Blogosphere kneedeep in Wikileaks

In the last few days Wikileaks has dominated the blogosphere. Even the XKCD comic has gotten into the act.

If you want to read something uplifting, go straight to Study Hacks, and read about how to use recent research into extrinsic motivation to help you do work that matches your deeply-held values and to make the Romantic Scholar lifestyle a reality.

Otherwise the rest of this is about Wikileaks.

I finally read the Wikipedia article about Wikileaks–interesting background reading, especially the part about it being started by Chinese dissidents who can face long jail terms or even death for writing about for instance Tiananmen Square.

Over and over, progressive bloggers are linking to Anglachel’s article, which points out the current round of selective leaks was done to a Democratic administration, and looks for Republicans hiding under the bed:

The fact that the cables are now in the open allows the Neocon noise machine to safely reference them to beat the drum for war with Iran, secure in the knowledge that contrary information of comparable validity cannot be provided because of diplomatic concerns. How can contrary information be leaked and to whom without it blowing up in the face of whomever tries to engineer that release? The release of the documents into the wild means there is a “source” for “Oh, look what we just now found!” kinds of revelations. The partial release on the wikileaks site itself always ensures that more can be found when there is a need for a strategic leak. The cables that identify security interests – which are of concern to more than the US – turn into fodder to gin up more domestic fear about terrorism, and to request more money for that purpose.

There is no down-side for the right with the release of these documents.

Iran, huh? Zogby also focuses in on Iran, and finds Israelis under the bed:

From the day the first batch of WikiLeaks appeared in the international press, the Israelis were crowing “this is good for us”. Seizing on documents demonstrating that some Arab leaders bear ill-will toward Iran, the Israeli spin machine went into action. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that “Our region has been hostage to a narrative that is the result of 60 years of propaganda, which paints Israel as the greatest threat”, claiming that Iran had, in fact, eclipsed the Palestinian issue as the number one concern of the Arab World. Another prominent Israeli official gloated that “Iran was now ten times more important than Palestine” and that it was now time to shelve the “peace effort” and focus attention on Iran.

Liberals were not the only ones unhappy with Wikileaks. Merriam-Webster’s “Word Well Used” feature showcased the word “frisson”, used by conservative Theodore Dalrymple, writing about Wikileaks in the City Journal. Dalrymple’s concerns are more generic:

The actual effect of WikiLeaks is likely to be profound and precisely the opposite of what it supposedly sets out to achieve. Far from making for a more open world, it could make for a much more closed one. Secrecy, or rather the possibility of secrecy, is not the enemy but the precondition of frankness. WikiLeaks will sow distrust and fear, indeed paranoia; people will be increasingly unwilling to express themselves openly in case what they say is taken down by their interlocutor and used in evidence against them, not necessarily by the interlocutor himself. This could happen not in the official sphere alone, but also in the private sphere, which it works to destroy.

Not all conservatives have something abstract, obscure, and negative to say about Wikileaks. This circumlocutory video from The American Conservative is unambiguously positive about Wikileaks.

There is some general agreement that the one good thing to come out of Wikileaks was the leak of the Apache helicopter attack video. Glen Greenwald focuses on the inhumane prison conditions of the presumed leaker, Bradley Manning. While high profile Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, possibly the creepiest boss since Dov Charney, was released from jail after only a week, for the last 7 months Manning has remained locked away by himself 23 hours a day without recourse and  without so much as a trial:

Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months — and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait — under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. …
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.

The last word about Wikileaks goes to myiq2xu, writing at the Confluence:

Ever seen a puppet show? While Punch and Judy might appear to be fighting and arguing with each other, if you peek behind the curtain you’ll see one puppeteer with a hand up each puppet’s ass.

I know a puppet show when I see one, and this whole Wikileaks affair is a big one with lots of puppets, bells and whistles. What I don’t know is the identity of the puppeteers and what their goals are.

Make no mistake, they DO have goals, even if it’s only to distract and entertain while pickpockets work the crowd.

So before you decide anything, take a peek behind the curtain.


6 Responses to “Blogosphere kneedeep in Wikileaks”

  1. canehan Says:

    I can’t stand conspiracy theories. Sticking to Occam’s Razor is usually right, and the simple explanation here seems to me to be the right one – Assange and his colleagues and helpers simply believe that “everything” should be made public – regardless.

    Theodore Dalrymple (above) is an excellent argument against that approach. By coincidence, I just sent the comments to a highly respected journalist friend (and formerboss) of mine:

    The value of Wikileaks sending its harvest to recognized and responsible news organisations (NYT, Der Spiegel, etc) for responsible vetting and publishing seems clear, as does the individual Web publication of items such as the Iraq helicopter attack on the Reuters cameramen seem a responsible use of the Web.

    But the wholesale Web publication of hiundreds of thousands of government documents, vetted only by Wikileaks staff or associates, whose identity, training, background, politics and motives are entirely unknown, seems to me totally irresponsable and potentiallly highly damaging to the normal conduct of diplomatic relations worlwide.

    Also, though without any proper vetting and context, it has been assimilated with “journalism” in the traditional sense of the term, and with successful FOI requests, and this I believe is highly damaging to journalism as well.

    Indeed, I have just seen Assange on TV here in London after his release on bail. He says Wikileaks conducts “responsible investigative journalism.”

    Would hard-working investigative journalists really wish to be thus associated with Wikileaks “dump it all to the public” approach?

    Some months ago I saw Assange interviewed at length, and it was scary. The man looked and talked like an ice-cold fanatic, who now has the power to appeal, not just to genuine, responsible (I use that word repeatedly because I think it is key to the whole issue) whistleblowers with serious issues to expose, but to any worker with a USB key or any clever hacker anywhere in the world.

    A fanatic who wants “total transparency of everything” – and finds lots of people out there who think the same – cannot and should not be assimilated with trained journalists. [NB: He is now projecting a much friendly, smiling image – he may have had PR advice].

    It’s not a cat, but a horde of damned great sabre-toothed tigers that have been let out of the bag here.

  2. Nijma Says:

    It’s the old problem–who will watch the watchers?

    Big fleas have little fleas,
    Upon their backs to bite ’em,
    And little fleas have lesser fleas,
    and so, ad infinitum.

    What else…I have just watched a whole bunch of Assange interviews and didn’t see the megalomaniac that some are reporting. The CNN interview where he walks out and the Larry King one where he seems to say rape is “a trivial matter”

    are quite bad, but he looks merely looks defensive and inexperienced at handling the media. And although he’s quite adamant in several interviews about the care that was taken to make sure no names were released, it seems Amnesty International corresponded with him to get the names of Afghan civilians removed from the cables already released. A huge disconnect there.
    I do see he once said in case of Wikileaks being broken up, releasing everything to the public unfiltered would be preferable to having everything lost. Hmm….20 November Interpol issues arrest warrant for Assange, 28 November release of cables begins….

    But what do you suppose will happen to the readership of the NYT and other papers that publish the cables? There are thousands of them and released only a few hundred at a time, amid a massive bru-ha-ha. How can the decision to publish not be an economic issue rather than a doing-the-right-thing issue?

  3. canehan Says:

    I will take the judgment of professional journalists from highly respected newspapers over “citizen journalists” such as Assange and his associates every time.

    Not sure I understand your last paragraph. Why should it be an economic issue, if they filter the documents release to publish the most significant ones, or not publish those they perceive to be dangerous ?

  4. John Emerson Says:

    The reason why a Democratic administration is the target is that a.) a Democratic administration is in power and b.) it’s not acting that much differently than a Republican administration. The Republicans will probably succeed in taking advantage of this, but that’s because the Democrats submissive-wetting, head under the bedclothes strategy allows the Republicans to take advantage of pretty much anything.

  5. Nijma Says:

    JE, my sentiments exactly. The Democrats have been running scared ever since the Republicans let slip that the Clinton impeachment was just payback for the Nixon impeachment. Why don’t they just…you know, govern? (Moyers’ journal has had a lot of that lately: Mr. President, Put Up Your Dukes. The Heartbreak of Premature Capitulation. ) But I’m not naive enough to think any other (electable) candidate would have done dramatically better. As long as elections are paid for by contributions from special interests, that’s what we’re going to see.

  6. Nijma Says:

    First of all, what I understand they are doing is releasing the cables bit by bit. In the first release, 220 of the 251,287 cables were released.

    But why is it an economic issue? My understanding is that newspapers and TV networks want to make money, but with the new role of the internet, the financial base has been deeply eroded, along with the role of responsible journalism. How many papers still keep foreign news desks? BBC, maybe. AP, I think, and maybe the other services use their resources to get stories out of the country?

    When was the last time you held a dead tree newspaper in your hands? 2001 for me, when I had an occasional byline in JT.

    The evening network news used to be a financial drain on TV stations that other departments would have to absorb, but it was comprehensive and international. Maybe that’s why the news is all fluff and teasers now, with only about 5 minutes of actual local-only news, even in a big city like this one. One of the educational stations brings in BBCNews, but I haven’t even bothered to hook up my TV in the last year. All my info comes from the internet.

    So what I’m coming around to is that the decision to publish any given leaks might be less a a function of what is perceived to be “significant” or “dangerous” or even in the public interest, but which ones are perceived to be surrounded by enough controversy or publicity to boost the circulation numbers.

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