Either Julian Assange is the least self-aware person in the British Isles (currently), or Wikileaks is playing some sort of weird joke on the press. The organization, whose entire reason for being is publishing documents whose authors don't wish them to be published has bizarrely sent a list of 140 things reporters are not supposed to say about Assange (if this is a troll by Assange, you have to wonder if the 140 -- Twitter's original character limit -- is somehow on purpose). We'll get to the list in a moment, but first, the list included this hilarious statement:
CONFIDENTIAL LEGAL COMMUNICATION NOT FOR PUBLICATION.
Ha, ha. Good one, Julian. Very funny. First of all, you don't send "confidential legal communications" to the media. That's not how it works. Second, unless there's already a pre-agreed upon deal not to publish certain materials, you don't get to email reporters willy nilly and insist that they can't report on it. That is also not how it works. Finally, this is Wikileaks we're talking about. I mean, come on.
Incredibly, Reuters, who first wrote about the existence of this list did not publish the list. Instead, that was initially left to FOIA/transparency/national security guru Emma Best who published the full list on her site. A few other publications followed later.
It is entirely possible that this is some sort of reverse Streisand Effect attempt, in which Assange purposefully put the idiotic "not for publication" line atop the email knowing that would make it more likely that the document would get attention, but no matter where you sit, for reporters, this now seems like a list of 140 things that Julian Assange is now calling for everyone to investigate. Of course, some of them are really just silly. For example:
It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange stinks. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever tortured a cat or dog. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange does not use cutlery or does not wash his hands. It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange lives, or has ever lived, in a basement, cupboard or under the stairs.
Um... what? Why even bring up any of these? Of course, much of the list involves some of the more serious claims that people have made against Assange over the years, especially regarding any connection with Russian Intelligence and or any attempt to influence the US election. And, while these don't necessarily break new ground, for investigative reporters, it seems like there could be some interesting breadcrumbs in the list of things Julian Assange really, really doesn't want the press to say about him.
Also, it appears that in a later version of the list that was posted to Pastebin, Wikileaks removed the line about Assange stinking and living in a cupboard under the stairs (that was Harry Potter, you see...). Emma Best set up a comparison of the two "leaked" copies of the list, if you're interested in delving into the details of what I guess is now up for discussion (does Assange have a scar in the shape of lightening bolt?).
Separately, each of the items on the list begin "it is false and defamatory to...." At the very least, this suggests that Assange has a fairly limited understanding of what "defamatory" actually means. Defamation requires a bit more than saying that Julian Assange stinks. Others may be false, but would hardly be "defamatory." For example:
It is false and defamatory to deny that Julian Assange co-founded the Freedom of the Press Foundation with John Perry Barlow.
I mean, it is a false statement since Assange did not co-found the Freedom of the Press Foundation with JPB (he was just one of their first beneficiaries). But, what is possibly "defamatory" about that sentence?
Either this is all an elaborate troll by Assange, or he's so freaking full of himself that he doesn't realize how petty and immature this whole thing looks (oops, is that on the list of things we can't say?).