Maybe it was Wikileaks, the evil blond rat in South Park, that did it – but suddenly no one seems to care about the fate of Julian Assange.
I remember when I first broached the subject in 2010 feeling rather as I do when writing now about Gaza: “I’m about to alienate at least 50 per cent of my readership.” That’s because back then, even intelligent, informed, libertarian types couldn’t quite make up their minds what to think about the weird Australian. Was he liberating us all from the tyranny of the surveillance state? Or was he just a grubby, manipulative egoist, traitor and alleged rapist?
Now though, no one seems to have been even slightly moved by Assange’s revelations over the weekend that two years stranded under effective house arrest in the Ecuadorian embassy in London has given him a heart condition and caused his skin to go even more vampire-pale. (Personally, I was more concerned about the fact that the Ecuadorians seem neither to have a sun roof nor a garden.)
Nor is there much interest in the fate that awaits him. I looked at the Tweets responding to his press conference announcement that he would be giving himself up to the police “soon.” They were all callously flippant.
Even his rich celebrity friends – among them Michael Moore, Ken Loach, and Jemima Khan – have gone strangely quiet. (But then, maybe Khan can only deal with one skanky, lefty freak show at a time, and she’s got her hands full right now with Russell Brand.)
Assange, it seems, is very much yesterday’s flavour-of-the-month. The chattering classes have grown bored with their plaything.
They need a new exciting cause to show how free-spirited and caring they are. And a smelly bloke who drones on and on, leaps on hapless women, and whose indiscriminate intelligence leaks may well have sent many good men to their deaths and made all our lives that little bit less safe just isn’t doing it for them any more.