Ron Paul and Julian Assange:  Strange Bedfellows

In an unexpected convergence, the logic behind WikiLeaks is coming to resemble the ideology of the Tea Party movement.  They are both anti-establishment, of course, and seem to relish rebellion and defiance.  But Assange’s hero is Daniel Ellsberg, which grounds him in the far left attacks on the military-industrial complex of the 60’s, while Paul seems to want to allow business as much leeway as it wants as well as freedom from taxation.

But, then, Assange in a video interview for Time spoke about the importance of states rights.  He expressed the view that the central authority of the federal government oppressed individual states, a position repeatedly espoused by the tea party.  (See Time Video)

And Ron Paul was quoted as saying on Twitter: “Re: Wikileaks – In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth.  In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble.”  (See “The Lede,” New York Times)

What is the basis for their affinity?  What underlying beliefs could they possibly have in common?

It seems to be a profound antipathy to any idea of organized, collective responsibility.  No government should stand in the way of an individual exercising his rights to act in his own interests.

Such a radical individualism is not surprising in the United States, where groups and individuals have frequently practiced different forms of withdrawal and secession to protect their freedoms.  For many years our frontier offered escape to those faced with the onerous and unacceptable task of working things out with others, compromising on common interests, learning to tolerate differences.

I’m not sure where Asssange gets his version of this attitude.  Australia, of course, was also a former British colony, and its immense distance from the mother country nurtured a spirit of independence.  He seems also to have been influenced by anarchist theory.  The new ideology of the internet, with its naïve belief that “information wants to be free,” may also play a part.

Moreover, both Paul and Assange appeal to that side of all of us that resents external control, especially when it restricts the full expression of any ideal we espouse.

Seeing the parallels at first is jarring to common sense and the familiar categories that organize our political opinions.  It doesn’t seem to make sense.  We have to work at finding the connections.