Julian Assange as a villain in a Batman script?

Originally published at The Benfell Blog. Please leave any comments there.

It’s pretty well known that a problem with a lot of mass media entertainment is that it casts the world into dichotomous terms of good versus evil that inhibit understanding a diverse world with diverse values and diverse problems. But even from the Weekly Standard, I don’t expect this, which I received in email this morning:

Where’s Batman when you need him? Every time I see a picture of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, I can’t help thinking of the 2008 blockbuster The Dark Knight.

Here’s why. Assange, an anarchist hacker, is an enemy of the United States. His release of classified information has endangered American lives and American interests. He is providing America’s enemies with insight into our military and diplomatic operations. Most dangerous of all, he has exposed the superpower as weak. We seem powerless to stop him. The most recent document dump is Assange’s third. Another is reportedly in the works.

Why is America helpless? One reason is that Assange is beyond our reach. An Australian national, he appears to be hiding out in various Scandinavian countries. (There are pending rape charges against him in Sweden.) Everybody knows Assange is the mastermind behind WikiLeaks. But at this writing no charges against him have been filed and no requests for extradition have been issued.

A similar situation confronts Gotham City in Dark Knight. In the movie, a mob banker has fled to Hong Kong. He is outside the reach of American law, and the Chinese refuse to extradite him. Gotham’s D.A., Harvey Dent, turns to the Caped Crusader because “Batman has no jurisdiction.” And sure enough, Batman captures the mob banker and returns—renders?—him to the Gotham authorities.

The theme of The Dark Knight is that in certain situations, such as dealing with anarchists and terrorists, the polis must break with liberal principles in order to defend liberal society. To stop the WikiLeaks nonsense and keep America safe, President Obama will have to be a superhero. And he may have to go beyond liberal pieties.

Never mind that United States’ alleged virtue is contested. Never mind that as Digby suggests, its power could use checking. Never mind that the forthcoming dump has been reported by several sources to be against a criminal financial institution (Bank of America has denied being the one). Just call in Batman.