If Julian Assange were only retweeting Pope Francis out of the usual convenient messaging, it would be more of the same wry humor from the atheist hacker. However, in the past months Assange has retweeted Pope Francis more than anyone else, suggesting deep changes in his character of the profound kind usually associated with a religious conversion or epiphany. This far-out, science fictional prophecy from his Twitter last week gives flesh to the hunch:
It is well-known that mystics, shamans, and monks seeking proximity to the vast expanse beyond endure incredible isolation or physical stresses, and Assange has incidentally undergone a special and new trial, a digital stylite preaching to the world from the cramped office he can never leave.
Assange’s message suffers badly from a laughable popcorn-munching hype where computers are not sophisticated tools in the hands of the 1%, but rather more clever versions of their creators. Of course The Matrix and Terminator would be so much less sensational with a few computer nerds and Jeff Bezos behind the curtains, but Assange is one of them in spirit, and he does not want to give Dorothy the balloon ride home. He is a mad villain who wants to breathe sentience into computers, another Dr. Frankenstein with the mantras “Publish and be damned! Information wants to be free,” in spite of his sudden religious enlightenment.
Wikileaks and Julian Assange are the vanguard of an infectious planetary discourse that appears terminal to the world order. For all its oppression, lies, and terror, it is too easy to look back only ten or twenty years and see a golden age of civility, socialism, and geopolitical harmony. Democrats who once hated George W. Bush already look back at his wars of aggression with nostalgia, a totally morbid symptom if there ever was one.
Assange’s mystical revelation has the kernel of truth in that we’ve entered a new era by which the domination of the 1% is cemented by dehumanized technology and uncivilized discourse. Black Mirror’s The Waldo Moment is too terrible to watch. Some might say this is the end of the neoliberal era, but perhaps Assange has made its ultimate and final expression. The phony naturalism of the classic liberals now takes a singularitarian bent, and Dr. Frankenstein’s threatening, neofascist AI monster is already in power, controlled by men like Julian Assange who bogart all its gifts for themselves, cowardly cheapskate wizards behind the curtains. There is no good reason to struggle against the “AI” tools of the 1%, to wear strange makeup for surveillance and encrypt every byte of online presence. The quaint Christian message of Pope Francis that makes the poor and the powerless sacred again is enough.