There's a new talking head – or should that be mouthpiece? – on the TV talk-show circuit and he made his debut Tuesday on RT, an English-language network, available online, started seven years ago by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The program, to run in 12 parts, is titled The World Tomorrow and its host is none other than Julian Assange, the 40-year-old founder of WikiLeaks. His first half-hour show, conducted from the estate in southern England where Assange is currently under house arrest, featured a thumping theme song by M.I.A. to introduce the program's only guest, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, in what was billed as Nasrallah's “first interview in the West since 2006.”
It was all a bit rich: Assange, self-described defender of the free flow of information, working in the service of the Kremlin, which has been notorious in its suppression of the media and demonstrations for greater freedom of expression.
Of course, Nasrallah, 51, wasn't in the West. He was in a “secret location” in his home country, Lebanon, linked by video to Assange and two translators at Assange's side. The interview itself will be the news – the content of the conversation, not so much – as Assange and Nasrallah companionably discussed events in Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
Assange for the time being shouldn't consider quitting his day job, which, until this moment at least, seemed to have been fighting attempts by Sweden to have him extradited to face sexual misconduct charges there. Assange has, of course, been a demonized figure in the West since WikiLeaks released a passel of secret government documents in 2010, while Nasrallah has been on Israel's hit list since at least 1992 when he assumed the leadership of Hezbollah.
Both Nasrallah and Assange seemed to realize that even a current-affairs show can't be all geopolitics. So, near the program's end, Assange asked his guest to recount “an amusing joke” about “how simplicity can defeat complexity.” Nasrallah went on to tell how his fighters in Lebanon have thwarted Israeli decryption analysts by using “village slang” to communicate in Arabic on their “simple walkie-talkies.” No Israeli security agent is going to be able to understand lingo about “the cooking pot … the donkey … or what the father of the chicken is and why they're calling him the father of the chicken,” Nasrallah observed with a smile, then added: “It's not going to do you any good at WikiLeaks by the way.”
If there was a scrap of news amid the banter, it probably came from Nasrallah's admission that he has been in touch with opposition groups in Syria and that Hezbollah would be “more than happy to mediate” a political solution between them and the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Assange criticized Hezbollah for supporting pretty much every Arab Spring uprising since late 2010, but not the one in Syria. Nasrallah retorted that al-Assad has been a longtime supporter of the Palestinians and the Lebanese people and Hezbollah wasn't about to turn its back on them in a time of trouble. “We're a friend of Syria, not an agent of Syria,” he said.
Assange tried to bring a little glory to the WikiLeaks cause by citing a report it had obtained from the U.S. embassy in Beirut supposedly quoting Nasrallah as being upset about the decadence of some Hezbollah members. As evidence of this, Assange cited Hezbollah members driving SUVs, wearing silk robes and “eating take-out.” Nasrallah pooh-poohed these reports, describing them as just one more attempt by the West to discredit his movement as a terrorist organization on par with the Mafia and drug traffickers.
In the meantime, Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan can rest comfortably knowing their jobs are secure.