Donald Trump’s Mini-Me

Before clicking on this link from Patrick Sawer at The Telegraph, try to guess who he is talking about.

He is vain, secretive, paranoid and jealous, prone to leering at young women and making frequent sexist jokes – and that’s not the view of one of his many enemies, but of a friend who regards him sympathetically.

It sounds an awful lot like someone describing Donald Trump, doesn’t it? But that’s not who the story is about. The article was written back in February 2014 when Andrew O’Hagan published a lengthy piece about his experience of being hired to write a book about Julian Assange. I remember reading the entire O’Hagan article because it came out when Assange was still a hero to many on the left for his role in releasing the leaks provided by Chelsea Manning and in helping Edward Snowden find sanctuary in Russia. If you’d prefer a summary to that 24,000-word essay, Sawer provides this:

In a 45-page essay chronicling the collapse of a $2.5m deal for Assange’s autobiography, O’Hagan, an award-winning novelist and non-fiction author, recounts how he spent months with the Australian computer hacker in an attempt to extract material for the book…

“The man who put himself in charge of disclosing the world’s secrets simply couldn’t bear his own,” writes O’Hagan in the London Review of Books. “The story of his life mortified him and sent him scurrying for excuses. He didn’t want to do the book. He hadn’t from the beginning.

“He’d rather spend hours Googling himself than have his own say in the pages of his autobiography.”…

During their time together Assange behaves in front of O’Hagan like an egotistical tyrant interested more in his own self-publicity than in changing the world. Worse still, he turns on his friends with increasing regularity, rather than focusing his anger on his enemies.

It is the portrait of a man who is emotionally unstable, but has become an embattled hero in his own mind. In other words, Assange is a lot like Donald Trump.

That is why it is not surprising that the Wikileaks founder decided to copy his mentor’s biggest mistake of the campaign season.

WikiLeaks held a much-hyped news conference early Tuesday morning that its supporters and Hillary Clinton’s critics hoped would damage her chances at the presidency, even driving the Twitter hashtag #octobersurprise.

But instead of revealing new documents, the event was an hour-plus-long infomercial celebrating the activist group’s 10th anniversary, with speakers extolling the virtues of WikiLeaks and its past achievements.

Just as Trump Rick-rolled the press into covering his own hotel/campaign informercial by suggesting he’d make a big announcement about his embrace of birtherism, Assange pulled off the same thing by promising leaks that would end Clinton’s campaign. He obviously didn’t deliver – but left out enough bread crumbs that a lot of the media will continue to follow.

Assange said the organization would publish documents on various subjects every week for the next 10 weeks, and vowed that the U.S. election-related documents would all come out before Election Day on Nov. 8.

Assange seems to have alienated most of his fans on the left lately. The question is whether the rest of the media will catch on to the fact that they’re being played by a Trump mini-me.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.