Is Julian Assange a real-life Bond villain?
It’s a question that has been bouncing around certain corners of the interweb for a while but which has become even more urgent in the days leading up to his arrest in London.
What follows is an objective analysis of the question drawing on all the Bond movies on the one hand and Assange’s known behavior on the other. Because of the transparency campaigner’s concern with secrecy the latter evidence is relatively limited, though a handful of internal Wikileaks emails published by the essential Wired.com are quite revealing as to his personality.
1. Assange is the creator of a secretive international organization said to be involved in espionage and criminal activity, but unaligned with any particular country or ideology. This right away puts him in the same category as Auric Goldfinger, Sir Hugo Drax (Moonraker) and above all SPECTRE founder and white-cat stroker Ernst Stavro Blofeld (six films beginning with From Russia with Love – in which he is referred to only as “Number 1″)
2. Like Goldfinger and company, Assange hates the United States. Indeed Assange clearly wants to be an even bigger threat to America than the previous top candidate for real life Bond villain: Osama bin Laden. Assange’s transformation of Wikileaks over the last year into an organization that solely targets the USA has apparently prompted a series of rebellions in and defections from Wikileaks.
3. Like Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Assange has an army of gullible young assistants who probably do not understand his real goals or his political obsessions. They believe his stated objective of transparency even though he does not practice what he preaches.
4. Indeed, like Drax and Blofeld, Assange is a man with a hidden past. Though it is hard to imagine the use of such information by any of the police and intelligence agencies he claims are after him. After all, it is all but impossible to find such basic information as what degrees Assange has received, where he lived or what he did for a living before founding Wikileaks in 2006. Something of a hypocrite when it comes to the transparency he champions in public, he is secretive not just about the membership and funding of Wikileaks but about the most ordinary details of his own life.
5. Like Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me, Assange is an idealistic misanthrope with a superman complex. He believes he is wiser than any mere government when it comes to deciding what should be secret and what should be made public, and as shown by his willingness to reveal the names of NATO’s informers in Afghanistan, he has no qualms about collateral damage when it comes to pursuing his notion of the greater good. (Stromberg was more ruthless or rather more ambitious: to protect his beloved oceans he planned to provoke a nuclear war between the USA and USSR that would wipe out all of civilization except for his undersea city ‘Atlantis’.)
6. Like all of the Bond villains and in particular Hugo Drax in Moonraker (who has his disloyal pilot chased and killed by his Doberman dogs), Assange rules the Wikileaks organization tyrannically and is ruthless when confronted by insubordination and dissent. When his senior staffer and primary spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg dared question his leadership Assange immediately suspended him. To quote a (leaked) email to a Wikileaks volunteer: “I am the heart and soul of this organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier and all the rest. If you have a problem with me, piss off.“
7. On the other hand, unlike Goldfinger and his ilk, Assange seems to take little or no pleasure in houses, clothes, luxury or black tie parties. Though, he has raised millions for Wikileaks and allegedly sold the information it has been given to various newspapers (against the wishes of his colleagues), he seems to have no personal interest in money and lives extremely simply, often sleeping on couches and going for days without washing or changing clothes. He is puritanically devoted to the cause, and expects his comrades and employees to be likewise.
8. Assange does like women though and is not above using his now-enhanced status as the Scarlet Pimpernel/James Bond of the hacking world to impress them into bed. However, his sexual tastes or manners are apparently of a kind that alienate and upset liberated Swedish women to the extent that they file charges of rape. That puts him back in the territory of almost all Bond villains.
9. More superficially, like Assange, many if not most Bond movie villains have white hair. This includes Emilio Largo (Thunderball), Blofeld (at least as played by Max von Sydow in Never Say Never Again and Charles Gray in Diamonds are Forever) and Karl Stromberg (The Spy Who Loved Me).
There is already talk of movies based on Assange’s life and career – what little is known of it. But rather than making a Scarlet Pimpernel/James Bond hero out of him, Hollywood should give him a chance to step into the shoes of Donald Pleasance, Charles Gray and the rest, and play Ernst Stavro Blofeld (the movie-land character he most resembles) in a future Bond film. (Those who have only seen the Bond films may not be aware that according to the Ian Fleming books, Blofeld actually made his first fortunes by selling stolen top-secret telegrams to the Third Reich before World War II, and later, when based in Turkey by selling information to both sides…)
This would of course have to be once Assange gets out of the Swedish criminal justice system and any other legal trouble he is headed for. But given MGM’s bankruptcy and the postponement of the next Bond movie the timing could be perfect.