The argument over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has so far taken place in a zone of ambiguity. Is he a principled genius or a megalomaniacal nihilist? A fugitive rapist or a political prisoner? The sexually charismatic shaman of web-based “scientific journalism” or the unlikely albinoid saviour of the declining newspaper industry? Much ink has been spilled trying to understand the mind and sensibility of Assange. Most profiles emphasise his resemblance to a Stieg Larsson character, a laptop-wielding crusader that only the 21st-century can have produced. Yet upon closer inspection Assange betrays a striking similarity to a 19th-century historical figure, the willy-nilly anarchist and failed Russian revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin.
Born in 1814 and justifiably forgotten today for his lack of theoretical rigor or coherent platform,