Much like an author on a book tour for his latest release, last Thursday Julian Assange took to the social news aggregation website Reddit for his very own AMA session. For those unfamiliar, an AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything”, and each thread is a chance for ordinary users, or “Redditors” as they like to be referred to, to ask celebrities, prominent political figures, and international whistleblowers like Assange every day questions about different topics of interest.
With his latest info dump now officially on people’s computer screens everywhere (the 50-page Trade in Services Agreement), Assange used the site to quell people’s concerns about his safety in Europe, reiterated his stance on the patriotism of one Edward Snowden, and gave an impassioned response to the question of “what can average citizens like us do to help?”.
From what we’ve gathered out of the leaked Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) so far, it seems that multiple governments in both North America and the EU have planned to collude on a tariff even more devilish that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which also happened to be leaked by Assange’s organization back in early April.
The agreement calls for major investment deregulation to be implemented across the board, covering everything from reducing taxes for the ultra-rich to removing fees and levies on accounts used for trading by large multinational banking firms.
Assange claims deals like this and the TPA are hurting the movement for greater transparency at the top of the financial food chain, allowing only those with special backroom passes to reap the benefits of our globalized, constantly expanding economy.
When asked about his stance on Snowden, Assange was quick to back the fellow whistleblower up, and even take partial credit for ensuring his safety upon arrival in Russia after departing from Hong Kong two weeks after the leaks broke.
“Edward Snowden performed an intelligent and heroic act. I and others had been calling for exactly this act for years (you can read about that here: http://reason.com/archives/2013/03/12/the-second-great-crypto-war). I am a trustee for his legal defense and co-ordinated his asylum. Our Sarah Harrison kept him secure in his path out of Hong Kong and spent 40 days making sure he was OK in Moscow’s airport.”
He also had time to weigh in on the recent election of the new India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming that although he believes his business experience will help the country continue to compete with China (the nation has reportedly been flailing on the economic expansion front lately), he also believes his past is something that should bear a second look for anyone who might be concerned for how the next several years might look in the region.
“The election of Modi is a very interesting development in Indian democracy. We have released many interesting documents on Modi’s ascension to power, you can see them here: (just search for ‘Modi’) https://wikileaks.org/plusd and https://search.wikileaks.org. From these materials it’s clear Modi can be most accurately described as a “business authoritarian”. Whether Indian needs a stronger centre to compete with China is an open question. Inevitably strong leaders make mistakes and eventually lose their faculties. Other than his extensive big business alliances, I think it is an open question as to whether Modi will bring more good than bad to India.”
Finally, his most notable response during the online interview came at the top of the comment chain, wherein a user asked what regular citizens could do to prevent these types of injustices from going unpunished in the future.
“When we are aware of the world and the scale of its inhumanity and stupidity we feel small. It very hard to “think globally” and “act locally”, because by thinking globally we become overwhelmed with the scale of the problems to be solved. However the Internet permits many people to act globally in a way they couldn’t before. WikiLeaks is a realisation of this tension. By releasing materials on many parts of the world, we empower others to think and act.
What can ordinary people do? Support and promote projects that are acting at scale. WikiLeaks is my realisation of this tension, but there are a flood of others starting. The clash between diversity and global uniformity which has been created by wiring the world to itself is now in play. You are the troops.”