The Moment

12|7|10: London

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With the detention of Julian Assange, who sat in London awaiting possible extradition to Sweden to face charges of sexual abuse, the WikiLeaks story started a new chapter. Already, the insouciance that greeted the first disclosure of U.S. diplomatic documents by Assange and his crew--it was no big deal, we already knew this stuff--had given way to a consensus that WikiLeaks had shed new light on the way the world works and forced into the open things that governments would have liked to keep in the shadows. Radical disclosure had become a form of accountability--albeit (and this is the key point) one not rooted in the political institutions of nation-states. With Assange being carted off to prison, a new dynamic emerged. As his supporters cheered outside court, fans online struck out at those who they said had attacked Assange (MasterCard, the Swedish prosecutor's office) and set up mirror sites to help WikiLeaks stay live. In the supposedly virtual world of cyberspace, an army of real people were anointing their new hero. This tale has many turns yet to come.