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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

 
Unhooking The Networks

by digby

Greenwald's commentary on the pushback against Wikileaks among our elite overlords is excellent and you should read the whole thing. Like him, the thing that leaves me the most gobsmacked is the media, which seems to be the most upset over the idea that the Government is having a hard time keeping its secrets. I think we can all see how odd that is --- journalism being a field which is ostensibly about speaking truth to power and all that drivel.

This may be the best illustration of the point, also courtesy of Greenwald, in which the "diplomat" is the one who argues for transparency while the "journalist" (the editor of the New York Times as it happens) defends clearing their reporting with the government before reporting it:



If you find this subject intriguing, I would highly recommend that you read this mindblowing essay on Julian Assange's philosophy. Yes, he has one. And it's radical and it's interesting although nobody seems to be interested in it. All I hear is the argument about whether or not it's good for national security or whether it can be called real journalism. What I don't hear about is what it is Wikileaks is trying to accomplish. I suppose most of the interested parties who lead our conversation aren't comfortable with that. And you can understand why, when you read it.

I'm going to excerpt the conclusion of the essay, but please do not comment on it without reading the entire piece because you won't know what you're talking about unless you do:

There is a certain vicious amorality about the Mark Zuckerberg-ian philosophy that all transparency is always and everywhere a good thing, particularly when it’s uttered by the guy who’s busily monetizing your radical transparency. And the way most journalists “expose” secrets as a professional practice — to the extent that they do — is just as narrowly selfish: because they publicize privacy only when there is profit to be made in doing so, they keep their eyes on the valuable muck they are raking, and learn to pledge their future professional existence on a continuing and steady flow of it. In muck they trust.

According to his essay, Julian Assange is trying to do something else. Because we all basically know that the US state — like all states — is basically doing a lot of basically shady things basically all the time, simply revealing the specific ways they are doing these shady things will not be, in and of itself, a necessarily good thing. In some cases, it may be a bad thing, and in many cases, the provisional good it may do will be limited in scope. The question for an ethical human being — and Assange always emphasizes his ethics — has to be the question of what exposing secrets will actually accomplish, what good it will do, what better state of affairs it will bring about. And whether you buy his argument or not, Assange has a clearly articulated vision for how Wikileaks’ activities will “carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity,” a strategy for how exposing secrets will ultimately impede the production of future secrets. The point of Wikileaks — as Assange argues — is simply to make Wikileaks unnecessary.

If you are a person who believes our current system is working well and that the mandarins, technocrats and their wealthy benefactors are competent and righteous and that we can safely leave our futures in their hands, then you will not like what Assange is up to. If, on the other hand, you are a teensy bit concerned that these elites might not know what they are doing (or even worse, might know very well what they are doing and it's clearly not in your best interest) then you may find it useful to look at the way the world is organized with a fresh set of data.

For me, challenging the nation states' systems of secrecy is probably necessary before this recent era of decadent recklessness leads us into catastrophe so, perhaps it will cause some of the ossified notions about the international security framework to be reconsidered. But I'm much more intrigued by the idea of this sort of transparency challenging the obscure practices of the transnational economic system. That's where the power is and where the real issues of our future lie.

Regardless of where you come down on Wikileaks, it's important to at least consider what they are actually trying to do --- because they're doing it whether you like it or not.

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