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Hacking Into His Life
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The memoir begins with his arrest in London amidst maddening media hype and then cuts back to his bohemian childhood in Australia. You get a glimpse of what was to become of Assange from his very formative years. Remembering his early childhood, he says, "I had a happy childhood, and it was partly to do with the joy of discovery and the certainty that rules were there to be broken." And you are not surprised when in the subsequent pages you learn about all the rules he broke; you are just awed.
Assange was born to a free spirited women and "a cultured guy with a moustache," participating in an anti-Vietnam war protest march, who took her hand, while she was mulling to join the demonstration herself. And as he himself puts it, he was conceived in the spirit of nonconformity. His parents' marriage, however, didn't last and he got his sir name from his step father. His peripatetic childhood is illustrated by the fact that he attended more than 30 schools.
The relationship between his mother and step father wouldn't last, bringing in a character who would force Assange and his mother to flee. Their on-the-move lifestyle would be transformed into a life on-the-run. His mother's stalker would somehow manage to find them each time and it was only when Assange directly confronted the stalker and told him to "fuck off" would they gain some respite.
The computer whizz that the world has come to know off as the face of WikiLeaks, would begin his foray into the virtual world in his teens, and soon the reader is enthralled by the audacity, the philosophy and the geekiness of teenage Assange, to whom, "it seemed as if justice itself might live on the other side of the flashing cursor." The expertise and fearlessness of a teenager hacking into some of the world's most secure systems including that of the Pentagon, NASA and Citibank, transport the reader to some distant land of science fiction.
The autobiography details the founding of WikiLeaks and the effort gone into making it a secure platform for information sources, and also to keep it running under strenuous circumstances. It captures Assange's unrelenting passion for exposing murky secrets and articulates the impact of his organisation across the globe.
The memoir offers insights into his tenuous relationship with friends-turned-foes, The Guardian and The New York Times. His contempt at the way the two publications handled the leaks and how they cowed down to the pressure that ensued afterwards; starting a libellous campaign against Assange, is reflected in the usage of a not so flattering language: "senior journalists from the English-speaking world have serially loved WikiLeaks and then mugged us" – nonetheless, even his foes have admit, the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs, the US Cables, and the video of the US helicopter gunship shooting innocent civilians (which included two Reuters journalists) in Iraq, brought into public domain because of WikiLeaks' efforts, have had profound political impact.
Assange delves into the subject of his controversial relationship with the two Swedish women who were to later make charges of rape against him. And going by the narrated account, it's quite an extraordinary case. Extraordinary in its bizarreness.
The memoirs' narrative is simple, straightforward and engaging. Assange does not mince words. However, the abrupt ending leaves the reader jolted. It's like a rollercoaster ride that stops midway. All in all, the memoir gives us insights into the mind, work and background of this crusader for justice, and if you have any doubts that he actually is a crusader, you've got to pick up a copy. It's not the best packaged product (it could have done with sharper editing) but its well worth exploring.