The conspiracy theory that Julian Assange is dead appeared to be put to rest this weekend when the WikiLeaks founder made his first appearance in weeks, speaking with an interviewer for a conference in Beirut and talking about some current events.
The appearance gave the “proof of life” that many conspiracy theorists had been requesting from WikiLeaks in recent weeks as the rumors of his death grew. Those who subscribe to this theory believe that Assange had gone missing after a series of strange events around the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been living, including an internet outage and reports of armed men surrounding the building in November.
The theories of Julian Assange’s death grew as the WikiLeaks founder — cut off from the internet for many weeks — remained holed up and did not make any live appearances.
That ended early on Saturday, when Assange appeared at the fifth annual Free Connected Minds FCM conference, which was held in Beirut. Assange appeared via telephone, and one attendee explained that he gave the long-awaited “proof of life” by making reference to an event that took place this weekend.
“The moderator started by telling him to speak about Castro’s death so people know it’s not pre-recorded,” wrote one Reddit user who attended the conference.
— Mikael Thalen (@MikaelThalen) November 26, 2016
The reference showed that Julian Assange was still alive, the person reported, but other doubts still remained. The Reddit user posted the account on a subreddit dedicated to the conspiracy theory, and some people responded that he may still be in custody at some undisclosed location.
Others believed that the entire appearance may have been faked, and that the person talking wasn’t Assange at all.
“Use a good voice actor who’s already close, or a good video actor who is familiar with the target’s mannerisms, and things come together pretty convincingly,” one person speculated.
WikiLeaks appeared to do its part to quash the theories, posting the full audio of Saturday’s conference.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 26, 2016
The events of the last few weeks had led many to believe that some kind of government agency moved to silence WikiLeaks, which had inserted itself into the U.S. presidential race by releasing emails from the campaign manager of Hillary Clinton as well as the Democratic National Committee.
The conspiracy theory that Assange was dead built through a mix of speculation and some outright fake news. While some of the evidence may have been based on actual events — like Ecuador’s decision to cut off Assange’s internet amid his alleged interference with the U.S. presidential election — other bits were outright lies. Some sites like the Conservative Daily Post falsely reported that Julian Assange was dead.
Julian Assange overtakes Donald Trump in TIME Person of the Year reader's poll https://t.co/3l1wQ9rFwh
— TIME (@TIME) November 21, 2016
Regated was one of the outlets calling on WikiLeaks to show some proof of life for Julian Assange to quell the theories he had died.
“The most telling aspect of this entire situation is WikiLeak’s refusal to do something so simple. Showing proof of life is not a tedious, drawn-out procedure mired with complexities.
“It’s as simple as having Assange sign off on a message with a PGP signature, it’s a simple as snapping a picture of him holding up a currently-dated newspaper. WikiLeaks has countless options to show proof-of-life but so far have shown nothing.”
Judging by the responses to the Reddit user’s account of Saturday’s conference, it appears that the conspiracy theory that Julian Assange is dead won’t be put to rest so easily. Many people still appeared to have doubts, and continued to call on the WikiLeaks founder to take a simple approach to ending the speculation — by simply going to the window at the Ecuadorian embassy and making a live appearance.
[Featured Image by Matt Dunham/AP Images]