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The  latest WikiLeaks release – so-called ‘Cablegate’ –  is a demonstration of how the road to Hell is not just paved, but lavishly signposted and well lit at night with good intentions.
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There is much made by the chattering classes of the need for ‘Open Government’ (or Gov 2.0) but definitions of this are often personalised and disparate. By no means can the on-going WikiLeaks tedium be defined as a means of improving government for all, if indeed any. I object to WikiLeaks on several  fronts:
  • What they are doing is not exposing corruption or wrongdoing of either individuals or departments. They are instead  just simply spewing information at the public, the origin and purpose of which is not explained or justified (irony-alert – why doesn’t WikiLeaks want to tell us how it gets the information – are some things (i.e. their things) to be kept secret after all?).
  • The information is used as nothing more than a quick soundbite or the subject of water-cooler chatter by 99.9% of the population, so it’s in effect just gossip mongering. But for the 0.1% of visitors whose minds are set on undermining any government for whatever reason, it is a valuable mine of open-source intelligence. This is not good for us all in general.
  • My fear is that this arrogant ‘we have the right to publish anything’ attitude could next extend to exposing other sectors. This could include banking (why not publish credit card application details to show how arbitrary the banks are in their assessment of credit risk); health (publish the hospital records of surgery patients to expose the effectiveness of surgeons, and the mistakes they make); employment (publish the records of staff who have sought counselling – is there a potential psychopath checking your bags in at the airport?); or education (publish the banking/health/police checks on all teachers, so the public can asses their suitability to teach your kid). No? Sounds a bit extreme, or ‘that could never happen here?’

Now most people don’t care about this – they think it is all a bit of a laugh, or that politicians and governments probably deserve to suffer a bit of public embarrassment because they must be up to no good. This is a juvenile attitude of the worst ilk – akin to the morons who graffiti walls to build a reputation for themselves within their minority counter-culture, but for which the rest of us have to pay in terms of a degraded environment, increased surveillance, and  increased taxes.

Government (incorporating war/diplomacy/economics/justice, and many other ‘exposed’ by WikiLeaks to date) is not a parlour game, nor an amateur sport. For as much as people like to belittle politicians, most of the actual business of government is undertaken by professional public servants and military staff who have years of experience in specialist fields, which contributes to the overall process of ‘government’. 1,000  office workers in a field with a pile of bricks couldn’t deliver informed comment on the style of house those bricks will make, and they will never be able to build the house themselves. But put just 1 skilled builder in the same field, and you would get something everyone agrees look and works like a house should. In other words: let governments govern – the WikiLeaks alternative is a nightmare alternative of mob rule!

The process WikiLeaks is aggravating at the moment is only likely to cause individual harm to legitimate campaigners for open government.  It will lead to either increasingly distant and suspicious official interaction (or even total withdrawal from such processes), or increased suspicion of public servants at a time when we were just beginning to see official support for greater online engagement. There are many good processes already in existence for dealing with inappropriate government actions and use of information including freedom of information acts, professional whistleblowing practices, state and federal police agencies, and investigative reporting via the official press.

Overall the purpose of WikiLeaks at any level is unclear and inconsistent. I can’t imagine that the release of diplomatic cables is actually intended to make the world of international diplomacy Open Source – the idea is just too preposterous, and damages any claim to legitimacy that WikiLeaks or its apologists claim to hold. I’m personally not that surprised that Saudi Arabia tried to encourage the removal of Iran as a regional nuclear threat, but what does releasing that information actually achieve? States and individuals will always be vying for influence or power – that is why we have government and politics in the first place, to avoid having to fight wars every time to achieve this. If anything Cablegate shows that the diplomatic process works – the Saudi urge to ‘cut the head off the snake’ was channelled through professional analysts who gave the comments context, and provided analysis before passing it up to elected heads. This is the way the system should work – there would be nothing more anarchic than those comments immediately being made public and published in newspapers the world over, leaving politicians to try and form policy off the back of  badly-informed public opinion across multiple jurisdictions.

Julian Assange may believe that altruism is in the eye of the beholder, but WikiLeaks is proving to be nothing more than underground info-porn. Its aim is short-term titillation for the masses, disregarding of the long-term damage that might be done to those whose usually hidden parts are being exposed, prodded, and giggled over.  Like most pornographers he, and many of this supporters, needs to grow up and take responsibility for the industry they are supporting.

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3 thoughts on “WikiLeaks: info-porn for the masses

  1. Some interesting pointed questions here;
    http://www.salon.com/technology/dan_gillmor/2010/11/29/wikileaks_a_few_questions

    BBC are reporting that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is suggesting that the diplomatic leaks were deliberately done by the US (psychological warfare against them?). He’s also maturely saying that it doesn’t affect Iran’s relations with other countries. Motivation aside – he has a point. How do we know that it isn’t a deliberate leak? We don’t.

    An interesting thought from @mpesce today; “Imposition of order = escalation of chaos”. It may be a little chicken & egg – governments increasing errosion of liberties because of lack of control, attacks, and leaks, which encourages more attacks, leaks and resistance, which leads to more errosion. It is without doubt that the last 10 years have seen unprecedent errosion of civil liberties concurrent with increased unrest and protest. The origin is irrelevent – when the governments crack down further because of these leaks, it will drive the anarchists to escalate further, and everybody loses.

    I find it compelling that there is a “9/11 Truth” sub culture of conspiracy theorists, and yet there is no conspiracy theory that these leaks are deliberate on the part of the US government. Why is it believable that the US government would arrange several planes to smash into landmark buildings, killing thousands of people, but couldn’t organise the deliberate leaking of documents?

    Referring to 1984, governments control the populace through numerous means, including shortages of essentials (peak oil), and controlling the information flow. Deliberate leaking of information often and in large quantities, means that not only can the truth be hidden amongst voluminous lies (and lies amongst voluminous truths), but the populace become desensitised to awful and inconvenient information disclosures. Consider the backlash regarding invasion of privacy in airports, and untested scanners (heavily rumoured to be pushed by insiders as contracts for mates) and the current escalations in Korea. There are certainly plenty of documents in the leaks painting North Korea as a nuclear enabler of Iran.

    So I guess my point here is not really the appropriateness of these specific leaks (or any others for that matter), it is that who stands to benefit is getting less air time than it should; and we will probably never know. Guaranteed, that the winners here are not Assange, Wikileaks, or the traditional press. There is another agenda here that we are all victims of.

    • Good point – I guess I was labouring under the assumption of it all being ‘true’!
      If it is a double-cross, its a very elaborate one – but I guess it does result overall in more ‘sympathy’ for the US than they may have enjoyed since 9/11 (after all, no-one wants their dirty laundry being hung out in public). It did strike me that there was nothing actually Top Secret in the releases – so the information lost may have been a sacrificial pawn in that sense.
      If Wikileaks has been used as an unwitting patsy in this, they are in way over their head by now – think Oswald!

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