For Everyone Else…there’s Wikileaks

July 1st, 2011

What Does it Cost to Change the World? from WikiLeaks on Vimeo.

The ingenious ad above highlights the plight of Wikileaks after the US Government either directly, or indirectly, pressured businesses like PayPal and MasterCard to block all their donations.

The US and other secretive nations despise Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Their considerable power has resulted in the [alleged] torture of whistleblower Bradley Manning, charges of sexual misconduct against Assange, and a financial blockade.

Sadly, in their swift and overblown response to the threat to their secrecy, the US have shown how little they believe in human rights, justice, and truth. At least, they’ve shown they care much more about hiding their mistakes.

The US government seems to think that most of the things Wikileaks spelled out were really secret. They were not. Most of the things that were revealed were being whispered across the world. No one dared to state them openly, out of fear. Their treatment of Manning and Assange shows our fears justified.

The release of the information embarrassed many people. On the one side were the powerful rulers the US was trying to ingratiate, in the Middle East, and in the Americas. On the other side is the US, whose hypocrisy is old news to anyone with critical thinking.

But the release of the information also emboldened many to challenge (and even topple) their corrupt governments. This is a sensitive issue for me, because the overthrow of Manuel Zelaya has transformed me deeply. How would the events of June 2009 been different in a post-Wikileaks world?

Should the US have been open about its interests instead of hiding in a cloud of inscrutability, maybe much of the crisis in Honduras could have been averted. Should the US have been open about their tolerance of Middle eastern presidents-for-life, the disgust of their people might have toppled them sooner. Even so, much of the leaked information has acually made the US look good.

The US likes to wear the cape of global superhero, and sit on the throne of the Messiah, the savior of mankind. Everyone else can see that the empire has no clothes. Especially, I imagine, the true Messiah. I think the futility of the US government’s efforts to protect its hubris might provoke some divine laughter.

  • Alan Campbell

    Dear Aaron,

    While I’m upset by how the US government has acted, I’m not sure I can support Wikileaks. Their actions caused tension between the US and many countries. This might stop bad actions by the US, but it will also stop good actions as well. Besides, by examining the information being leaked by Wikileaks, many countries can determine the person who leaked the information to the US. This will cause harm to both bad and good people. I don’t think harming the good to stop the bad is justified.

    • I reread this post several times, thinking: is this something I really want to say? Do I want to endorse Wikileaks like this? My first reaction with the leaks was…this will lead to war, to disaster! But then I observed the effect the leaks had on world politics in the last few months and changed my mind. It was a very good result! I also decided to post the commercial because I believe we as a people have a right to know the truth, and our governments should not be able to hide the truth from us.

      It took a while for my thoughts about Wikileaks to percolate. A major influence on my current opinion is Mike Masnick of Techdirt, and through him, Nina Paley (creator of Sita Sings the Blues). The thought that information should be free came to me through them, and others in the free software movement. Also my lack of pity for governments hiding information comes from my frustration during the events that led to Manuel Zelaya being defenestrated, and the circus that ensued to this day in Honduras.

      I think dealing honestly and truthfully is the right way to govern. Of course that flies in the face of practical politics. Almost all politics is based on appearance, theatrics, and lies.

      I have wondered myself if I would like to be the victim of a leak. For instance, I think, “what if my entire email archive were made public?”. That would be slightly embarassing, although I always conducted myself with the thought that everything I do will eventually become public knowledge. But it would be a positive thing in the long run.

      I realize that at first it would harm me if everyone knew my secrets. But then again, it would be a relief. I keep secrets not because I fear others knowing the truth about me, but to protect other people. Some people would rather not know everything about me because their false image of me would be destroyed. But lying through ommission is not sustainable in the long run.

      Going back to the scale of governments: they keep secrets to protect interests, and people too. But how can we the people know that it is really in our best interest to protect them? We need to be informed in order to judge our governments. Their right to govern us, in a democracy, comes from our consent. How can we consent to something we don’t know?

      The truth has consequences, but in the end, the result is positive. If bad things happen when the truth is revealed, it is because those who wished to hide it did somenthing wrong. I believe in the cleansing power of truth. Only those who have done wrong fear it. The enemies who would use the truth to attack us are also vulnerable to having their secrets exposed and used against them. Of course I have done wrong, but I respect the truth, and would uphold it instead of secrecy.

      • Alan Campbell

        I should have think better before writing. I just want a better watchdog than Wikileaks. A watchdog that have done real homework about the stuff they are about to leak. A watchdog that I can actually hold responsible if their leaks caused unnecessary harm. A watchdog that does not think of our fellow human beings as mere collateral damage in their quest for transparency. I really hope I’m not asking too much.

        • Alan, I sense you are angry. I’d like to know more about why you’re angry. Do you know of people who have become “collateral damage”. Do you think the leaks are accurate?

          Wikileaks is not a watchdog really, only a channel for whistleblowers. The whistleblowers are the watchdogs.

          If what Wikileaks says is correct, they have many more documents, but have carefully considered which documents to leak…they may, of course, be lying about that.

  • Alan Campbell

    Dear Aaron,

    Collateral damage refers to the villagers in Afghanistan who gave information to US soldiers. Wikileaks did not redact their names from the report they leaked. This might cause them to be targets for retribution by the Taliban. My biggest anger does not come from the leaks but come from their response when pressed on this issue. Of course they claimed that no one has been killed but I believe that is because the Taliban want Wikileaks to leak more.

    I don’t really believe that Wikileaks is a channel because they use various psychological tactics that channels don’t use. For example, they threatened to release some information if they are attacked. At first, it sounds like a normal response to a threat. However, if they are a channel, why do they keep such information till now?

    I also have more cases but they (the cases) are too close to me for comfort. You are definitely smart enough to not blindly believe me and search further on your own. After all, I’m a US citizen so there will be bias.

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