Tuesday, 7 December 2010

BEDiD 7: Wikileaks

So I said I would talk about Wikileaks and so I will. I would like for you to start with this

I am usually not the biggest fan of Dan Brown, but his video on this is actually very well thought out and, quite rightly, focuses on the serious consequences of the Wikileaks fiasco rather than the fact Prince Andrew hates the French. Dan raises a good point that Wikileaks, as a media organisation in a democracy, has the right to release these documents. However, the serious question behind the comments of British paranoia about the 'special relationship' and the fact that Kim Jong-il likes a drink, is whether people's lives have been put as risk.

Not only soldiers on the front line, but under-cover spies, activists and journalists could all have their jobs and lives put in jeopardy. At least that is what the argument insists.

We can, however, draw a comparison, because Wikileaks were kind enough to release US defence department data at the end of last summer. It has been reported in various publications and stated by several politicians that no deaths on the field are yet to have been linked directly to the exposure of sensitive data through the website on that occasion.

In fact, the USA has a long and colourful history of releases of sensitive information; from the release of sensitive documents on the Vietnam War released by the New York Times in 1971 to pictures of prison camps in Iraq in 2004, (The UK has also been rocked by similar pictorial releases in the past).

So does the US administration have the right to be angry, of course it does, they have massively lost face. Some of the scandals are down right embarrassing for all parties, albeit a wonderful reminder that even those in the top jobs are still only human and like to have a gossip about each other.

I do not think anything overtly world changing will come from the release of these documents. Governments and diplomats know that they are going to be talked about, sometimes ungraciously, behind their backs, and no-one can afford to make a fuss about things the bully in the school yard said when they weren't listening.

History speaks for itself, showing the chances of massive losses of life on the field as a result of these leaks are low.

So, what do you think about it?


Stefan Lamb said...

We need to defend any media source that actually tells the truth, almost regardless of the consequences. There are so few reliable sources out there, by which I mean so few that don't have an adgenda. The internet (and by extention Wikileaks) is pretty much the only place where you can find a source of information not influenced by or subject to manipulation from establishments, be they government, corporations, institutions or whatever. The reason Wikileaks is taking such heavy flak is because these establishments have absolutely NO control over it, they are simply taking wild stabs at anything that could (and indeed almost certainly will) cause them grief. And with regards to endangering troops lives...it is my belief that we were manipulated into war in the first place. If Wikileaks had been about, I wonder just how easily Toothy Tony and Cowboy Bush would have lead us into Iraq under a cloak of misdirection and lies, or has the establishment already forgotten that? What's the point in having our armed forces dying abroad to defend democracy, if at home we are subject to what is basically tyranny by the political class? I absolutely hate to use the comparison, but Hitler was a politician before he was a mass murderer. How easily would he have instigated the Holocaust with Wikileaks on the prowl?
Wow, this comment has gotten away from me. I'm just rather passionate on the subject. We really do need to defend the internet (our only remaining source of complete, unmolested truth) while we can, because as soon as our leaders get the chance, they are going to brutalise it to bring it under control. Wikileaks is just the start of this. I suppose Google vs China is a similar thing. They will use pretty words and strong, positive idealism, but it amounts to the same thing - getting control over the media by any means.
I hope I don't sound like a conspiracy obsessed nutcase. I promise I'm relatively normal IRL.

Jeff Edelman said...

I am generally a liberal guy, but people underestimate the danger in releasing this kind of information. I am all for transparency in general, but there are limits. Diplomacy depends on people being able to give frank advice and comments. If a diplomat fears that what they say or write is going to be outed in public, it is inevitable that they will hold back on what they say or write. And that is dangerous - potentially very dangerous. And despite the fact that secrecy has such a negative connotation to it, there are times when secrecy is absolutely necessary. During WW II, The Americans and the Brits went to great lengths to fake the Germans into believing the D Day Invasion would be made in a place other than Normandy. There was great fear that this entire plan would be leaked out in advance to the Germans. Had an inquiring reporter found out this information, do you really think that they should have "outed" the plan in the name of openness and transparency?