What was troubling Julian Assange when he made a dash for friendly extra-territorial space? His detractors argue that it’s the usual story, to do with his propensity to see himself as the centre of the universe, and the target of an improbable plot to lock him up in the US and throw away the key. That last honour has already been bestowed on Bradley Manning. In the leaker, surely, the Americans have their man: why bother with his celebrity publisher? Outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in Hans Crescent, round the back of Harrods, a thin but emblematic presence is maintained by his supporters. While I was there earlier this month a French woman was squatting on the pavement, hunched over a placard, shading in the letters of a message that she later tied to one of the crowd barriers. It read, very roughly: Thank you, Assange, for giving us a history of the vanquished. She was thinking of something by Brecht, she said, or possibly Walter Benjamin. An older, more eccentric figure assured me that Assange had sneaked away from the embassy the week before through a tunnel under Harrods: the store’s security guards had just let her in on the secret. A third insisted there was only one way out of Hans Crescent for the man who’d already left by al-Fayed’s drains: first Rafael Correa’s government grants asylum, then Assange is set on a rapid path to Ecuadorian citizenship and finally awarded a minor consular position, which gets him from the steps of the embassy to a boarding gate at Heathrow under diplomatic immunity.
LRB 19 July 2012 | PDF Download