In his struggle to maintain relevance, Julian Assange is like a liability friend: still somewhat magnetic based on undeniable intelligence and fascinating for past accomplishments, but increasingly tough to vouch for because of erratic and off-putting public behavior. There’s big talk and a lot of promises, but little follow-through, and yet it’s tough to turn away completely owing to a glimmer of hope that he might still surprise you. But his new show, The World Tomorrow, which premiered this morning on RT, was far from redemptive — it wasn’t even interesting.
Assange’s first guest was teased as “particularly controversial” and “highly charismatic”; it turned out to be Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, whose charisma, at least in this setting, was just highly overstated. After some sands-through-the-hour-glass WikiLeaks imagery and an intro of grainy, dramatically spliced revolution-ish footage, Assange appeared sitting at a desk in front of a computer with two translators. What followed was an underwhelming video chat from a few different angles.
“For 500 days now, I’ve been detained without charge, but that hasn’t stopped us,” Assange said, patching Nasrallah through from a “secret location” in Lebanon. “I want to know why is he called a freedom fighter by millions and, at the same time, a terrorist by millions of others,” the host wondered aloud. Then came predictable but not probing questions about Israel, Syria, and, yes, WikiLeaks cables, all of which Nasrallah answered as translators spoke over him, their respective volumes not quite balanced enough not to be distracting.
Lo-fi production values — think public-access plus Skype — plagued the entire 30-minute show as the camera switched between close-ups of Assange, often with his hands on his face, and Nasrallah, who sat plainly in front of a blue background and a pair of flags. Assange and his crew were in a cluttered room with wires tangled behind him, likely meant to illustrate the uncensored authenticity he preaches (not to mention his house arrest). But this is a television show, not a podcast, and still, the words weren’t much better than the visuals. “As a leader in war, how did you manage to keep your people together under enemy fire?” Assange asked in a way that only seemed to lionize, not challenge, his guest.
The interview ended without a spark, and suddenly MIA’s voice came through, singing “wiki-wiki-wiki” over a frantic beat, and marking the most charged few seconds of the broadcast.