Usually after a suspected criminal has been arrested, or is in the middle of a federal espionage investigation, for example, parents, co-workers, and neighbors go out of their way to tell prying journalists how they never suspected he was capable of such a thing, or how they never saw it in him. But not Julian Assange's stepdad. Sporting a leather jacket, black turtleneck, and rectangular glasses ensemble that has to be a nod to Sprockets, Brett Assange told CNN's Australian affiliate, Seven News, "Strangely enough, I always thought he would do something like this." His stepfather then follows it up with a seemingly more damning admission, widely quoted in the Australian press: "He certainly wouldn't take no for an answer." Oy, Brett. You are aware your stepson was just arrested on rape charges, no? But despite these quotable revelations, which will no doubt be taken out of context, the interview paints a picture of young Julian, who has yet to shake his international man of mystery mystique, as an engaged, "very bright boy with a keen sense of right and wrong."
Brett Assange, who raised his stepson from the age of 1, recounted an incident where Julian fell out of a tree and broke his arm but still "didn't cry or show his emotions," foreshadowing the same steely demeanor he has demonstrated in interviews. His stepfather added:
"He always stood up for the underdog. I remember that, like with his school friends. He was always very angry about people ganging up on other people. He had a really good sense of equality and equity."
In an earlier interview, Christine Assange, the mother of the WikiLeaks front man, also stressed his intelligence and finely tuned ethical compass, but worried that her son had become "too smart for himself" and that his truth-seeking ways led him to challenge forces that were "too big."
As eye-opening as these revelations about Assange are, it's impossible not to consider the potentially biased sources. Indeed, when asked, his stepfather said he hoped Julian would get the message that "I wholeheartedly support him in everything he's doing." His mother said, "Whether you agree with what Julian does or not, living by what you believe in and standing up for something is a good thing."
Even with more information, it seems it's still impossible to pin down whether Assange is a crusader using technology to expose authoritarian regime (as per his manifesto) or a self-aggrandizing, morally bankrupt fame-seeker, or some perplexing amalgam of both. We'll do Time magazine's "Person of the Year" designation one better and call him Enigma of the Aughts.