Narcissism is the curse of our age. Celebrity is its more familiar manifestation, spawning countless magazines and TV shows, but its tentacles have spread into every area of public life. France has recently terminated an unhappy experiment with a hyperactive president, suggesting that its appetite for constant self-promotion has its limits. Now a similar proposition is being tested in the UK by the saga of the celebrity-hacker, Julian Assange.
Assange is a fabulist, someone who stretches and distorts the truth to make himself look exciting in the eyes of his diminishing band of followers.
Narcissists are shameless in their promotion of themselves, but they aren’t noted for consistency. Assange’s politics are simplistic, amounting to not much more than a belief that governments cheat and lie and need to be exposed. They do, sometimes, but his preferred scenario of total transparency would be a nightmare, making relations between democratic countries and despotic regimes even more difficult. He doesn’t understand power, which can be exercised for good as well as selfish reasons, and by individuals – himself included – as well as governments.
It’s time his double standards were spelled out: Assange has used his hacking skills to turn himself into a worldwide phenomenon, and now he demands for himself exactly the same impunity he excoriates in politicians.
Without coherent politics to explain his predicament, Assange has had to rely on two things: the gullibility of people who share his Manichean world view and a yearning for heroes.