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Celebrity Supporters of Julian Assange Misguided, Critics Say

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Julian Assange and filmmaker Michael Moore (AP/Reuters).

This week, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore said he made available $20,000 to help jailed WikiLeaks website founder Julian Assange make bail, in addition to offering the assistance of his website, servers, domain names and anything else he “can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving." 

Swedish authorities have since appealed the bail, which will keep Assange behind bars another 48 hours.

But Moore wasn’t the only high-profile media figure reaching out to Assange, who recently released thousands of highly confidential U.S government documents on his website, and was arrested last week because of sexual assault claims from two women. Other notables who advocated support for Assange’s bail fund included human rights advocate and ex-wife of Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger, socialite/philanthropist Jemima Khan, British filmmaker Ken Loach and journalist John Pilger.

Despite the mounting legal issues for Assange, Moore hinted that, in his opinion, his arrest has very little to do with the rape allegations.

"For those of you who think it's wrong to support Julian Assange because of the sexual assault allegations he's being held for, all I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please -- never, ever believe the 'official story,'" Moore said in a statement posted online.

And in an in-depth article written for the U.K Guardian, Khan, who became a fixture in British tabloids in 2004 after becoming romantically involved with Hugh Grant, explained that she is defending Assange because she believes he is a victim of “fundamental injustice,” and the timing of his arrest was “suspicious” – adding that the “accusation of rape is the ultimate gag.”

Jagger, like Moore and Khan, seemed to assert that Assange’s rape charges was an orchestrated ploy by the U.S government to get him behind bars, and Sweden appealing the bail is yet another example of the U.S at work behind-the-scenes.

“I am appalled by US Gov efforts 2 restraint free speech, & violate due process in #JulianAssange’s case. Is there collusion bet US & Sweden?” she Tweeted on Tuesday.

Yet according to media expert and documentarian John Ziegler, the Julian Assange affair runs far deeper than simply being an issue of “free speech.”

“I agree that there are important speech issues involved here, but I think it really has far more to do with the fact that Hollywood types love celebrity, danger and anti-Americanism. Assange now represents all three of those,” Ziegler told Pop Tarts. “Heck, if you watch ‘Saturday Night Live’ you would think Assange is a sexy hero! The ‘SNL’ sketches capture that perverted notion perfectly. He is seen as famous, smart, powerful, sexy, and anti-establishment/anti-America, all of which Hollywood admires and craves.”

Over the weekend, actor Bill Hader appeared on "SNL" as the disgraced WikiLeaks founder for the second time. Using a camera he snuck into the British jail cell where he was being held for questioning over rape allegations, Assange interrupted a MasterCard commercial with threats to tamper with our favorite websites including Netflix, Orbitz, and Facebook if he isn’t released.

Given the fact that Assange was “in” enough to be lampooned by the folks on "SNL," coupled with the likes of Moore and Jagger speaking out, is it just a matter time before other celebrities officially become Assange fans because they think he has a cool, Bond-esque persona? 

“There is no doubt that support from prominent people helps him (Assange) in indirect ways,” warned Ziegler. “Public pressure is sometimes more powerful than legal pressure and that gets mitigated when celebrities are supporting someone like Assange because it is far easier than for others to come to his aid. That’s human nature.”

In advocating his support for Assange, “Fahrenheit 9/11” director Moore stated that if WikiLeaks was around to squash U.S governmental “lies” in 1964, the Vietnam War would never have happened and “58,000 of our soldiers (and 2 million Vietnamese) might be alive today.”

“That kind of 20/20 hindsight and revisionist history is both disingenuous and dangerous,” Ziegler argued. “You can’t look at these things in a vacuum as people like Moore seem to love to do. The notion of ‘transparency’ is always good is like telling flood victims that water is the foundation of life.”

Washington, D.C-based author and media strategist David Henderson agreed that Moore’s theory on Vietnam as an excuse to defend Assange is flawed.

“Vietnam was half a century ago, times have changed,” he explained. “We have far more openness and transparency and our reasons for being in the Middle East are much different. Has Moore forgotten 9-11?”

Several political and media experts believe that this is a situation where those in show business need to mind their own business.

“Hollywood should absolutely butt out and frankly, Assange is the true definition of a terrorist. What he’s done has put our soldiers’ lives at risk,” said Jenniffer Rodriguez, Chairman of the California Young Republicans, while Henderson added that “smarter minds in Hollywood will no doubt opt not to be associated with Assange.”

Matthew Vadum, Senior Editor at the Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C said it isn’t in anyone’s best interest to join the pro-Assange assembly.

“Excessive government secrecy is a bad thing but the government has to be able to keep some things secret on national security grounds. Julian Assange has admitted he's not interested in promoting governmental transparency: he's interested in causing the downfall of the U.S. government. By publishing secret documents he hopes to cause chaos. So far he's succeeding,” Vadum said. “If Hollywood celebrities want to align themselves with avowed enemies of the United States like Julian Assange, that's their prerogative. Assange's leaks have reportedly identified informants in Afghanistan who have worked with the U.S. against the Taliban. Their blood will be on Assange's hands.”

But entertainment reporter Gayl Murphy argued that this is not a matter of Hollywood butting in or out, but a matter of exposing “wrongdoing” whether the public likes it or not.

“This handful of so-called showbiz types don’t operate in the Hollywood bubble,” Murphy said of Moore and the other supporters.  “This particular group of writers and filmmakers don’t write, make movies or pander to popular culture. These guys get their hands dirty talking about unpopular and subversive subjects, which believe it or not are not necessarily Hollywood friendly either. Nobody likes to make a big noise unless it is about them.”

“Michael Moore operates totally on the ground and is the closest documentarian to what is happening in America right now as a result of the carnage of the economic meltdown," she said. "Hollywood has broken more rules and changed more policy than any other industry or legislative body in the world. From blacklisting to racial decimation, women’s rights and how we think about war, famine and disease, Hollywood has always acted as a punching bag for so many struggles.”

On that note, struggles make Oscar-worthy stories. It’s probably only a matter of a time before “Julian Assange: The Movie” comes to a theater near you.

Deidre Behar contributed to this report

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