The first season of Assange’s talk show ends today, and Tracy Quan sings its praises—it’s addictive and informative, she writes.
The 12th and final episode of The World Tomorrow, which is also called The Julian Assange Show, airs Tuesday on Russia Today, a controversial cable network with links to the Kremlin. The half-hour show is repeated throughout the day in four languages on Russia Today’s live stream, and you can catch up with previous episodes here. It’s addictive, lively, wide-ranging, and informative, suggesting a well-rounded (by computer-geek standards) host.
In an earlier episode, Assange was shown kibitzing homoerotically with the ex-husband of Jemima Khan, who contributed bail money to Assange in 2010. Fighting off a cold, he told Imran Khan, “my voice is a bit sexier than normal and I have to compete with you.”
Described as a frontrunner to be the next leader of Pakistan, Imran Khan is also a former cricket star. Their sly collegiality syncs nicely with something Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, told Assange in a previous episode: “Welcome to the club of the persecuted.”
A month later, while the show–entirely prerecorded–was airing, Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he remains. Viewers catching up with The Julian Assange Show may now experience a reality-TV buzz followed by a pang of anxiety. Correa’s a smooth-faced ball of ranting populist energy, exuding an all-too-familiar fanatical certainty, while Assange, sporting some questionable blond stubble, appears more laid back. What’s to become of Assange if he actually ends up not in Correa’s club, but in his country, on the run from rape charges? Yikes.
Fugitivism aside, a living-room atmosphere prevails on the show, whether guests are hanging with the host “under house arrest” or, like Khan and Correa, chatting via webcam. Good thing it’s so cozy in here. Out there? Not as much.
Assange has been subjected to no small amount of snark for airing the first season of The World Tomorrow on Russia Today (RT), a cable network regarded by many as the Kremlin’s tool. For getting into bed with Moscow in the springtime, he was called out as a useful idiot, part of a “long dishonorable tradition.”
His budding summer affair with Ecuador, where President Correa openly suppresses privately owned media, has provoked fresh sneers.
So far, so disreputable, especially if you bought into Assange’s rock-star status. It’s easy to condemn political celebrities, and it’s quite a wake-up call when our antiauthoritarian heroes turn out to have survival skills.”We are always ready to blame another man for lack of heroism,” is how Graham Greene, a novelist known for his own Moscow attachments, once put it.
RT is, in fact, licensing the show, not producing it, and, with studios in Moscow and Washington, D.C., it’s a far more interesting network than some care to admit. If you watched RT’s lively coverage of the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision, you were treated to the spectacle of Americans actually well-versed in the history of Canadian health care. (Where did they find these freaks? It might be a first, even for cable.) One of RT’s most popular vehicles is The Alyona Show, where girl-power aesthetic meets American liberalism—but libertarian Reason editor Brian Doherty is a frequent guest. (The newscasters in Moscow reporting on Putin’s state visits are more predictable, and where RT critics get their ammo.)
That’s right—Assange turns out to be an empathic and talented listener, at least when he’s hosting a TV show.
Clearly, I’ve become an addict. I like M.I.A.’s catchy soundtrack, and the rousing anthemic intro featuring the POTUS and Secretary of State condemning Assange for his outlaw ways. His fan base must be eating this up, but the show’s currency comes from what it can offer a skeptic in search of a good time. (That would be me, for I’ve never been entirely convinced that spilling secrets is such a noble endeavor.)
Perhaps some Assange-bashers are envious. Despite his legal problems, he’s the host, director, and producer of a program that makes us care about his predicament—even if you’re not a full-fledged fan. We’re finally getting a chance to know this guy, through the questions he asks and the way he asks them. (What comes to mind is the urgency of David Frost’s survival act as portrayed by Michael Sheen in the 2008 film Frost/Nixon.) By airing this 12-week series starting in mid-April, Assange made himself a lot more real to a lot more people during the build up to the U.K. Supreme Court’s extradition decision.