In January, WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange announced to planet Earth that he was going to start hosting his own TV show. Ever mindful of their duties to ensure the freedom of (Kremlin-approved) information, it was Russia Today that landed the franchise, and yesterday the first episode of Assange's The World of Tomorrow aired on some obscure Freeview channel and the internet. Here's what went down.
“I’m Julian Assange,” our grey-haired, floppy-faced champion of liberty intones, “editor of WikiLeaks.” MIA’s exclusive dubstep instrumental plays in the background. Is it ominous? You bet it is. It is the sound of the enemies, of the CIA, the FBI and of those damn women who just wouldn’t let him express his love for them. What do the enemies look like?
Like a bloody woman, of course! A woman surrounded by an American flag. But don’t worry, Julian isn’t giving in. Your parents, their military-industrial complex and laws relating to sexual abuse in Sweden may be against him, but the people are on his side.
“We are the 99%"? No, mate; Julian is the 99%. Actually, his face kind of looks like that mask, doesn't it? I suppose Julian has spent so long sweating inside one that it's feasible the mask has begun to shape his physical features, like an (ironic) mould (of oppression).
Julian outlines the programme’s vision to his coffee while talking about the vital, incendiary figure appearing on this, the momentous first episode of his worldwide sermon. His interviewee is talking to him from a “secret location in Lebanon” (OMG!) and is “one of the most extraordinary figures in the Middle East” who has “fought many armed battles with Israel” (Boo, Israel, boo!).
This man has Julian asking one big question: “Why is he called a freedom fighter by millions and a terrorist by millions of others?” Hello, A-Level Politics! Hello, different perspectives! Hello, potato – potato. Now, where did I put my brilliant triptych of teenage essays, “Stalin: Man or Monster?” “Churchill: Legend or Villain?” “Roosevelt: Honourable leader or disabled bastard?”
Here is the first sight of our guest, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who is giving his first Western interview in six years. Scoop! Take that, The Guardian! Where are you now, Nick Davies? At home stroking your bloody Paul Foot award doing fuck all, that's where!
Cameras, computers, men with headphones: this is a modern interview, so take off your tie, Mr Stuffy, and wash that damn newspaper ink off your fingers, don't you know it's 2012? Julian kicks off with three enormous questions relating to Israel and Palestine, all asked at the same time. Nasrallah does his best, referring to the “illegal occupation” of Palestine, the “massacres” committed by the Israeli army and his desire to live in a peaceful state. He speaks in Arabic as a stumbling English translator bellows over the top.
Yep, yep, yep, OK, Hassan… [stifles yawn.] This is all a little sedate for Julian. Two minutes in and he's already trying to bring the conversation back to WikiLeaks, which shed light on some of the more corrupt practices of Hezbollah supporters and grandees. Nasrallah calmly explains that this information was “not correct” and that it was “part of a media war against us”. He chuckles a little, talking of the new rich supporters Hezbollah is now burdened with. Those rich guys, they don’t know how to live real.
Dude, you’re meant to back me up! A little stunned by Nasrallah’s refusal to let the world know that WikiLeaks singlehandedly rooted out corruption in his party, Julian digs into the real shit: Syria. He wants to know why Hezbollah are not supporting change in Syria. Why are they onboard Assad’s death train?
Two eyes, two eyes! This is how people need to look at the situation in Syria, says our man in Lebanon’s secret location, helpfully pointing out where eyes are to all the viewers who don't look in mirrors very often because they are a conspiracy. They need to understand that Assad is bad but also, you know, good, because he wants to engage in “radical reforms” but is being held back by the opposition, who won’t talk to him. Poor Assad, presumably the Syrian people can't get a word in edgeways what with the sound of their homes and relatives exploding all around them.
Shit's getting boring (I'll be honest: visually, it's not the richest show) so Assange asks Nasrallah about his childhood. God, this is moving. Julian is Oprah and Piers Morgan rolled into one. “It was a poor area,” Nasrallah tells him, recalling the neighbourhood he lived in as a kid. Julian’s eyes close and he is transported back to the old pineapple farm he grew up on in Horseshoe Bay, Queensland, Australia. He can taste the pineapples now, their piquant vibrancy rising up into the back of his mouth. If only he could go back, if only he could leave the world of secrecy and freedom behind, if only he could be a boy again…
Snapping out of it, aware that his show needs tears but also laughter, Julian asks his guest to tell a joke.
Oh, the joke, the joke! How we laugh, you and I. Here we are, two titans of freedom, brought down by injustice but still we laugh. You tell me about using simple rural slang to outwit the Israelis and their listening devices and then remind me, wryly, that this may not do me any good at WikiLeaks. You are right, my friend, so right. Now feels like the right time to ask you why you believe in the “totalitarian concept of God”.
Because he is up there… well that seems like a satisfactory answer.
The interview is over and Julian clutches his interpreters. It’s an oddly sweet moment, the outcast iconoclast, unloved by even his former champions, holding the hands of two men who have shown him kindness and support. The interpreters joke with Nasrallah in Arabic. No translation is offered.
Who made this? Fuck you, that’s who! Think you’re going to find out so you can hunt us down? Think again! The credits roll. Everyone is anonymous.
Except Julian Assange, who owns the copyright to everything.
Follow Oscar on Twitter: @oscarrickettnow