What we should be learning from the current Wikileaks news cycle.

The current news cycle regarding Wikileaks parades a great many of the social mechanisms which are exploited to protect the current power structures.

In the mainstream news media, one sees far more reporting on Julian Assange.  The so-called “leftist” media focuses on the fact that he has been charged with sex crimes.  The “right” paints him as a terrorist and asserts that he should be assassinated.  By doing so they are distracting our focus from that of the issues involved — the discoveries we are making about the inner workings of our government, as well as the more fundamental issue of how much secrecy can you have in a government, and still call it democratic — and instead focusing our attention on personalities, in this case villifying  Assange rather than debating the merits of Wikileaks and the work the site has done.

That is exemplary of another tool used in the disinformation age of government control — conflating disparate issues into a single issue, making meaningful discourse next to impossible.  Being for more openness in government is conflated with being for Julian Assange, which then makes you soft on rape.  This should be resisisted.  J.A. deserves to be tried for any crimes he may or may not have commited in the same way that any of the rest of us should be tried.  This is the ideal to strive for, and his political activities should be kept separate from those trials, as much as is possible.  The same is true for his political activities.  They should be judged on their merits, and not colored by what he does in his personal life.

Another interesting tactic taken by mainstream pundits and media is the critique over the wide-bandwidth, mass dump of information.  One often sees claims that J.A., or more properly Bradley Manning, is no Daniel Ellsberg (leaker of the Pentagon Papers).  Anyone reading or writing such claims would do well to read or listen to what mr. Daniel Ellsberg has to say on the subject, which can be summarised by one pithy quote “I haven’t met either of them, but based on what I’ve read they are new heroes of mine”.    In particular I have to condemn those who (like Rachel Maddow) have criticised Bradley Manning for dumping documents indiscriminately,  including unimportant information like Quadaffi having a busty nurse.  They are missing the point, which is why, in a supposedly open and democratic society, is such trivial information classified in the first place?  It reveals a default policy of secrecy which weakens public oversight of our government, and shows us how much classified information should be unclassified.

A great deal of attention was paid, on a recent episode of Rachel Maddow’s show and elsewhere,  to a released cable which claimed, either erroneously or deceptively, that Micheal Moore’s film Sicko was banned in Cuba.  Ms. Maddow chose to focus on how this cable shows that leaked documents give a false sense of import and reliability, thereby providing a useful tool for misinformation.  Ms. Maddow declined to mention how planned leaks of misinformation are a de-facto norm of government policy, which leaves the viewer to interpret this as a criticism of Wikileaks and leaked documents in general.  There are two, far more important lessons to be learned from this cable.  The first is the level of incompetence and self deception within our government, revealed by a cable who’s author was unable to distinguish between a film being banned and a film being broadcast on official government channels.  The second follows from the first:  We need less classification of such documents so that citizens can review them, and better understand, judge, and control their government.

This leads me to the critique made against Bradley Manning for the dump of such a wide and indiscriminate swath of documents.  Bradley Manning (assuming that it is indeed mister Manning who released the documents, which has not yet been proven), sitting at a computer on a military base did not have the time to sift through hundreds of thousands of classified documents., to determine which ones were vital to our national interest, and which were trivia.  He saw enough (such as the murder of Reuters reporters by U.S. soldiers) to know that he had to do something, and at tremendous cost to himself he smuggled those documents out and sent them to the one journalistic organisation he felt he could rely on to release the meaningful information:  Wikileaks.   Wikileaks in turn has made an effort to redact those documents which might pose a risk to the life and liberty of people, even to the point of contacting the Pentagon and mainstream media channels to ask for assistance with the redaction.

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