Assange and WikiLeaks: Secrets, Personae and the Ethopoetics of Digital Leaking

Andrew Munro


This article suggests a rhetorical orientation for some future work in persona studies. In this paper, I maintain that persona studies can usefully contribute to the close description of complexes of discursive events. In particular, I contend that persona studies can enhance efforts in the humanities to describe discursive events involving public figures who have achieved a degree of fame or notoriety. The descriptive purchase of persona studies is maximised, I argue, when we foreground its rhetorical and semiotic postulates.

To make this case, I read the figure of Julian Assange rhetorically. By focussing on questions of ethos and ethopoesis – the performative, discursive construction of full human character – I show that Julian Assange can be usefully read as a particular, digitally inflected instantiation of the persona of the information activist.

In this instance, persona studies helps us to read the constitutive relation between digital leaking and issues of secrecy and publicity, and to understand the fortunes of the figure of Julian Assange in terms of Assange’s particular performance of the persona of the digital information activist. 


Assange; WikiLeaks; secrecy; leaking; whistleblowing; rhetoric; genre; semiotics; information activism; persona; persona studies

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