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TORONTO (Rixstep) — Reviewing a film for its historical accuracy requires knowledge of the film's material. Already early on in her review of The Fifth Estate, Grauniad writer Catherine Shoard fails.

Anything involving WikiLeaks (and the myriad attempts to undermine the movement) is more than meets the eye, as evidenced by the carousel surrounding the fishy story of August 2010 in Stockholm. But in this particular case, a movie produced by no less than Steven Spielberg, one needs to know the background on the authors of the books used as basic material. Both books are more than suspect.


Luke Harding was called back from Russia (where he was no longer welcome for stealing material from his international colleagues) to help a wayward David Leigh complete a rush job originally entitled 'The Rise and Fall of WikiLeaks'. Leigh is of course notorious for:

  1. Cajoling Assange into releasing Cablegate;
  2. Getting bro in law and ed in chief Rusbridger to sign a memorandum of understanding with strict stipulations how the materials were to be protected;
  3. Completely ignoring Rusbridger's promises and treating the materials with consummate carelessness;
  4. Taking on the decrepit James Ball, later found to be stealing documents for his mentor Leigh;
  5. Doing a deal with the disgraced Heather Brooke to obtain a spurious copy of Cablegate so Leigh could go behind the back of WikiLeaks and preempt a release together with Bill Keller's New York Times who were excluded from the deal;
  6. Getting caught out by Assange and turning all possible nuances of pale white when confronted in the Grauniad offices;
  7. Getting squeezed by bro in law when Assange threatened to give the files to Rupert Murdoch if they didn't behave.

And that's only Leigh. Far worse - yet far more amusing - is DDB. Or Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Or Daniel Schmitt as he once called himself. Or Daniel Berg as he was born. Berg's book is nothing less than utterly ridiculous, but simultaneously highly amusing, as Berg is not much of a writer, and not much of a techie either.

Berg was found out stealing huge sums of money from WikiLeaks. He was found out sabotaging (and attempting to sabotage) the organisation on a number of occasions, all well documented by Berg himself (the boob).

And the book itself is ridiculous from the get-go. Describing what socks he's wearing (they're from grandma) and exactly what's on the stove (has to be cauliflower or how about some funky stinky liverwurst) whilst opening multiple laptops as he sneaks away from work to monitor reactions to WikiLeaks releases - it becomes apparent early on that Assange used Berg for an introduction to the Chaos Computer Club and little more. And it's very telling that Assange is still today on very good terms with the famous club where cabinet members sit, whilst Berg has been ousted and has yet to ever pay any membership dues.

Daniel Berg. Aka Daniel Schmitt (named after his ninja cat). Aka Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Named after his 'wife and equal' Anke Domscheit. Who was anything but his equal. Being a full ten years older, having a young son she felt no qualms pushing to the side as she invited DDB to live with her within a week of meeting him. DDB is no Don Juan. He's not a Julian Assange. What did Anke, with clear connections to the CIA, want with him?

'He put creases in my newspapers!' 'He ate my Ovaltime!' 'He took too much Leberkäse!' 'He soiled my sofa!' And so forth. Such is the stuff of a book that Steven Spielberg wants to base a movie on?

Then add back from the first book by Harding and Leigh, where their intro has been debunked and proven to be hype. This is how one constructs a modern tale about living persons? Sorkin was very careful when writing his movie on Facebook, precisely because it's a movie about living persons - you can't risk inaccuracy. Sorkin did an excellent job. But Spielberg's project with Bill Condon doesn't seem to worry about such niceties.

And where is Catherine Shoard through all that?

She complains of jet lag when evidently flying from London to Toronto for the premiere. Jet lag usually works the other way around when one loses hours rather than gaining them. Oh well. Some characteristic sound bites:

'At heart, The Fifth Estate is a good, old-fashioned bromance'
'... this is highly competent catnip for the water cooler crowd'


But best of all:

'In fact, in adapting both a book on the affair by Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding, as well as tech activist Daniel Domscheit-Berg's account of working for Assange, The Fifth Estate is a project in whose sources one can place considerable faith.'

That puts the nail in the coffin for Shoard. Shoard evidently doesn't have a clue about WikiLeaks history, about the nasty work of Leigh, or the murky past of Harding, or the ridiculous irrelevance of DDB in his designer boots.

DDB once asked Assange why his hair was white. This is related in DDB's boy's adventure novel which some critics called a paean to unrequited love. So you know this isn't slurring DDB in any way, as DDB himself wrote it.

Julian's answer was telling in the extreme. He told DDB straight-faced that he had a hobby nuclear reactor in his cellar and something went wrong, it exploded or some such nonsense, and that his hair was white as a result.

DDB took the story at face value, with a slight reservation for the possibility the story may in fact have been made up.

Thanks for that, DDB. For it shows your readership in a totally unequivocal way what Assange really thought of you.

The early history of WikiLeaks was not only the story of Trafigura and frightening nights in Africa, but also the story of weeding out early bad elements to arrive at the solid and stable organisation of today. All of this comes after the time period of the books used for the movie.

Spielberg bought up two books, two tales told by three idiots - and paid even more money to scoundrels like Keller, Rusbridger, and Leigh for their 'life rights' - in an attempt to corner the Assange market. (Assange didn't get paid anything.) But the materials are worthless. Kate's hubby didn't check the materials for accuracy. He just let a number of unwitting - dimwitted - moviemakers go loose on it. Something for the water cooler? Perhaps. But historically accurate? Sorkin must be smiling.

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