WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange helped M.I.A. kick off her Matangi tour on Friday night. According to Consequence of Sound, the activist opened the show with a 10-minute chat over Skype, addressing the crowd at New York City’s Terminal 5 from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he is currently living in exile.
“It’s a great pleasure to speak to MIA and our fans,” he told the crowd. “I have become a fan of MIA because I think she is the most courageous woman working in western music, without exception.”
Assange used his big-screen soap box to talk about press freedom and privacy in the wake of the NSA. “American journalists that are actually trying to do something really pretty significant – namely, stop the United States and other countries along with it turning into a military dictatorship slowly, inevitable, inexorably – they’re in exile now,” he said. “They’ve been pushed off to the four corners of the earth.” He went on to address the dark side of the interconnection between the devices and programs that so many people have come to rely on. “In effect, the civilization we have all been developing together, this new internet civilization,” he said, “where we’re communicating our values to each other and we learn what we like and don’t like in the world and the right way to be and not be. . . . The military occupation of cyberspace is also the occupation of our primary communication space.”
This isn’t the first collaboration between the performer and the WikiLeaks founder. In April 2012, M.I.A. worked with Assange to create music for Assange’s television show, The World Tomorrow, which featured Assange conducting interviews while under house arrest in England. M.I.A. had also named her 2011 mixtape Vicki Leekx after Assange’s media organization. According to the Guardian, Assange even helped M.I.A. out with the rhyme scheme as she was writing the Matangi track “atTENTion.”