This has been a very strange week in geopolitics and technology.
On one hand, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange continues his fight against extradition for alleged sex crimes in Sweden.
On the other hand -- Wikileaks (the site, not the alleged sex offender) -- has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
On still another hand, Bradley Manning, the young Army soldier who many believe passed classified information on to Wikileaks -- and who, effectively, put Wikileaks and Assange on the map -- has been charged with 22 counts of giving aid to the enemy by the United States military.
And, on still another hand, Steve Jobs managed to get himself up on stage to present the second coming of the iPad, completely clogging the entire media world with his reality distortion field.
There are, of course, actual security, political, and technological factors involved in all of these events. But beyond the details of documents and device thickness is a much bigger story, an epic tale of almost Shakespearean (or comic book) proportions.
These three men -- Assange, Manning, and Jobs -- have captured the world's imagination. While Jobs has been on the world's stage for more than three decades, we're just beginning to get to know Assange and Manning.
We know a lot about Jobs' personality. We know he has almost maniacal attention to detail. We know that as a young leader, he was brutally hard on employees, yet extracted an almost unbelievable level of performance. We know Steve has been fighting a serious illness, yet has still managed to imprint his personality on all that Apple does.
But we don't know Manning at all, other than some small details. We know he was a soldier in Iraq. We know he got paid all of $1,950 per month (PDF) for his service in the Army. We know he's charged with giving aid to the enemy. But we don't know anything about Manning's motivation for betraying his nation and his fellow Americans.
And then there's Assange. If we didn't know he was a real person, you'd almost think he was a villain dreamed up by Stan Lee to star in a comic book. With Assange's flair for the dramatic, his strange balance of right and wrong, and his extreme level of media whoring, he's a strange duck indeed, the chaotic neutral of our story.
Here's a guy who founded an organization nominated for a Nobel Peace prize, who blackmailed Amnesty International, and who is reported blaming Jewish journalists for the media firestorm he's been facing.
Because Manning and Assange have captured the imagination -- and because we don't really know either of them -- people across the world can paint them with whatever brush suits their preconceived beliefs.
Some, like me, have demonized them. Others, like Salon's Glenn Greenwald, have deified them, painting Manning with the Jesus/martyr archetype.
I, of course, take the law and order approach. That means that I believe the leak of confidential documents should be punishable by the full force of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I also believe that Wikileaks, by publishing that material, is putting international stability at risk -- far from worthy of a Nobel price for peace.
But that's my opinion. I'm right, of course, but it's still just my opinion. It's up to a military court to determine Manning's guilt or innocence. It's up to nations across the world to determine how they want to handle Wikileaks and whether they consider the site a threat.
So there you go. Big, big stories. Inside those stories, though, are the stories of three men. Not gods, not heroes, not martyrs. Just men.
The thing is, for good or bad, "just men" (and women, of course) can change the world. I think Manning probably committed a capital crime, but his actions will change the world -- probably for the worse. Jobs, quite clearly, is just a man, but he's had an impact on nearly every aspect of technology for 30 years. And Assange, whose peccadilloes may prove his undoing, is also quite clearly just a man.
Alex Haley famously said, "History is written by the winners," meaning how we interpret events is based on who is doing the interpreting.
So who will tell the definitive story of these men? How accurate will that story really be? If The Social Network is any precedent, that story will be told by Aaron Sorkin, it'll be a heck of a story, and it'll be more fabrication than fact.
So what do you think of these three men? How are you going to change the world? TalkBack below.