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Media Bites: Julian Assange and Other International Men of Mystery

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We don't usually get into foreign affairs over here at Media Bites, but sometimes life just hands you one of those weeks where nothing on the domestic seems to be turning anyone's journalistic crank (except Quebec, of course. Yes, yes, Pauline Marois: big racist, I get it).

Anyway, this weekend Canada's papers were filled mostly with chatter about noted Internet Deep Throat/Simpsons guest star Julian Assange, and his recent Ecuadorian embassy-squatting shenanigans in England. None of the glitz and glamor of a Jason Kenney story, I grant you, but we'll just have to make due.

Now, compared to some other parts of the world, Canada got a pretty soft ride from Wikileaks. Lacking any secret war plans to reveal or covert covert air raids to expose, our bombshells were mostly lame junk like the U.S. embassy mildly criticizing Michael Ignatieff or Obama refusing to RSVP for the Vancouver Olympics. But if the great white north got a pass from the great white hair, the nation's press has hardly been in any great hurry to return the favour.

A vainglorious attention-seeker with a Napoleon complex is how Wayne K. Spear of the National Post describes Julian, adding that the Aussie's politics are as "lazy and undisciplined" as his cause is "morally empty." Ooh, look at me, I'm Julian Assange, says Wayne. I can forward other people's emails! And now I want to emigrate to Ecuador, a country with no free speech, rather than be held accountable for my alleged Scandinavian sex crimes! I'm such a hero!

This theme of Ecuadorian tyranny comes up a lot in these anti-Assange editorials, which is cool, because I didn't realize that was such a big thing. Also, did you know the capital of Ecuador is "Quito"? Just goes to show that Canadian newspapers can teach you fun facts about something other than Francois Legault.

Over at the Ottawa CitizenProfessor Jennifer Welsh is disappointed that Assange, this once "liberal promoter of free expression" is now "joined at the hip to a government known for its less than tolerant approach to the media," but also frets that England may be out of options to prevent his exile to that regime. If anything, all this talk of bashing down embassy doors has just proven an "unexpected gift to the Ecuadoreans," she says, what with their paranoid conspiracy theories and all.

So what's the fix? Ho ho ho, Dr. Jenny is a career academic, you clod, she's not in the business of actually providing "solutions" to the problems she diagnoses! But I'm sure the Brits appreciate this nice Canadian lady telling them how hopeless their situation is just the same.

Though most papers were on the Assange-bashing bandwagon, only the Globe and Mail was steamed enough to churn out a formal editorial board editorial against the guy, calling the wannabe anarchist a big fat hypocrite for seeking the warm embrace of "state power and international law" now that it's his embattled assets on the line.

T'was a risky move, to be sure. If Wikileaks II involves a massive info-dump of Jeffrey Simpson's secret plans for drone strikes against the Hamilton Spectator, you'll know why.

***

Last week, I ended my Monday column with a brief shout-out to Paul Ryan, another fun foreigner whose sparkling blue eyes were just beginning to seduce the Canadian press.

Well, in the days since, his haunting allure has only increased, with all the big names in Canuck punditry scrambling to spill their brain juices about the Republican VP-in-waiting. And shock: everyone who writes for a left-wing paper thinks he's scary and awful, while all the right-wing pundits think he's super-keen.

Take curmudgeonly ol' Rex Murphy, for instance. He thinks Ryan's a "knockout," especially compared to the "Jar Jar Binks who currently serves President Obama" -- known as "Joe Biden" on this side of Coruscant.

(As an aside, I just want to note that this was somehow not the only Star Wars prequel-themed vice presidential analogy in the Canadian press this week, since  Macleans' Scott Feschuk also riffed that Ryan possessed "the ideological flexibility of Count Dooku.")

Rick Salutin at the Star, meanwhile, thinks Ryan's whole collectivism-bashing shtick is just a big disingenuous waste of time, since collectivism "simply describes what we are" as a species. For example, the fact that all liberal pundits have simultaneously decided to hate Paul Ryan for shallow ideological reasons is a good example of collective bloviating.

Of course, the grasping for a guilt-free Canadian angle on this most American of stories continues unabated. Writing in the Post, for instance, everyone's favourite Canamerican, David Frum, notes that Paul Ryan and Stephen Harper are kinda the same but kinda different, adding that Ryan should try and be more different in the way Harper's different while Harper should stay the same in the way he and Ryan are already the same -- but without being so the same that it would undermine the important ways in which he's already different. This will help make America's choice clearer.

Once again, I must apologize for the impenetrably exotic detour in today's little media survey. I promise next time there'll be no more boring gossip about international men of mystery and prospective leaders of the free world, allowing us to return to much more fun and accessible Canadian topics, like the Ontario education department's ongoing labour negotiations.

You can thank me later.