You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Book Is About You
“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned” – William Congreve
“And although there’s pain in my chest / I still wish you the best with a / Fuck you” – Cee-Lo Green
Yesterday afternoon, I received a copy of ‘Inside WikiLeaks’ – Daniel Domschiet-Berg’s tell-all book about his time working with Julian Assange. It’s not hard to understand why Domschiet-Berg’s publisher thought I might appreciate it: after all, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I hold Assange in low regard. If anyone’s going to take pleasure from a no-punches-pulled hit-job on the world’s most famous hypocrite, it’s me, right?
Wrong. Really wrong.
In fact any appetite I had for Inside WikiLeaks quickly vanished when I read the following line in the accompanying press release…
“Domscheit-Berg resigned from WikiLeaks, dismayed by… the concentration of power by what he – and other core members of WL – regarded to be an increasingly autocratic, megalomaniac, and paranoid Julian Assange.”
I know it’s objectively wrong to judge a book by its cover letter, but reading that sentence instantly sealed Inside Wikileaks‘ fate, for me at least. I threw the book across the room, into the nearest trash can. If the act didn’t have such unpleasant associations, I’d probably have burnt the thing.
I mean, what disingenuous bullshit. Domschiet-Berg used to be WikiLeaks’ official spokesman. He partnered with Assange – and even spoke for him – because he believed in him personally, and in Wikileaks as a concept. He was close to the centre of power: so close that he described Wikileaks as “two loudmouthed young men [him and Assange] working with an antiquated server”. And yet, the fact that Assange is “autocratic, megalomaniac and paranoid” is suddenly surprising, and a source of dismay? Please. Those are the precise characteristics that made Assange the successful he’s become, and which continue to attract moths like Domschiet-Berg to his flame.
Unlike the authors of the Guardian’s and New York Times’ WikiLeaks books, who always maintained a journalist-source relationship with Assanage, Domschiet-Berg was a fully-fledged supporter and at times a friend and confidant. But now the two men have fallen out, Domschiet-Berg thinks the world wants to read about how much – in retrospect – he hates his former pal. Or how – in hindsight – WikiLeaks was a gigantic, corrupt house of cards. Sorry Daniel, we don’t.
In fact, trust me, there are few things people want to hear less than one human being complaining about how he or she was fucked over by another and how, as the Corrs once unconvincingly sang, “I never really loved you anyway”. How do I know this? Bitter personal experience.
It’s no secret that I haven’t always been the world’s most decent human being. I’m a recovering alcoholic, with a history of being a slightly terrible friend, a very terrible business partner and a very, very terrible boyfriend. Hell, a real, grown-up publishing house has commissioned not one – but two – books about how much of a dick I used to be. (I say “used to be” but, yunno, it’s a process). And so its not surprising that – from time to time – people from my past have popped up with revenge in mind.
In fact a significant part of my last book – and a smaller part of my next book – is spent discussing what it feels like when former business partners, or girlfriends (or both) decide to publicly take you down. Spoiler alert: it’s not nice. But here’s what it’s also not: effective.
Just look at what happens any time a celebrity’s former partner threatens to write a tell-all book or a disgruntled ex- commits a public act of revenge online: for every reviewer or commenter who sides with the disgruntled party, there are dozens more lining up to condemn them for their inability to “let go”. In a weird twist-of-hate, it’s often the complainer who ends up looking pathetic and desperate, while the target – who often is guilty as hell – becomes the poor, innocent victim. People really hate whiners. (Codicil to that rule: you occasionally get a pass if you write a book whining in support of someone who is dead. But even then, chance are you’ll still be hit with the “hell hath no fury” tag.)
Perhaps the ultimate example of this phenomenal is the case of the Winklevoss twins. There can be little doubt that Mark Zuckerberg acted like a bit of a dick towards them back in Harvard. He told them he was working on building their Social Network, but was in fact starting his own. Naughty Mark. But while eight years later, Zuckerberg is a multi-billionaire, the Winklevosses (I refuse to use the boilerplate plural joke) are still threatening law-suits, collaborating (along with fellow disgruntlee Eduardo Saverin) on a movie about their nemesis – and wailing to any talk show host who will listen (and Piers Morgan) about how wronged they were.
I think I speak for every television viewer in America when I say: you know what, Winklevosses? Boo fucking hoo. Move on. If you really were the brains behind Facebook then – to paraphrase Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay – you’d have spent the past few years creating an even better Facebook. But you haven’t. You’ve spent it demanding money from a kid you knew in college, to the point where suing Mark Zuckerberg become what you do for a living. Think I’m exaggerating? Just look at the first line of your respective Wikipedia pages…
Cameron Howard Winklevoss (born August 21, 1981) is an American rower who sued Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, for $140 million. He competed in the men’s pair rowing event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with his identical twin brother and rowing partner Tyler Winklevoss.
Tyler Howard Winklevoss (born August 21, 1981) is an American rower who sued Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, for $140 million dollars. He competed in the men’s pair rowing event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with his identical twin brother and rowing partner Cameron Winklevoss.
It’s official, boys: your biggest claim to fame is sitting under someone else’s table, demanding scraps. Oh, and you were in the Olympics that time.
There’s a quote, usually credited to Frank Sinatra, that I’ve adopted as something of a life mantra: “the best revenge is massive success”. And by God it’s true. The absolute best way to get back at a former lover, friend or business partner is not to bitch about them, but to move on to something – or someone – better. Don’t tell the world that you were the alpha partner, that you could do way better. Prove it.
And so it is with Domscheit-Berg. After leaving WikiLeaks, he created Openleaks, which I’ve praised on these pages as a possible stronger, better, less creepy successor to his previous haunt. I was willing Domschiet-Berg to succeed, particularly given my own animosity towards his rival. And then I received this book: this sordid little tell-all in which – according to the press release – Domschiet-Berg even admits to sabotaging part of WikiLeaks’ core infrastructure in order to cripple his soon-to-be rival. If there’s a hacker equivalent of cutting up your ex-husband’s best suits then surely that’s it.
It’s very possible Inside WikiLeaks contains some genuinely interesting information about WikiLeaks, and lessons on where it all went wrong. But Domschiet-Berg’s obvious hunger for revenge – his need to stand on Julian Assange’s lawn at 3am screaming “I’m over you!” – renders his account at best worthless, and at worst damaging to his cause.
Thanks to this book, I really don’t care if Domschiet-Berg is successful in his new endeavors or not. In fact, a large part of me just wants him to shut up and go away.
Ah, what the hell…