Julian Assange says yes to Sydney festival

WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has agreed to make an appearance at the Sydney Opera House as part of the annual Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

The festival, held at the Sydney Opera House in September-October, is featuring the 40-year-old activist as part of a line-up drawn up by organisers to “prick at people’s ideologies and test their tolerance levels”.

Under house arrest in London, Assange is awaiting the outcome of his appeal against an extradition to Sweden where he is facing sexual assault charges.

The festival is hoping that Assange will be able to travel to Australia to speak at the event on September 30 under the title WikiLeaks Has Not Gone Far Enough but, given that Assange has surrendered his passport as part of his bail conditions in Britain, organisers admit his presence will most likely remain virtual.

“In all probability he will be speaking via a live video link as the court proceedings aren’t in a stage where they’re moving particularly fast,” festival curator Ann Mossop says.

She adds that much of the debate about WikiLeaks and Assange being “the most dangerous man in the world” is why the Australian-born activist was asked to speak at the event.

“I think there are many sides to this [WikiLeaks] and it’s not clear cut,” she says. “Assange has been demonised but at the same time made into a hero. We want to go beyond Julian Assange as the architect of all evil or the defender of truth.”

Jonathan Safran Foer, the American author of Eating Animals, also has been booked to speak at the festival in a session titled What We Are and What We Eat. His nonfiction book, published in 2009, details the environmental and human cost of factory farming and how the food we eat is produced.

“His book makes you see our society in a different way and how we feed ourselves,” Mossop says. Also at the festival, Slavoj Zizek, philosopher and author of Living in the End Times, will challenge the idea of liberal democratic capitalism in a session titled Let Us Be Realists and Demand the Impossible: Communism.

Other speakers at the festival include former High Court judge Michael Kirby and a joint session featuring Cheryl Kernot, Philip Nitschke and Dick Smith.


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