Supporters of WikiLeaks proprietor Julian Assange have protested his arrest in Sweden on sexual charges as a classic "honey trap" -- a sting operation in which an attractive person is used to entrap or coerce a target. In this case the claim is that two Swedish women used sex as a way of trapping Assange. Even though the sex was reportedly consensual, the prosecutor allowed a claim of rape because it was unprotected -- that is, either Assange did not use a condom (alleged by one of the women) or the condom broke (alleged by the other woman).
It won't have eluded the percipient reader of this first paragraph that words like consensual and unprotected have some resonance in the world of international diplomacy -- nor that the "leaks" in WikiLeaks are in this accusation made vividly, and disconcertingly, literal. As for "honey trap," a phrase more familiar in Britain than the United States, its connection with "sting" seems more than coincidental. The honeybee has long been associated in literature and political philosophy with a model of human society -- from Virgil's Georgics to Mandeville's Fable of the Bees to Tolstoy and Marx. Was this "honey trap" baited to protect human society from the unprotected leaking of classified documents? Was the sting set up to prevent what, in apiary culture, has been dubbed "colony collapse disorder"? Or were the (former) colonies in fact themselves collapsing under the weight of government dissimulation?
One of the stories that circulated widely last year via WikiLeaks was the saga of Bruno the bear. The two-year old Bruno was the first wild bear seen in Germany since 1835. Initially greeted as a welcome visitor to Bavaria, Bruno soon attracted negative attention by doing what came naturally -- killing sheep, chickens, and a child's pet rabbit. The Wikileaks cable even described him sitting on the steps of a police station, eating a guinea pig. Clearly this was, as the minister-president of Bavaria dubbed him, a Problem Bear. Calls for his assassination went out, despite the protests of schoolchildren, and after a group of Finnish bear-hunters with dogs failed to corner and capture him, Bruno was shot by "an unnamed hunter." All has not been lost however, since Bruno the Problem Bear was subsequently stuffed and put on display at the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich. The official title of the museum is the Museum of Man and Nature. In this case, as more than one commentator noticed, Man seems to have won over Nature.
Bruno's sad tale provoked a good bit of international press, as well as deep mourning within parts of Germany. In June 2006, the high point of the Bruno story, the Guardian published a piece on the bear's formerly "idyllic existence." What were his pastoral delights, according to this source? "Swimming in lakes, eating honey and killing the odd sheep." A pattern thus begins to emerge. For Bruno, too, it now seems clear, was caught in a honey trap. Groomed as a national hero, at first expected to bring honor and glory back to Bavaria, he was shot dead within three weeks of his arrival. Was it completely an accident that calls began to be heard for the resignation of the Environment Minister, Werner Schnappauf? Or was Bruno a plant, and his end foreordained: suicide by honey? In some European languages, the Wikipedia article on honey notes, "even the word for ‘bear' (e.g., in Russian, ‘medvéd,' in Czech, ‘medv?d,' in Croatian, ‘medvjed") is coined from the noun that means ‘honey' and the verb which means ‘to eat.'" When Wiki calls to Wiki, who can fail to hear the echo?