WikiLeaks: Show us the money

The world's most notorious whistle-blower site has suspended operations until it can secure more funding -- or Julian Assange once again has your attention

It's time to bust open that piggy bank. WikiLeaks is out of money. Again. And until you fork over your nickels, dimes, quarters, and Kennedy half-dollars, it's refusing to release any more secrets.

(Also: It may hold its breath until it turns blue and passes out. And then you'll be sorry.)

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A statement on the WikiLeaks home page now reads:

We are forced to temporarily suspend publishing whilst we secure our economic survival. For almost a year we have been fighting an unlawful financial blockade. We cannot allow giant US finance companies to decide how the whole world votes with its pocket. Our battles are costly. We need your support to fight back. Please donate now.

It then provides a page full of alternative ways to pitch in, including the quaint notion of mailing them a check.

As some commenters around the Web have asked, if WikiLeaks is so pro-information-freedom and anti-evil-corporation, why was it relying on these evil U.S. finance companies in the first place? Or maybe this is just a case of "nobody's paid attention to us for at least a month, and we had to do something."

WikiLeaks does not appear to lack for well-heeled benefactors. At the moment, Julian Assange is being held under house arrest at a journalist friend's tony estate north of London, pending charges for alleged sexual misconduct in Switzerland. The U.K.'s Telegraph has a video of the "harsh" conditions under which Assange must live. These consist primarily of having to wear a tracking band on his ankle, sign in every day at the local police constabulary, and work inside a very nice house that tragically suffers from a "slow Internet connection."

"It's not somewhere Julian would choose to work, that's for sure," his host Vaughn Smith intones in a plummy Oxbridge accent. "I know that if Julian had other options, like a proper office environment where he could be efficient, of course he'd choose it. But he doesn't have those options."

Other hardships: The crumpets are just this side of stale, the lemon curd is a bit tart, and the tea can often be quite tepid.

The video mostly shows Assange having to sign in and out an awful lot -- no doubt causing intense pain to his fingers and wrists -- as well as his well-groomed acolytes talking about how hard it all is on him. Hey, he has a 10 p.m. curfew! No more late night clubbing for the Albino Party Animal.

(Also: If all U.K. journalists live this well, I clearly picked the wrong side of the pond to nest on.)

I have supported WikiLeaks in the past. I still support the idea of WikiLeaks. Given the unholy alliance between government and corporations and the crumbling edifice that used to be called the Fourth Estate, we need an incorruptible source for information. We need a place where people can blow the whistle and not be crushed by corporate attorneys or whisked off to some version of Gitmo.

But I'm not convinced we need Assange. WikiLeaks has become a cult of personality. It's all Assange, all the time, and as he has proven too many times, he's not the best steward for the kind of information WikiLeaks often receives. If Assange really believed in the WikiLeaks cause, he'd pass the torch to someone with less baggage and move on to his next career as a chat show host or a hair model.

If that happened, I might even consider handing over a few shekels to the cause of information freedom -- not before then, though.

Would you pay to keep WikiLeaks alive and, if so, how much? Post your contributions below or email me:

This article, "WikiLeaks: Show us the money," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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