For the past week, there had been intense speculation that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was about to be kicked out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he’d been living for almost seven years. On Thursday morning, Assange was literally dragged out of the building by members of the Metropolitan Police. He shouted, gesticulated (as much as one can gesticulate while being pulled by six cops), and revealed his full, grey, David Letterman-after-retirement-esque beard.
According to the US Department of Justice, Assange has been charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion after he allegedly assisted Army soldier-turned-whistleblower Chelsea Manning in hacking into a classified computer system.
“Julian Assange has been arrested [...] on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates' Court on 29 June 2012, for failing to surrender to the court,” the Metropolitan Police Service wrote in a statement. “Assange has today been further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities after his arrival at a central London police station,” the department added in an update. “This is an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act. He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates' Court later today.”
Both Russia and WikiLeaks have criticized the arrest, with the former poetically describing it as “the hand of ‘democracy’ squeezing the throat of freedom,” and the latter calling it an attempt to “dehumanize” Assange. “This man is a son, a father, a brother. He has won dozens of journalism awards. He's been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010,” WikiLeaks tweeted. “Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanise, delegitimize and imprison him.”
And sure, fine, whatever. But let’s not forget that in addition to the other allegations against him, Assange supposedly has a habit of ignoring cutlery in favor of eating with his hands. Business Insider has directed our attention to a 2014 essay about Assange, one that suggests that he’s capable of hacking into complicated computer systems but hasn’t quite figured out what a fork does.
“I noticed he tended to eat pretty much with his hands,” novelist and one-time Assange ghostwriter Andrew O'Hagan wrote for the London Review of Books. “People in magazine articles say he doesn’t eat, but he had three helpings of lasagne that night and he ate both the baked potato and the jam pudding with his hands.”
O’Hagan also wrote that during the majority of their lunches together, Assange would eat with his hands and then complete the meal by literally licking the plate. “In all that time, he didn’t once take his dirty plate to the sink,” he added.
In his book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website, Daniel Domscheit-Berg described Assange as a liar who constantly tormented his cat, and who had zero manners when it came to food. “Julian often behaved as though he had been raised by wolves rather than by other human beings,” he wrote. “Whenever I cooked, the food would not, for instance, end up being shared equally between us. What mattered was who was quicker off the mark. If there were four slices of SPAM, he would eat three and leave one for me if I was too slow.” Domscheit-Berg also described Assange’s penchant for eating raw meat and sucking “one lemon after another.”
Earlier this year, WikiLeaks sent an email to a number of reporters, instructing them that it was “false and defamatory” to write more than 100 statements about Assange, including that he “drinks to excess” or that “Julian Assange does not use cutlery or does not wash his hands."
During his interactions with Assange, O’Hagan noted that “history was full of messy characters exercising their rudeness and eating with their hands while changing the world.” Prison is probably full of those dudes, too.