Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks, some thoughts

What a concept. A 'service' to radical democracy? Or a threat to the security of states? Both? I discuss.

As I mentioned in the comments on another post, Wikileaks is not Julian Assange. He's just the frontman for an idea. They can kill, disappear, litigate, gag, gaol, or otherwise neuter the man, but ultimately that matters not a whit (sorry manly Tom). The concept of a universal whistle blower site is something that can be easily mimicked by any budding disruptor agent. Any focus on Assange is a distraction.

Wikileaks is a ambiguous phenomenon. It is both good and bad depending on your perspective and the substance of the information being released. It reveals truths, and truths are powerful things. If North Korea shells another town and kills people and cites something aired through Wikileaks, then that isn't a particularly good outcome. The service it provides makes it a security problem for those in power, regardless of what country they inhabit. We all like to poke a finger in their eye, but at the same time, public distribution of state secrets can have very serious consequences. The hawks do have a point here.

That said, there's a radical democratisation element. The diplomatic cables reveal a lot about the nature of how governments think and behave outside of the filters of news media reports, speeches, and press scrum soundbites. This is raw data and a gold mine of content and discourse. It exposes politicians, spies, and diplomats for utter wankers as they claim to in the interests of their publics. We learn how people like Jim Judd see the institutions of democracy as problematic obstacles to the for the serious hobby business viagra vanity activity of security and statecraft. Which of course explains so much about why awkward things like this have occurred in recent years. Following Jim's logic we'd be safer if we shredded the Charter and turned CSIS into our own Stasi or Mukhabarat. You know, because they need to the tools to keep the terrorists and nasties away until we're a nice fat fascist dictatorship ourselves (more on this another day). Exposing these paranoid loons is security for masses. So Wikileaks does a service here.

What Wikileaks is, in my view, is remarkable thing. We've never had someting like this. It's a product of a interneted and globalised world, a time without great power struggles, and when states themselves are increasingly caught up in issues they've never had to face and which are quite beyond their control. It exists as a new actor, a releaser of black swans, an agent of no party. In the past, state governments feared the mole, the spy who would burrow deep and give vital secrets to other governments. Everything still stayed secret and state publics wouldn't know what the spies had pilfered and traded. Now, no state is safe and the powerful, everywhere risk having their dirty laundry aired to the entire world. The shift is from government versus government to the state and economic elite versus a global public. Photos of what the clergy have been up to are being passed around the pews in all the world's temples and both good and ill will come of it.

Wikileaks is, fundamentally, what radical democratic change looks like in this day.

Whatever the implications of the document releases, the powerful worldwide now have to contend with the possibility of instant espionage by class and mouse click, not heavy iron curtains and hidden microphones.

Wikileaks is an insurgent in a Cold Class War.


Informed Despite Education said...

I have always been of the mind that democracy is an untenable state of affairs, at least on the scale we claim to have them today. This does not mean that I support a dictatorial shift, though I have often stated the best form of government is a benevolent dictator. The problem with my argument, which I tend to point out myself, is that even if you had the most benevolent person at the head of your state, your period of freedom and prosperity would last only until that man or women became unfit to rule or die.

That leaves us with democracy, but what we have today is more a practice in selective oligarchy. This is not just Canada I am speaking of, but the majority of the "democratic" nations of the world. I often see it as a population issue, there are just to many people in the country to make each person matter and if we did then no one would ever be happy and concesus would take to long to reach or would never be reached. This is why we have our representative oligarchy, because individual democracy is not a tenable position either.

So back to wikileaks. I see this as a force for good in the democratic world. I accept that people can and probably will die from information released by this site, but I also know that governments will have to start wondering if they will be held accountable for actions they thought silenced and sealed. For safety that may not be the ideal outcome, but for a more democratic process it is a necessary evil. Without government accountability you cannot have democracy. The people need to make a choice, you cannot have democracy with a sense of absolute safety for the only way to attain that is through ignorance.

So I ask instead, do you support democracy, or do you support centralized oligarchy. If the former then wikileaks is a god send, if the latter then take out your guns and hunt down those bastards so you can feel safe again. I make it sound like a simple one way or an other and most things are not that simple. I will leave it up to the individual to decide if this issue is or not.

Greg said...

It's possible that people will die because of the leaked information.

But that information is released for the sake of democracy and freedom.

So those people will be dying for democracy and freedom and - as I understand it - that excuses pretty much any amount of death and torture, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

democracy can only function properly if the electorate is truly informed. Previous routes to truthful information have been subverted. Corporate purchases, political ideologues running the show, defunding of independent governmental agencies etc.
So now the public can by-pass the filters that are today's modern media, skip the spin and filters and actually see the original material.
a grand day for democracy. Now we just have to keep an eye on wiki-leaks to see if it can be bought off, like the venerable media of old.

kootcoot said...

This is from the previous post, but I liked it and was gonna comment on that weinie Ezra anyway.

"Levant (no Ezra, not you)."

Ezra has opined that he "wonders" why Assange is still alive. I figure Ezra musta gone to girl's school somewhere as he wouldn't have survived to grade six where I went to elementary school - Detroit! He would have gotten beaten to death, perhaps by a girl gang or starved to death because he never would have made it to school with his lunch money!