What will you bid for lunch with Julian Assange?

Jun 16, 2011
Ben Riley-Smith

A WikiLunch with Jules is up for auction at eBay. Does it have the whiff of desperation?

Julian Assange has forged a career out of revealing the inner secrets of international diplomacy. Now members of the public can get the inside scoop on WikiLeaks by bidding for one of eight spaces available to have lunch with the enigmatic Australian.
The chance to sit down with Assange and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek is up for auction on eBay. The winning bidders are promised a three-hour intimate lunch at "one of London's finest restaurants" in early July, before getting a front-row seat at a talk by the two men that evening at The Troxy.
The offer was posted by the eBay user 'slavojulian', who joined the site this month. Potential bidders are told that "100 per cent of the final sale price will support WikiLeaks". Prices for the eight spaces currently range from £1,000 and £4,000, but, with four days still to go, the winning bids are expected to finish at between £5,000 and £8,000.
Since WikiLeaks published confidential US military war logs and US diplomatic cables in 2010, it has become harder to donate money to the organisation. Visa, MasterCard and PayPal have all prevented donors from making transactions to WikiLeaks, forcing supporters to use alternative channels that are more expensive and obscure.
Yet James Bell, a former WikiLeaks spokesmen, dismissed suspicions that the lunch auction suggested financial desperation. "WikiLeaks raised over $1m last year and its overheads are astonishingly low for an organisation of its impact. I don't think they are in dire straits yet."
It is more likely, Bell suggested, that Assange's vanity was the motivation for the event. "It's hard not to conclude ego might be driving the fundraising, rather than any kind of cash maximisation. That said, they're entitled to raise money however they wish."

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