Conflict & Justice

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange launches talk show


A screen shot of the opening credits of Julian Assange's new show, The World Tomorrow.

Julian Assange plays many roles, and he can now add 'Talk Show Host' to his long list of titles. The WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief launched "The World Tomorrow" on Russia's RT today, an interview program in which he chats with international personalities about sensitive issues. 

In his first episode Assange interviewed Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group (or freedom-fighting political party, depending on whom you ask) about the situation in Syria. Nasrallah, speaking from "a secret location" has not given an interview with a Western news organization since the 2006 Lebanese-Israeli war. But he came to explain to Assange and his viewers that Hezbollah would like to see dialogue in Syria, not a civil war, despite his open support for revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere.  

"Everybody knows that Bashar Assad's regime has supported the resistance in Lebanon, has supported the resistance in Palestine," said Nasrallah through an interpreter. "It has not backed down in the face of American pressure. It is a regime that serves the Palestinian cause. What we've called for in Syria is dialogue and reform to be carried out. Because the alternative to that is to push Syria into civil war. And that is exactly what American and Israel want for Syria."

The World Tomorrow is a low-budget operation, filmed with a hand-held camera in the English countryside mansion where Assange is under house arrest, held for nearly 500 days without charge. Assange sits at a table, flanked by interpreters, and speaks into a webcam connected to a screen that shows his subject. The format of the show is different from other, comparable programs in that there is no flashy studio set, no big lights or fancy projections. By mainstream standards, "The World Tomorrow" is something of an anomaly, but as Assange's fan base reaches far and wide across the globe, the show is perfect for internet streaming — which is how the majority of viewers will see it anyway. Simply put, this show is just two people having a conversation via the internet. 

"I wanted to have a different sort of approach with other people," said Assange in a pre-show interview with RT. "While that approach has been difficult in some ways, I think it has also succeeded in other ways, and revealed sides of very interesting and important people that are not normally revealed because they are not dealing with a standard interviewer."

The show's opening sequence includes clips of President Obama saying into a camera, "He broke the law," and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying, "The United States strongly condemns..." before Assange's voice ends the clip with, "Today, we're on a quest for revolutionary ideas that can change the world tomorrow," over flashes of images from Occupy London and the Arab Spring. 

Assange is nothing if not a rebellious troublemaker and permanent kink in the neck to the powers that be in the West. With "The World Tomorrow," Assange says he is attempting to combat what he feels is an unfair paradigm when it comes to reporting information and truly sharing both sides of any given story. He said he will specifically seek to interview "people who normally don’t get a voice [in the Western or US media]."

"Media organizations, by their very nature, are engaged in the political sphere. So the editors and publishers of media organizations have to sit down at the table with power groups, and they start becoming captured by these power groups," said Assange, explaining his choice of format and interviewees to RT. "I’m pulling out their story about their situation from their own perspective, and not just something that would fit a media soundbite. In dealing with me, they understand that they are not just dealing with a host."

Indeed, the show looks like the video version of a dense publication, not unlike WikiLeaks itself. The host is conversational, friendly, and prepared with bundles of information. But the show won't take directly from WikiLeaks data and won't be used to present new data, according to Assange. However, many of the guests do figure prominently in data WikiLeaks has published in the past. 

It will certainly be interesting to keep an eye on who Assange can nab to appear on his show, considering many would-be guests have declined because it would be too dangerous politically to be associated with a man many believe to be an enemy combatant of the United States.