A recent attack from Internet mischief-makers hasn't deterred Gawker's willingness to court controversy. It's obtained and printed e-mails from Julian Assange to a girl, using the pseudonym Elizabeth, who says Assange tried to court her when he was a 33-year-old student at the University of Melbourne studying physics and mathematics and she was 19 years old — and uninterested. Here's hoping the freedom-of-information warriors will respect this leak as much as the cables. Elizabeth, whose side of the conversation is missing from Gawker's post, says she never felt threatened by Assange's pursuit, "she viewed it as misguided attempts at courtship by a socially awkward nerd." But her decision to release these e-mails while Assange, currently out on bail, is being charged with sex crimes in Sweden, can't exactly be described as neutral.
But there's something about the e-mails themselves, in which Assange relentlessly, condescendingly, and cryptically finds himself unable to get it through his gray hair that Elizabeth is uninterested, that just sounds so familiar.
Elizabeth gives Gawker her impression of Assange:
"I started talking to him and he just seemed kind of quiet and nerdy," she told us in a phone interview. "I didn't think he was sexy or anything. Just strangely alluring for a 19-year-old girl." Assange flirted with her, showing off by explaining complex equations and joking about her mathematical ignorance.
Hmmm, social awkwardness, flouting one's intellectual superiority, leveraging your tech skills to make yourself feel better about rejection ... is it just us or do these e-mails sound like Mark Zuckerberg's character from The Social Network? Wait, does that mean that WikiLeaks could all be an attempt to impress a girl he couldn't get??? (John Heilemann pointed out many parallels between Zuckerberg and Assange in this week's magazine.) But maybe Aaron Sorkin's screenplay wasn't as fictional as we thought. He just had the wrong subject. We can almost picture the last scene. Instead of Jesse Eisenberg in a conference room hitting refresh to see if he's been friended, it would be Julian Assange under "manor-arrest" in Suffolk hacking into Elizabeth's computer to see if she clicked on all those diplomatic cables he leaked for her. Hack. Hack. Hack.