Julian Assange Opens for MIA at Recent NYC Concert

Julian Assange made an appearance as the opening act for MIA at her New York City Terminal 5 show this past weekend.

Appearing via Skype and citing that he was there in support of “the most courageous woman working in western music,” Asange delivered a ten minute speech on topics ranging from privacy to freedom of the press, shouting out the reporters who were in exile as a result of their press coverage.

The audio to emerge from the event is a bit hard to hear but in it Asange regrets not being able to attend the event in person explaining that he’s been deterred “because your government sucks.”

Despite some chatter during his remarks– the crowd seemed attentive throughout, cheering him on as cameras and smart phones flashed throughout the arena from fans eager to broadcast his appearance through social media.

While MIA and Julian Assange may seem like a bit of an odd couple, the two have collaborated before, most notably with MIA writing original music for Assange’s political TV show The World Tomorrow. WikiLeaks has also previously tweeted that “MIA is the Julian Assange of pop music.”

The artist is certainly no stranger to taking on the man.  She’s currently being sued by the NFL for flipping the bird during her 2012 Super Bowl performance and this past August when her record label told her to “darken” up her album, warning that it was too positive- she took to Twitter and threatened to leak it saying;

“If interscope takes longer i can always leak this next week and make a new one by the time they are ready.”

That got their attention.

Her new album “Matangi” was released November 5th– click here to check it out.

Remember, Remember the 5th of November: Anonymous Gets Things Done

When Anonymous erupted on the streets some five and half years ago to protest Scientology, their branding is what caught everyone’s eyes: The majority of protestors wore the Guy Fawkes mask from the movie V for Vendetta, in part because of the movie’s message and in part from EFG, Epic Fail Guy, a meme on 4Chan, the board where members can post images anonymously.

Anonymous is real a cool guy and doesn’t afraid of nothing.

As thousands of people who had never met joined in the protests and on the online discussion board WhyWeProtest.net,  Anonymous grew and developed . The concept was that anyone is anonymous (though tracing ISPs eventually proved otherwise in arrests for DDOS attacks), and anyone could protest anonymously.

Since that fateful day in February 2008, Anons have gone on to kick some pretty serious butt, and occasionally get theirs handed to them by law enforcement (careful with that Low Orbit Ionizing Cannon, kids!). Anonymous provided tech aid in the Arab Spring, reported on uprisings in Iran, took on San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), supported rape victims and made their accused rapists pretty uncomfortable, supported Bradly Manning and Julian Assange, and have ordered a lot of pizzas delivered. EFG masks could be seen at Occupy, are  at rallies and protests, and at just about any public semi-political gathering. Since anyone can be anonymous, and there is no central organizing committee, sometimes groups of Anons act in apparent cross-purposes. Don’t try to figure out exactly what they stand for except freedom on the intertubes and beyond–that’s the cornerstone of their ideology.

Anonymous’ original goal when we, they crept out of  notoriously Cheeto scented basements was to expose Scientology and have some lulz. It worked. In 2008 a group of Anons marched in the San Diego Pride Parade. A member of Scientology then signed the Church of Scientology on as a supporter of Prop 8. Screenwriter Paul Haggis, a Scientologist and a supporter of LGBT rights saw this and spoke up to the Scientology powers that be. He then very publicly left the organization, Lawrence Wright published an article in the New Yorker about Haggis’ defection, and well, now books have been written, more than ever people are leaving Scientology, the cult is facing court battles, and no one is afraid of them anymore. Well played. >9000 FTW.

Today, November 5th was the Million Mask March where Anons participated in

mass demonstrations in 477 locations around the world this Tuesday. The Million Mask March’s Facebook page states that followers should “remember who your enemies are: billionaires who own banks and corporations who corrupt politicians who enslave the people in injustice.”

Remember, remember this 5th of November:

We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive, we do not forget. Expect us.

 

The Fifth Estate and Mediastan

I paid for and sat through The Fifth Estate, me and nine other people at the ArcLight multiplex on Sunset Blvd, a 2:20pm show on the first day of release.  And my take away: Don’t use a pseudonym based on your family cat or get a giant WikiLeaks tattoo on your back, dumbass.  I also walked out thinking

Julian Assange, he’s a pretty cool guy and doesn’t afraid anything.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Assange as quirky and twitchy and uncomfortable in his own skin, a very different Assange than I’ve seen speaking before crowds, in interviews, in the Wikileaks-produced Mediastan (available free Saturday night, 7pm-6am Pacific  Eastern Time per wikileaks update,  for audiences in the US, Canada, Ireland, Lithuania, Portugal and Estonia) where he has warmth, humor, and passion. Cumberbatch also doesn’t capture Assange’s hot geek sexiness, and I think somewhere along the way we’re supposed to see Assange as megalomaniacal, or at least as an ego-driven monster. Maybe I have dated too many real-life narcissists, megalomaniacs and ego-driven nutjobs to be affected by a cinematic version. I was on Assange’s side the whole time, even though he was pretty much a cipher. Daniel Berg was a wuss, and the relationship between the two isn’t that compelling (plus it is distorted by filmmakers for the narrative interest; Wikileaks has several pages of inaccuracies). Berg comes off as a short-sighted unlikable lick-spittle who sabotaged WikiLeaks for reasons that are posed as high-minded in The Fifth Estate, but were actually more self-serving in real life.

Props to the filmmakers for showing the Collateral Murder video and reminding people of that and of what Private Manning risked in order to release the video and subsequent documents. The film also lets the audience know of all WikiLeaks’ successes including publishing Scientology documents, information related to banking scandals, Kenya, Colombia, Gitmo, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan War, and much more, while shaking a finger about the the non-redaction of names (which was pretty much non-starter, since there has been no proof of blowback from the cables’ publication). Overall, The Fifth Estate is not a particularly great movie, there are some laughs and a little bit of tension and drama, but it drags in places, and is full of historical inaccuracies. And seriously, when the biggest revelation about a man whose organization changed not only the news media, but also the world, is that he dyes hair, that’s pretty tragic.

Meanwhile Assange co-produced Mediastan which presents an inside look of how WikiLeaks reporters, armed with their cache of  cables set off across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and into US-occupied Afghanistan in 2010 to give copies of related cables to news organizations in each country.  It’s great filmmaking, and reveals a great deal about power, media and the powerlessness of the media, both in regimes under dictatorships and in West.  In the ‘Stans, publishers and reporters fear retaliation, even if names are redacted, and those fears carry through to the Guardian, the Washington Post and the New York Times as editors tip their hands about power and access.  The US State Department funds some foreign media; other places it is controlled by the government–the irony of the name the newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan is painful–and no one really wants to risk their their access or their lives.

MEDIASTAN will be available free to watch online Saturday night, 7pm-6am Pacific   Eastern Time for audiences in the US, Canada, Ireland, Lithuania, Portugal and Estonia. The film will also be available worldwide to buy or rent online at all other times. Watch it at http://wikileaks.org/Mediastan. I paid to rent it earlier this week and look forward to watching it again.

MEDIASTAN was directed by Johannes Wahlström and produced by Julian Assange with Rebecca O’Brien and Lauren Dark at Sixteen Films. It is being distributed by Journeyman Pictures.

Casting Edward Snowden for Hollywood Film

Now that a WikiLeaks movie is about to hit the screens, Hollywood has turned its hungry maw to the next real life story: Glenn Greenwald’s upcoming book about Edward Snowden. According to the New York Times:

20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Entertainment and the cable television powerhouse HBO were among potential buyers that had considered the project, according to several people who were briefed on it, but spoke on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality strictures.

Note the use of the past tense “had considered,” that’s because there are some problems with the story from a filmmaking perspective.

There is the issue of “life rights” because while the film could be based on Greenwald’s book,  Snowden, journalist Lauren Poitras, and Snowden’s WikiLeaks traveling companion, journalist Sarah Harrison may not have their life rights available, meaning  filmmakers would have to rely on material publicly available under Fair Use, and hope that these principals (and Julian Assange who will no doubt figure in the film) will not interfere.

There are some hurdles in terms of plot–some could say the the final act has yet to be played out, though, actually being alive and free is pretty much a happy ending. Oh and wait, there’s this whole thing about how some people in the government and the public are very very upset at Snowden….

But none of that detracts from the fun of playing casting director: Joseph-Gordon Levitt or maybe dreamy Twilight star Robert Pattinson as Snowden,  John Cusack as Greenwald, though some of have been championing  Ben Stiller. Maybe Megan Fox as the dancer girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, Snowden abandons in Hawaii (who thankfully hasn’t decided to pose for Playboy–yet),  Emma Stone as Sarah Harrison, Ryan Philippe as Assange…

Who would you cast?

Glenn Greenwald’s book is due out March 2014 from Macmillan’s Metropolitan Books. His agent and the Guardian newspaper, which originally published Greenwald’s reporting on Snowden declined comment.

Julian Assange Media Rollout in Anti-Promotion for “The Fifth Estate”

 

Julian Assange is stirring a bubbling cauldron of interest that could result in The Fifth Estate‘s coffers running over, with the fair-haired boy of cyberspece delivering the Midas touch for the box office gold.  WikiLeaks founder Assange has been giving interviews to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association which will be publishing them this week, ahead of the film’s release, RT Spanish “Behind the News” host Eva Golinger, and weirdly, ABC’s “This Week.”

Why is it weird that Assange spoke to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s Sunday morning news show? Because ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Company. Disney’s Touchstone is distributing The Fifth Estate, produced by DreamsWorks, which has a television distribution deal with ABC/Disney. Talk about corporate synergy.

Stephanopoulos announcing that Assange would be

 live from his London hideout

was a tad melodramatic, because we all know where Assange has been since June, 2012–in the Ecuadorian Embassy, 3 Hans Crescent, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 0LS, United Kingdom, the building with all the nice policemen ringing it to prevent the easy-to-spot Assange from escaping and going…where, exactly?

Here are some highlights from Assange laying out his complaints about The Fifth Estate to ABC and RT. In both interviews, Assange discusses the government surveillance and the dangers to journalists who cover whistleblowing and report on leaks are facing. He also discusses his future, and in the RT interview, goes into detail about the asylum process, concepts of sovereignty and freedom, Google’s involvement with the State Department, the Obama’s administration’s exceptionally high record of prosecuting espionage cases, and that it is

a linguistic abuse to call speaking to the media espionage. Similarly it’s a linguistic abuse to say that WikiLeaks as a publisher, when it publishes, is conducting espionage.

Both interviews make for fascinating reading. In the interest of Fair Use, and because La Figa focuses on the intersection of politics, entertainment and pop culture, here’s what Assange had to say about The Fifth Estate in both interviews. There are links to the full inteviews, which I encourage you to read. First up, ABC’s “This Week,” from their transcripts:

There was no approach to us by DreamWorks, in any formal capacity whatsoever, other than an informal approach by Benedict Cumberbatch just days before shooting began.

This is a film that is based upon my life’s work, the work of my organization; we have people in extremely serious situations. [UK citizen] Sarah Harrison, who accompanied Edward Snowden out of Hong Kong, now effectively in exile in Russia because of the terrorism investigation here.

We have (inaudible) an alleged media source, the 25 organizations including ours up for sentencing in under a month’s time, an ongoing grand jury investigation.

But what are the responsibilities for ethical filmmaking in that context? None of the suggested changes that we sent to participant media ended up even in the final text of the film. But there’s been a big cashing-in that has gone on….

This is a rich organization, DreamWorks. It’s making a lot of money and tries — is continuing to make a lot of money from this process. But none of — there’s no contribution to our defense fund, to the defense fund of our sources and so on.

Assange’s RT interview with Eva Golinger is a must-read. And yes, he is driving the conversation about the film, taking control of the PR. And insuring that once people have seen it–and they will, due in part of Assange’s PR blitz–they’ll be able to learn much more about WikiLeaks and its founder. Here’s what he had to say to RT about The Fifth Estate in response to Eva Golinger’s asking if the film is an attempt to discredit Assange and WikiLeaks:

I know the book that it was based on. The books were definitely an attempt to do precisely that. DreamWorks has picked the two most discredited libellous books out of dozens of books available for it to pick. But it’s coming out of a particular milieu about.. within Hollywood and that constraints, it seems, what scripts can be written and what things would get distribution. I don’t know if that was the intent of the filmmakers. It’s certainly the result, but it’s been doing quite poorly in the reviews.

I think the information we have published about it was pretty successful in knocking out any view that is inaccurate history. It’s interesting to see that in the America’s Disney, who’s responsible for the distribution there, has been putting up posters of me with the word ‘traitor’ emblazoned across my face*. You know, a laughable concept ‘cos because I’m an Australian, I couldn’t even be a traitor, in theory, to the United States. I mean it’s a type of libel.

I think ultimately people are starting to become immune to those sorts of attacks. There’s been so many as time is going by. And people who’ve been watching the WikiLeaks saga have seen many of these attacks, having seen that they’ve turned out not to be true. So I think our base is not going to be affected by the film.

More likely, WikiLeaks’ base will expand. Because as the film, which Assange so maligns, says:

If you want the truth, you should seek it out for yourself. That’s what they’re afraid of. You.

*A Google search shows there are several posters for The Fifth Estate. One shows Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange with the word “hero” across his face, another with the word “traitor.” The same is true for the face of Daniel Brühl who plays Daniel Berg, Assange’s  lieutenant who wrote the book on which The Fifth Estate is based.

Julian Assange Talks to Hollywood Foreign Press Association

In an explosion of relevancy, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, best known as the people behind the Golden Globes, the awards ceremony that for a brief moment in time was the predictor for the Academy Awards, landed a Skype interview with WikiLeaks founder and interwebs pinup boy, Julian Assange. The fifty reporters who joined on the Skype video interview will be filing the stories tomorrow and into the week, and the HFPA have dropped juicy hints about  what the platinum haired cyber-star discussed as part of the association’s rapidly expanding Round Table series of interviews.

Last month HFPA vice president Lorenzo Soria told Variety that the Association wanted a return to real journalism. Today he told Variety:

We knew that getting a story with the importance of the Wikileaks controversy would be helpful in our efforts to broaden our reach beyond just interviewing the latest movie star. We hope that interviewing Julian Assange opens the door to other major interviews….My story for (Italian daily) La Stampa runs tomorrow and I know they’re really excited. This is clearly not the kind of story you work on every day.

The Skype call was arranged between the HFPA’s offices in West Hollywood and the Ecuadorian embassy in London where Assange has been living since June 2012 when he was granted diplomatic asylum. In his interview Assange warned of the dangers posed by the American security complex. He also stated  that his family had received death threats. The interview took several months to arrange, and is timed perfectly to coincide with the release of the biopic The Fifth Estate, which Assange told the HFPA was

opportunistic and hostile.

The movie may well be, but it is also fomenting  an increased interest in WikiLeaks, Assange, and the charges against him in Sweden. And while Assange may feel contrary to the adage that any publicity is good publicity, he’s getting a lot–and by speaking up again The Fifth Estate so clearly and loudly, so is the film. People will go to see it, and hopefully they will look deeper and longer into Assange, into WikiLeaks, into Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.

And it also remains to be seen if the HFPA will nominate The Fifth Estate for any Golden Globe categories.

Assange’s stay in the Ecuadorian Embassy began in June of last year when the British government sought, per the HFPA’s explanation:

to extradite him to Sweden under a European Arrest Warrant for questioning in relation to a sexual assault investigation. Metropolitan police officers have been stationed outside the embassy since Assange entered the building and have been ordered to arrest him if he attempts to leave…

WikiLeaks has been involved in the publication of material documenting extra-judicial killings in Kenya, a report on toxic waste dumping on the Ivory Coast, Church of Scientology manuals, Guantanamo Bay detention camp procedures, the July 12 2007 Baghdad air strike video and other documents.

At one point there were five WikiLeaks film projects in development. I’m just bummed no one is making  a musical…

Wikileaks Leaks Fifth Estate Script, Internal Talking Points

Marketing for The Fifth Estate, a film about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, has begun in earnest with ads recently released that depict Assange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, with the word “traitor” emblazoned over his face.

The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and with less than a month out to its wide release, Wikileaks has responded to the film’s marketing efforts by releasing the film’s script alongside an in-depth internal memo of their critiques.

From fact checking plot lines found in the script and the movie’s source material to correcting Director Bill Condon’s assertion that Assange’s opinions were based on an early draft of the script- in fact the script made available by Wikileaks was obtained in 2013- the memo covers quite a bit of ground.

In addition to pushback on the argument that Wikileaks has put lives in danger, quoting Defense Secretary Robert Gates to do so, the memo also tackles outright bizarre inaccuracies, excerpted below, that appear to have made it into the film;

  • Julian Assange was never in a cult, but THE FIFTH ESTATE claims that he was.
  • Julian Assange does not dye or bleach his hair white, as claimed in the film.
  • While these interpolations may serve to enhance the dramatic narrative of the film, or to build an enigmatic or interesting central character, they have the effect of further falsely mythologizing a living person as sinister and duplicitous.

Less their review leave any room for doubt – and acknowledging that they weren’t consulted on the making of the film – Wikileaks also tweeted a more concise review; in their words, “it’s bad”.

According to Entertainment Weekly Disney has yet to comment on this development.

For more insight into The Fifth Estate check out this post from Kevin Gosztola written earlier this year.

Big News: Coppers, Diplomatic Police, and Cabbies at Ecuadorian Embassy, All for Assange

 

 

Police surround the Ecuadorian embassy in London, preparing, or at least trying, to arrest Julian Assange on violation of his bail, as he has not checked in with the court in over a month. But of course if he left the embassy to check in, he’d be nabbed and extradited to Sweden to deal with accusations of rape, and possibly then extradited to the U.S. where he’d be up against far more serious charge–like life and death charges–of espionage over WikiLeaks.

Protestors and citizen journalists began reporting at around 11pm UK time, and several news feeds including OccupyNewsNetwork have been broadcasting live. There is police van parked in front of a side door. About a dozen police officers went into the building at 9:15am UK time. Earlier, men in suits who identified themselves as diplomatic police entered.

At few minutes earlier, around 9am UK time, some wags began calling taxis to the embassy using Assange’s name. The first driver was let in, and left disappointed. More cabs arrived, despite the livestream chatters explaining that the cabbies were part of the 99% and shouldn’t be pranked. Eventually a gray cab Mercedes pulled up with this sign in the window.

No one came out to take the ride to Heathrow.

What if Assange gained a bunch of weight, grew a beard and dyed it brown, and left on a fake passport during the Olympics!?

Tiki Oasis 12: Exotic Espionage Weekend Mirrors Current Events

 

Tiki Oasis 12, a four-day exploration of all things mid-Century and island-themed from art, cars, dance, fashion, movies, music and of course cocktails, arrives in San Diego August 16-19th with 3,000 unconventional conventioneers ready to hula and watusi between Tiki archaeology slide shows, cocktail symposiums, and art exhibitions at the still-fairly-Polynesian-themed Crowne-Plaza.

This year’s theme Exotic Espionage and Polynesian Pulp surfs the connection between Tiki culture (far away, sensual locales and cocktails) and spies, private eyes, and secret agents (namely far away, sensual locales and cocktails), whie celebrating the 50th anniversary of the cinematic James Bond.  The theme also dovetails nicely with Bradley Manning’s trial, real life international man of mystery Julian Assange’s bid for amnesty to avoid both a trial on alleged sex crimes in Sweden and extradition to the U.S. for Wikileaks’ related espionage, and a rise in both domestic and international spying. Was that intentional? Who knows, but lately Tiki Oasis has magically managed to reflect the current zeitgeist; last year’s theme, South of the Border, tied in nicely to immigration issues, and next year America’s hinterlands receives full focus with Hulabilly, Tiki at Its Doggone Best, a perfect compliment to the scrutiny the U.S. will receive no matter who wins the election.

 

 

I’m actually going this year, since I don’t want to miss Rob Zabrecky, the Magic Castle’s current Stage Magician of the Year who’s performing Sunday night (though Tiki Oasis  Friday, Saturday and all-weekend passes are sold out, there are tickets still available for Sunday which include Zabrecky’s performance, along with events,lecture and poolside activities). Plus I want to see Saturday’s one-day car show, which in true aloha spirit is free and open to the public, as the are indoor and outdoor Tiki Marketplaces, and the 3rd Annual Tiki Oasis Art Show highlighting the mysterious connection between Tiki and spies and featuring artists like Atomikitty, BigToe, Dawn Frasier, Doug Horne, Eric October, Maya Rogers, Ken Ruzic, and Tweelebop.

The car show has one car I really, really want to look at: the “Get Smart” Tiger Sunbeam. My late father loved “Get Smart;” we used to watch it together, and he did a great Don Adams’ impersonation. No wonder he was into Agent 86 and 99: He worked for almost a decade at Systems Development Corporation when it was a division of RAND, shifting over to NASA where he was a human factor specialist/test astronaut. Before working at SDC he was in the Air Force, stationed in Morocco during the Moroccan struggle for independence; he told me taught the locals how to recognize different airplanes and

trained pilots on how to survive if their planes crashed,

something he continued while in the Air Force Reserves through the early part of the 1960s. In the early 70s Dad worked for a strange little company called Seredipity in Santa Monica which, he explained to me at the time, made

hidden commercials that can go in films.

Uh, subliminals? Huh, what? Golly, Daddy, what actually did you do?

Anyway, Dad’s birthday was  August 14th, so attending a spy-themed weekend and seeing the “Get Smart” car is a good tribute to him. He died from lymphoma in 1995, which why I’m walking in the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Light Up the Night Walk in October. My team is from the Center for Inquiry West, a bunch of atheists and skeptics, which would have pleased Dad immensely. Dad was a really loyal Democrat, he supported Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton, and he and my awesome stepmom worked hard in their little San Diego County burg to keep fundamentalists from overtaking the local schoolboard.

I’ll be reporting from Tiki Oasis this weekend, assisting the agents of A.L.O.H.A. in their mission to spread the Tiki message of hospitality and friendship.

Paintings used by permission of the artists.

Tiki Oasis poster, Derek Yaniger
Wendy Cevola
Eric October
Susannah Mosher, aka Atomickitty
Tweedlebop
Ken Ruzic

“Julian Assange, Superstar” aka “WikiLeaks, The Musical”

If Hollywood has its way and the check clears, Julian Assange, the international man of mystery currently enjoying Ecuadorian hospitality whilst planning his birthday party inside that country’s embassy, will be the subject of a biopic fraught with cyber espionage and condomless sex. According to the Wall Street Journal, HBO Films, DreamWorks Studios, Universal Pictures and Annapurna Pictures are all frothing and panting to bring Assange’s story to a megaplex or cable box near you.

There are a lot of loose ends though–not the least of which being who would play the pale and lanky leader of WikiLeaks; Tim Robbins, even though he’s a bit older than Assange, possesses plenty of boyish charm and height–dangling plots points like Bradley Manning who is in prison and on trial; what happens with the Syrians cables; Assange’s potential extradition to Sweden…

Here’s a solution: A musical! As Spiderman Turn Off the Dark proves, stage plays are constantly evolving. As the Assange/WikiLeaks story unfolds, the libretto could be adjusted; and it’s a sure Tony Award winner, and once things are resolved in real life, the film would be ready to go. Along with Assange’s all singing, all dancing  grandstanding and honeypot sampling, Bradley Manning’s character would be onstage throughout as the tragic counterpoint and moral compass, first at a computer screen, then behind bars, always present, a contrast to Assange’s hubris.

Plus there would have to be a Greek chorus of Anonymous in EFG masks performing catchy numbers like “Low Orbit Ion Cannon,”  and “DDoS Us All” while Loooong Cat and Nyan Cat dance. It’s all a hummable, teachable-moment multi-media extravaganza! And Neil Patrick Harris would be SUPER in the starring role! Or maybe Zac Efron. Think Clay Aiken for the touring company.

If any Broadway producers are interested, you know where to find me…

The EFG Greek/geek chorus can get serious at times, while Manning’s character is the musical’s moral compass.

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