Thursday, December 9, 2010

The revolution will be merchandised

One of the biggest stories on the planet right now is the arrest, in London, of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. This follows eight months of leaks of hundreds of thousands of classified US government documents pertaining to military activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and US diplomacy; a US military video that documented a 2007 attack on Iraqi insurgents that left 16 people dead, including two Reuters news staff and uncensored Belgian police files concerning a child killer investigation. Detained in custody, Assange awaits extradition to Sweden to face sex charges, which some have slammed as specious. If not extradition to the US, where he could potentially face charges ranging from espionage to receiving stolen goods. Assange, an Australian native, finds himself living a Robert Ludlum-esque plotline. Let’s call it The Bourne Embarrassment. Although in spite of conspiracy theories that WikiLeaks is a CIA psyop – which might seem to address the question asked by others, why hasn’t he been neutralised – on the evidence to hand so far, Assange is no recalcitrant spook, à la Jason Bourne. Nor is he an insider who blew the whistle. He is a self-appointed public servant who created a dead letter drop for deep throats. And no, it’s not his first brush with the law.

In 1991, in his late teens, while part of a hacker collective called International Subversives, Assange admitted to 24 of 30 computer hacking charges, after helping compromise the websites of the Australian National University, RMIT, Telecom and even the Australian Federal Police. He was placed on a good behaviour bond and ordered to pay A$2100. 

The catalyst for the AFP investigation: a strike on NASA from the amusingly-titled Worms Against Nuclear Killers, a separate 'hacktivist' group with which Assange was believed at one point to have been linked. The attack left the ''WANK'' acronym sprawled across the space agency’s computer screens. 

The WikiLeaks saga has prompted a global debate on the very salient question: is there such a thing as too much information? Meanwhile, Assange is rapidly emerging as an information freedom fighting folk hero, a kind of Cloud Computing Che Guevara, a Ned Kelly of nerds. And needless to say, the inspiration for a bit torrent of merchandise. 

Frockwriter did a quick net check and was gobsmacked to find just how much Julian Assange/WikiLeaks product is out there.

In addition to the baby romper at the top of this post and even a 'Free Julian Assange' dog coat, a company called Zazzle is offering over 100 slogan T-shirts. They include 'I hid Julian', 'Leaker', 'Julian Assange is the internet anti-Christ', 'Julian Assange please marry me!', 'Free Bradley Manning' and the tackier, 'I f***ed Julian Assange and even the condom leaked', which could prove a hit in Sweden.


Kiss My Blak Arts' T-shirts are far less risque:


While, over at Cafepress, there is yet more information freedom-friendly baby merch, including a WikiLeaks teddy bear, a bib and babyblanket:

Mum and dad can also show their support with Cafepress' understated 'Julian Christ the messenger' bumper sticker which comes in a pack of 50. Or how about a 'Free Julian' water bottle, 'Julian Assange, The truth shall set us free' can cooler, 'Julian is my homie' kitchen apron or an 'I love Julian' G-string? 

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