I’ve been talking to some friends and fellow political junkies offline about the latest WikiLeaks releases and it has led me to some reflection about the significance of WikiLeaks as a whole, and I’m finding it – surprisingingly – difficult to grapple with. On the one hand, a non-profit, non-political organization releasing the secrets of states and corporations alike is d’uh of course significant unto itself and serves the public good. On the other hand, some of my friends say, what’s been released isn’t particularly relevatory to those that follow the Great Game closely. Saudi Arabia plays a double game? Mafia is to today’s Russia as fish is to water? Not really a big surprise. (I disagree – the releases are huge and will take quite a long time to sort and digest. And there has been new and important information revealed)
I think there is more going on than meets the eye and it’s difficult to put a finger on. We may be on the verge of a real sea-change in the way the game is played. The internet is the beast that got away from the masters of the universe – no one truly controls it, no one truly can control it…and it’s now becoming increasingly apparent that no secret is safe. So why keep them? And we are once again reminded, in a very dramatic way, how the large, corporate media has both abdicated it’s watchdog role and it’s, if ratings and subscriptions rates are any indication, increasing irrelevance.
Some random thoughts:
Barring the press regrowing a spine, WikiLeaks will become the new normal. The hue and cry will die down with each subsequent release. Governments and corporations will adapt. If we are to look at the glass as half full, they will accept they in wall-less castles and cease the now routine classifying of the most mundane of things. If we look at the glass as half empty, they will not only adapt, but co-opt. There’s some hint of this already:
He then dropped a hint that’s likely to be nervously parsed in Russia’s corridors of power: “We are helped by the Americans, who pass on a lot of material about Russia,” to WikiLeaks, he said.
(That said, if there’s an “arms race” between the Powers as to who can leak more, sign me up.)
Leaking too is, by nature, selective and subject to the whims and discretion of the individual leaker. Exculpatory evidence may not be released (at least until the incriminated leak it themselves).
My friends were particularly worried about the upcoming corporate release. If a bank falls and it triggers more economic pain…well, we all suffer. But personally, I think that pain is coming anyway and it’s best to shine a light on these charlatans now and take our lumps for letting them get away with for so long. Keeping it under wraps doesn’t mean the systemic problem will go away….
He may or may not be guilty of rape (Swedish version). He may or may not be trying to cultivate a rock star image. But Julian Assange is not the WikiLeaks project. It’s set up in such a way that if he were to…cough…disappear, WikiLeaks would continue. His personal life does not diminish the importance of what has been released or the WikiLeaks staff, and those that try to conflate the two desperately want the public conversation to be about Assange rather than the documents.
And let’s face it, an already cynical public might get even more cynical and bored.
We live in a world with too many secrets, and something is pushing back.