Twitter gets the better of Assange address to Cambridge Union over Wikileaks

Julian Assange really need not have worried about his cloak and danger appearance at the Cambridge Union (journalists were banned) for the ever resourceful university press was in fine form ‘tweeting’ the whole event.

It was unclear whether 39-year-old Mr Assange, wanted in Sweden to face sex offences, requested all this behind closed doors nonsense but the union president was insistent it was a closed meeting,

“We create intimate settings and many speakers accept our invitations on the basis that they can speak frankly and personally to a contained group of union members,” said Lauren Davidson, a third year theological student from Christ’s College, so unlikely to be fearful of upsetting Fleet Street’s finest.

“A lack of press presence is our default position, as opposed to the other way around.”

Aspiring hacks who inhabit the university press were having none of it so full marks to Varsity magazine for this succession of ‘tweets’ during Mr Assange’s hour-long address.

Twitter highlights included:

*He’s here

Most Read

*Talk on diplomatic cables

*Discussing privatisation of info - quotes Orwell

*Puts himself in trad of radical publishers

*Talking about Iraq cables - USA aware of info in back pocket

*Always looking for max political impact

*Today 6 mil cables about India

*Al-aqba publishing their cables. Servers directed to Saudi sex site

*Believes state intelligence involved

*Discusses online conflict becoming physical in Tunisia

*Exposing pseudo governments to their people

*Onto Egypt - cables not just for people but so West can’t stand up against an uprising

*Criticises what West call stability and people on ground call dictatorship

*Quotes Biden calling him a terrorist and claiming Mubarak not a dictator

*Claims Al Jazeera much more important than Twitter

*Internet ‘greatest spying machine world has ever seen’

*Wants to move away from this trajectory. And make it a tool of liberation - a battle only just beginning

*Asked about the law and suggests there comes a point when need to ignore the law and turn to ethics, eg Israel’s laws/ suggests unethical

*Someone removed from chamber

*Bradley Manning - arrest not linked to Wikileaks but to betrayal by Wired magazine

*That’s it

*So there we go. Wasn’t meant to happen, but we did it. Now let’s watch this private talk go public. Bet Assange never expected that...

One twitterer inquired as to “how is Cambridge Union going to police Twitter ban for Assange talk? Why the secrecy? What’s Jules-baby going to say that’s so hush hush?” What indeed?

Another couldn’t help but notice the date: “Ides of March and Julian Assange addresses Cambridge Union... coincidence? I hope no”.

Varsity later reported that two union members were escorted off the premises for allegedly using recording equipment.

One second year student was asked to leave after being ‘caught’ using his mobile phone, despite protesting that he was simply sending a text to a friend. Union officials apparently later apologised to him and invited him back into the meeting but he declined – preferring no doubt to go somewhere less inhibiting.

Meanwhile, and later that night, it was revealed that the union had been penetrated anyway by a features writer for the Guardian, Patrick Kingsley, who filed a comprehensive 700-word article from the debate.

All a far cry from Patrick’s piece of earlier in the week for the Guardian (‘How a sandwich franchise ousted McDonald’s’) but a commendable piece in the face of such hostility.

Not unexpected, however, from a journalist who got a first in English from Cambridge and is a former editor of Varsity.

How the union president felt after all the huffing and puffing of the day is not recorded but she had little time anyway to consider it, being far too busy preparing to take part in tonight’s presidential debate.

The motion is that ‘This House believes the veil empowers women’ and all I can say is what’s written in advance on the union website.

“Lauren loves all things Marmite, and has no idea why she’s agreed to debate this line-up.”


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