WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may be nearly five hundred days into his house arrest after charges of sexual misconduct, but that hasn’t stopped his self-promotional juggernaut from rolling on, with the premiere today of his talk show, The World Tomorrow, on English-language Russian news channel, RT. The episode, the first of twelve completed half-hour segments, featured an extensive interview with Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese paramilitary organization and political party Hezbollah. Throw in original music by fellow controversial lightning rod M.I.A., and what you get is the splashiest TV debut since 2 Broke Girls.
Leaving aside your personal views of Assange, there’s no denying Nasrallah is a considerable get for the nascent series, his first interview in the West in six years. And Assange, clearly baiting controversy, pulled no punches, leading off with a forcefully pointed question: “What is your vision for the future of Israel and Palestine?” Nasrallah’s lengthy response began succinctly, “The state of Israel is an illegal state.” The ensuing interview ranged over a series of Middle East topics, offering few surprises and little confrontation between two men who seemed to be largely in agreement.
Nonetheless, Nasrallah was an ideal attention-grabbing first interviewee for a show that RT promised will feature “an eclectic range of guests who are stamping their mark on the future: politicians, revolutionaries, intellectuals, artists, and visionaries.” And despite its public-access production values, the show does hold out the potential of promise, although chances are Assange will waste it by avoiding anyone who wavers significantly from his own doctrinal world view.
It is not asking too much to expect more rigorous and thoughtful questioning from a man who for a while had many of the world’s most powerful governments frightened for their own stability. While chances are slim that Assange would have been able to book anyone who would give him cause for any sort of serious debate (Can you imagine, for example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—who “strongly condemns” WikiLeaks in the show’s intro—agreeing to a session?), The World Tomorrow so far feels like a cop-out, a weak cry for attention from both host and network. Nonetheless, we remain halfheartedly curious to see the next eleven subjects Assange considers “some of the most interesting and controversial people alive in the world today.” Although I don’t think we’ll be tuning in.