Assange’s mental health

By Felix Salmon
January 6, 2011

Does anybody actually like the person that Julian Assange has become of late? He seems to infuriate everybody he comes into contact with: his former spokesman, for instance, is writing a book about him which accuses him of “high-handedness, dishonesty and grave mistakes”. And then there’s this, from Guardian journalist Nick Davies, who worked very closely with Assange:

At the beginning of August, I cut off contact with him in order to protest at several things he had done — the first time I have cut off a source in 34 years as a reporter. This was nothing to do with the sex allegations in Sweden.

Intriguing! And even more so, now that Sarah Ellison has told the story of just what Assange did to cause the split:

On Saturday, July 24, the day before release, Davies received a call from someone he knew at the television network Channel 4. “You’ll never guess who I’m with,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. “I’m with Julian Assange. He’s just given me the entire Afghan database.” Davies was livid. Assange got on the phone and explained, falsely, according to Davies, that “it was always part of the agreement that I would introduce television at this stage.” Davies and Assange have not spoken since that afternoon.

This just feels incredibly unsatisfactory. The Afghan logs were already appearing in three different newspapers — the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel — so it’s not like Davies had some kind of exclusive he was trying to protect. In 34 years, I’m sure that Davies had been treated much worse than that by sources.

Instead, there seems to be something about Assange personally which sets people on edge and makes them dislike him intensely: his biggest fans are often those who have never met him or who have known him only for a very short amount of time.

That’s unfortunate, to say the least: it takes an issue which is messy to begin with and makes it a great deal messier. But at the same time, Assange has clearly been under an enormous deal of stress — and this is a man who once checked himself into hospital with depression after being charged with computer hacking in Australia. It’s easy to see how he wouldn’t have considered that to be an option in recent months.

My suspicion is that there’s something quite unstable and destructive about Assange’s current mental state and that there has been since before he was in Sweden. I hope his publishers have a lot of patience: getting his very expensive book into a publishable state could be a very arduous process indeed.


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Sadly, only an insane person would do what Assange has done. Almost by definition.

Posted by Setty | Report as abusive

Does anyone actually know Felix Salmon of late? He seems to infuriate anyone who mistook him for a journalist. One of his reader for instance, could write a book about him which accuses him of “high-handedness, dishonesty and grave mistakes”.

And then theres this from reader Elizabeth_M who read him very closely.

“Grow up you plonker and get a life!”

Posted by Elizabeth_M | Report as abusive

Why are you protecting pedophiles, Setty? wanna-small-boy-big-mac-sir

Posted by Elizabeth_M | Report as abusive

Who cares if about Julian’s idiosyncrasies? We all have them. It’s far more important to judge someone by what they do and what Julian Assange has done is unsurpassed in the history of journalism. It requires great courage, strenght and mental stamina. I have nothing but respect for him.

How about you consider writing about the important stuff that Julian has done and cease with this deflective garbage?

I never thought of Routers as ‘social media’, but this article goes even beyond tabloid.

Keep fighting the good fight, Julian. Character assassination is to be expected and fortunately you’re intelligent enough to know it. I just hope the rest of the world is.

Posted by Nameyname | Report as abusive

Well done,, Elizabeth_M.

Posted by Nameyname | Report as abusive

what exactly has he done, according to you setty? this article is meaningless and borders on yellow journalism.
also, i can’t believe the reuters deletes comments that do not agree with the superficial stuff you publish.

Posted by inna | Report as abusive

This article is puerile at best, and could well be construed as poisonous by any serious thinker!

Julian Assange quite obviously has many enemies, for very obvious reasons, none of which this article even attempts to address!

I’ve never read (or at least very rarely) a more ignorant, fatuous screed!

Grow up!

Posted by serious_thinker | Report as abusive

hmm … no analysis of the issues here

Just gossip – more Mainstream Journalism – out of its depth

Posted by juliansmth | Report as abusive

Ha ha nice one, Felix. Getting any attention now?

Posted by Ksatti | Report as abusive


We all struggle with giving you credit for being a meaningful journalist and not rolling our eyes at all the attention and exposure you receive on the basis of comparatively little achievement.

Please do not make that effort even harder with this type of garbage.

I think somewhere in your post, you voice support for Assange, but it is so muddled as to discredit you.

Posted by Sad_Oligarch | Report as abusive

Felix… I for one don’t struggle at all giving you credit for being not only a meaningful journalist but for being one of the best finance bloggers on the web.

Keep it comming!

And as a p.s. Julian Assange is man of the year in my book. An open society is our best chance for lasting peace and prosperity.

Posted by y2kurtus | Report as abusive

Julian took a math. course from me years ago. I do not remember which year or which course. His assignment grades were not good and he came a few times to discuss the assignments. He was more interested in the correct arguments than the grades and never made any fuss about the grades.

Posted by gaddeswarup | Report as abusive

You know the stress must this guy be under would make many crack. I think it unreasonable to criticize him with these pop pop-pyche bleets when the guy has a lot of guts.

The Sweden thing is a disgraceful attempt via the American to have him extradited for a length federal prison stay.

This is not about his sex life you idiots.

Posted by Zaphod2 | Report as abusive

Sorry about the grammar.

Posted by Zaphod2 | Report as abusive

Careful Felix, these Assange groupies sound like Scientologists or Chomsky cultists. You may end up with a dead fish in your mail box.

Posted by GF1980 | Report as abusive

I think Julian would be inclined to agree with this assessment even though he might also call it a character assassination. He knows what he is doing is taking its toll. (although narcissists can’t see that…)

He is a ‘different’ and has done his best to assure he remains outside of the mainstream yet still very public. It will be his downfall, and his supporters should be aware of that and not just pee on the messengers.

Does it take courage? Absolutely… and I applaud him for trying. But to think that doing this kid of heady stuff and being both so revered and reviled doesn’t make one crazy/paranoid/cloistered is to not have a clue … To think that this kind of stuff wouldn’t make enemies and garner criticism is silliness.

I wouldn’t wish to be in his shoes.

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive

Wow, another dog-pile on Felix day. Personally I’d take my advice and get out of NYC for a while. However, I don’t recommend Chicago, especially before early April.

FWIW, the old school hackers were all socially dysfunctional.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive

I don’t think being well liked is the only right criterium to judge people. I am sure this is not the main concern of other highly professional people at work like surgeons, policemen, managers etc. As a women “be nice” has sometimes been said to me as another way of saying “shut up, I want you to acknowledge how important I am”.

When I was young I got into a bit of trouble followed by a mental health assessment. The only thing they came up with in the end was that I have a high IQ. So I can tell from my own experience that high IQ can sometimes make people a bit out of sync. with the environment. At the same time it enables them to do unusual, long term stuff.

To me Mr. Assange is a typical case of the same. He has definitely achieved a lot over the last couple of months.

Posted by emirjame | Report as abusive

Let me get this right: The US is after him, and are up to all sorts of dirty tricks. Nick Davies has thrown a hissy fit over exclusivity, and the author has admitted its an over-reaction. Assange is also the target of what a lot of people in the world think are ludicrous rape claims.

And Assange has to worry abour his mental health?

If I was Davies, I’d be more concerned about my own mental health than if I was Assange. lol

Posted by Brendon5374 | Report as abusive

He has obviously gone wrong somewhere to have you all bickering about his personality and mental health instead of the issues involved. ie. We have corrupt governments all over the world using us as worker bees to keep them all in luxury, while society goes on its merry way ignoring all the facts. Are you actually reading any of the literature he is providing you with? Its a sure thing that if governments spread enough crap around about this mans character then attention to their monstrous behaviours will be directed away. Open your eyes to what is going on around you.

Posted by ettaariane | Report as abusive