It's that time of the year when the countdown begins for the announcement of Time Magazine's Person of the Year. See here an earlier post on the winner four years ago.
Some intro to PoY (from Wikipedia): The 'Person of the Year' features and profiles a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that "for better or for worse, ...has done the most to influence the events of the year." It must be noted that we live in a world that is optimistic and forward looking and works on making things better. Hence, even though a person/machine/idea that has influenced the world 'for worse' could technically make it as a PoY, the reality is that the magazine goes with those that make the world a better place. [Just in case you don't believe me, look up the PoY winner of 2001. It was not Osama bin Laden but Rudy Giuliani, then Mayor of New York for his fantastic response to the attacks & pulling the city together. Saddam Hussein likewise has never made it to the list. The last known 'bad guy' was Josef Stalin, winner circa 1942.]
So why am I bringing out the good guy/bad guy analogy? Because say what you want, Julian Assange is a BAD influence. I am completely certain Assange won't make it, but I can't believe that people think of him as a hero & that he currently leads online polls for winning the PoY of 2010 (note: the judges at Time do not use online poll results in deciding the winner).
Why don't I like Julian Assange? Well, what possible good can come out of leaking to the public the thoughts of US diplomats regarding other countries? To those who say that we need to know what the US thinks of us, I would say 'Think Again'. We are talking diplomacy here, not your street corner kabbadi game. Statecraft is played by grownups who know how the machinery of the world must be oiled. You & I don't. These players don't take barbs and baits to heart. You & I will. I really don't care what the US thinks of India in these cables because I know fully well that India will also think of the USA in a similar manner in its cables (hopefully they never come to light). Lest you think I am a mouthpiece of 'American policy', I urge you to check the term 'Arthashastra' on Wikipedia. Our own Chanakya outlined the very same principles centuries ago that USA is today accused of practicing. These principles are a political reality. So let's stop feeling offended.
Also, I don't like blackmailers. Period. Currently, some of the info posted online by WikiLeaks is redacted (in other words, some key points are blackened by WikiLeaks before publishing so that security interests are not compromised). Assange has threatened to release the password to his original data should his life be made miserable. Since when have blackmailers been considered heroes?
Lastly, there is a good likelihood that people will get harmed. WikiLeaks may post a cable without much editing because it doesn't think much of it. But a different entity might use this information for nefarious purposes - and act in a negative manner against certain people.
So folks out there who think he is a hero.... please think again. David vs. Goliath is always an inspirational & heart tugging story, but when our Mr. Julian 'David' Assange is wrong & unstable, you must root for the Goliath.
And my preference for the PoY 2010? See here for the list of nominees. I am personally partial to Robert Gates for his outstanding work over the past 3+ years as the Secretary of Defense. But if I were to bet, I would go with Steve Jobs for his success with the iPad at the top of the list followed by a joint second between Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and the trio of Elizabeth Warren, Mary Schapiro and Sheila Bair for their work during 2010 in cleaning the cobwebs of the US financial system & bringing it on track.
We'll soon know.