Transparency: a Political Nonstarter

We are more closely united with the invisible, than with the visible. (Mystical republican.)
— Novalis

Julian Assange's arrest marks the end of an era. Transparency, where politics is concerned, can only ever be a kind of sport: a game of counterfeit-spotting. But for every lie that's exposed, another veils itself so completely that few people would even suspect a mystery of any kind.

Julian Assange will certainly go down in history as a martyr, but perhaps a more sober look at his situation would be to place him in a larger context which concerns the nature of power and how we think about it.

In a time when a famous, tough-talking, juvenile billionaire can garner ample political support by signaling to people of varied and often opposing persuasions, it is evident now more than ever that representative government is a sort of entertainment. We engage with it on a visceral level each election cycle and go back to our lives while little changes in the long run.

Julian Assange is merely one more actor in this grand comedy. A narcissist on Trump's level and exceptional public performer on Trump and Obama's level, Julian Assange's contribution to the resistance to tyranny will prove negligible in the wider scheme of things. It even saddens me somewhat to say all this, but it cannot be avoided. This day was coming and it is the signature of a dying feeling in the air: a high-fashioned activism that gets people excited but ultimately leaves the root of the problem untouched.

Julian Assange is not right or wrong. He is inevitable. He is the product of a system so impossibly predictable in its public ventriloquism that so few reactions remained in the face of it save total, Gnostic negation.

One can criticize and maim the infrastructure all one wants, but if one is doing so and providing endless commentary on how one is doing so all the while (as exemplified by Assange's general posture surrounding the 2016 presidential election), it would seem evident that the power play has never left the realm of appearance.

Assange is a tragic character who represents a utopian vision that can never work.

As is written by the writer of Ephesians, 'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.'

One could just as soon relate to this by translating it into secular language: it is not simply institutions and governments we must expose and resist, but ideas themselves, cultural taboos which sustain them, codified neuroses, and the complicated network of incentive mechanisms which cause people to steer and manipulate all of this.

Whether or not the Illuminati are real, or if QAnon means anything, exposing them does nothing. If anything, it strengthens the simulacra behind which modern power lies. What is ultimately the incentive for people to join or cooperate in nefarious plots and doings? The potential for corruption was merely exploited, not created ex nihilo.

Julian Assange made his point and served his purpose long ago. If it was up to me, he would be free - an added reward to the reward he'd already given himself by the role he played on the world stage. He represents, if not the last, then certainly one of the most potent symbols of a materialist revolution which is no longer possible - an archaism of enlightenment values.

The days of rising up are decidedly over. We are approaching the age in which power will have to be confronted where it is, and in which all exposures are seen, rightly, as attempts to grasp sand. To cut illegitimate power down, one must be ruthlessly elusive, even to the point of doubting our very understanding of legitimacy and leaving behind our notion of sovereignty as a component of collective agency.