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You have to wonder what future there is for the human species on this planet when you time after time run into the likes of Aled John. One reason to be optimistic: he shows the WikiLeaks recruitment process to be a lot more efficient than most.
John - a very slowly budding journalist very much of the old school - got an article online at the Independent. Most of what you read is sour grapes. Pretending indifference when one is categorically dismissed is a defence mechanism.
John got an interview with the Man. With Julian Assange. Who was looking to recruit a few wet ears for WikiLeaks PR purposes. Anyone can write; few have the courage or the character. Determining the quantity of both is the purpose of the interview.
John calls the interview 'unconventional'; one wonders how many interviews John has been through. Most people don't encounter too many job interviews because they succeed in getting a job - and then it can be years before they have another. By which time the methodology may have changed again. The more experienced John is at interviews, the more rejections he's already had. Obviously.
'What would you do if you had to kill one man to save a hundred?'
That's the question John gets. And he's nonplussed by it. He's supposed to be. He replies with the inevitable 'that's an impossible question to answer' which of course is true. The phrasing's a bit off from John's POV. Note 'had to kill'. John doesn't see this and misses the entire point; he doesn't see that the question isn't asking him 'to kill or not to kill' but merely 'what would you do'. Laugh? Run? Cry? Find out who made the ultimatum? Find a way around it?
The interviewer is trying to get to know the interviewee; asking such a question puts both of them outside the realm of coutume. People are brought out of their shells with their stock of well rehearsed replies to 'conventional' interview questions.
John fails miserably - not because he doesn't get the right answer (there is no answer) but because he doesn't 'get it': he doesn't understand what's happening. Put another way: he's shown he has shallow character and inferior intellect.
'You have no connection to either group of people.'
The ultimate test of a man? When one has personally nothing to lose either way? Hemingway talked about that. What would John do? What would a despot do? That's added to provoke more response from John. But he seems totally shut down. Now in the aftermath of his failure, he offers the following behind the WikiLeaks guy's back.
'I think I know the answer Assange wants.'
O RLY? Think again, Bucko.
'Well, if I could rationalise that the greater good would be achieved by saving more lives, then I guess the man would have to go.'
O RLY again? So you're willing to murder? To assume the power of life and death over other living creatures? OK. That's it. That's the answer to the $64,000 question. As if this is a Google techie interview. Where you're supposed to guesstimate how many petrol stations there are in the US.
John keeps on digging himself in deeper. Hold on.
'How strange to utter the death sentence of an unknown innocent for the greater good of the many, to impress in a job interview.'
Yes but you did it, John. You decided to take a life. You decided you're OK with it. If only to do some sucking up to get a job. And thereby insult your prospective employer. 'Twas good you realised (at least in retrospect) how despicable you were. But it's a bit late now. That innocent man is already dead. You killed him.
John now adds a few pretentious polysyllabic words of cautiously imprecise meaning in an attempt win back his Independent audience and hide his flustering.
'This reductionist moral utilitarianism seems ethically unjustifiable, but what do I know?'
What a mouthful. Cheers, dude. That'll do it. Ciao bello.
'I wonder if I'm glimpsing the fringes of Assange's philosophy and it's unsettling. The idea is dangerous.'
Dangerous? Where? Odds are John didn't glimpse anything. Precious few worries of that. But first day out of diaper school in the real world and already he's freaking out. Beaucoup de worries there.
There's of course the other subtle point to the question: see how people react to the thought their actions might unwittingly cause harm to others. Obama's actions have caused a great deal of harm to others of late. How about the actions of a future Aled John? Not much hope as things stand, unfortunately. He's keen to sacrifice innocents. He said so.
John extrapolates further, changing the subject (in case there was one).
'The claustrophobia of his house arrest and the siege mentality provoking this philosophy are reflected in his constant talk of being 'at war' and echoed by the Stockholm Syndrome-lite relationship between him and his disciples.'
'Stockholm Syndrome-lite'? Pretentious? Toi?
So Aled John's put the final nail in his coffin. Speaking as true mental midget dilettante, John describes the situation at Ellingham as akin to a situation in a bank at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm. At least he got the city right. But the syndrome's about hostages being friendly with their captors - something people in Sweden are anyway. But the media wouldn't have anything to write about if they told you that. At any rate, it's not about captives under siege. Try again.
And perhaps the puerile John doesn't realise it, but there is a war going on. One almost cringes at the suspicion John will next remark on Julian's hairdo or the unexpected baritone or there's something wrong with his microphone. Or ask how 'Assange' is spelled.
But Julian moves on with the perfect reply, telling John it was a good answer. Which of course doesn't at all indicate he means it. But that's something the cerebrally disenfranchised John would never pick up. It's fair to say at this point that the interview is over and that John is headed for the door, never to return.
'For all the initial excitement', writes John, 'I leave bewildered and deflated.'
Failure's a crusher. Confusion makes it only worse.
'Realising the vanity that had driven me to think of becoming involved in WikiLeaks, I resolve not to pursue it.'
Vanity? Aled John vain? Oh well. He's the one says so. But frankly: it wouldn't have mattered much what John resolved. The ultimate test of the efficiency of the WikiLeaks recruitment process is that the staff don't have to tell the failed prospects to be gone.
A textbook example of a butthurt applicant. Did you even think that maybe the point of the question was not to test your 'moral utilitarianism' but rather to get some insight into how and how deep you think about such things? Maybe the simple fact that you think there is a 'right' answer, and that said answer (the one you thought would please Assange) is killing the man, made you unfit for the job. I sure as hell wouldn't hire you.
- Nicolás Palanca