His name is spelled in different ways. His age is uncertain. He has no fixed address. No one has seen him in the hotel where he is staying, and when we finally meet, he suddenly appears half a metre in front of me."

The journalist who wrote this later became the WikiLeaks representative in Sweden and Norway. Assange has subsequently called Sweden "the Saudi Arabia of feminism". Assange-the-hero vanished somewhere in that anti-Semitic and anti-feminist slime. Sweden's relatively high measure of sexual equality and consciousness in gender questions is a matter of national pride. That a dodgy hacker from Australia started knocking it was not popular.

Last Tuesday, two women journalists who started a Twitter campaign against Assange's contemptuous remarks about Swedish women were nominated for the most prestigious prize in Swedish journalism. The ‘Let's Talk About It’ campaign got thousands of people openly discussing the grey areas of sexual conduct, and was copied in many countries.

Not even the culture pages of Aftonb-ladet, which kept up their uncritical admiration for Assange longer than anyone else, can keep it up now.

The noted left-wing commentator Dan Josefsson admitted recently that Assange was not the radical hero he had supposed, but "a solitary and shabby libertarian who wants to tear down democratic societies". It's probably too late for Assange to recover his former glory. But if he could give up his futile struggle against extradition and show a little respect to the Swedish justice system, this would at least be a first, necessary step.