Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Remember When Wikileaks Was A Big Deal?

If you provide people sufficient background information, they are capable of behaving correctly and making the right decisions
Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website, by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, former Wikileaks spokesman

Alasdair Roberts has an interesting article on Wikileaks in The Wilson Quarterly.

There was a time that Wikileaks seemed to be a force to be reckoned with:
WikiLeaks’ boosters said that the group was waging a war on secrecy, and by the end of 2010 it seemed to be winning. The leaks marked “the end of secrecy in the old-fashioned, Cold War–era sense,” claimed Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding. A Norwegian politician nominated WikiLeaks for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying that it had helped “redraw the map of information freedom.” “Like him or not,” wrote a Time magazine journalist in December, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had “the power to impose his judgment of what should or shouldn’t be secret.”
The logic seemed so simple--and so irrefutable.
Once people read the leaked information, they would become enraged and demand reform.

You may have noticed that things did not turn out that way.

When just releasing the information was too much for people to assimilate and the expected angry outcry did not appear, Julian Assange created a video.

When people claimed that Assange's video was manipulative and it became clear the people at Wikilieaks didn't know which information was too sensitive to be released, they turned to the news media--which did not necessarily have the same goal as Wikileaks.

And then then Wikileaks discovered that instead of outrage, people who followed Wikileaks felt relief--relief that the government was doing all it could to protect their security.

Instead of walking in the footsteps of The Pentagon Papers, Wikileaks found itself increasingly unpopular:
Indeed, it could be said that WikiLeaks was doing the one thing Americans least wished for: increasing instability and their sense of anxiety. The more WikiLeaks disclosed last year, the more American public opinion hardened against it. By December, according to a CNN poll, almost 80 percent of Americans disapproved of WikiLeaks’ release of U.S. diplomatic and military documents. In a CBS News poll, most respondents said they thought the disclosures were likely to hurt U.S. foreign relations. Three-quarters affirmed that there are “some things the public does not have a right to know if it might affect national security.”
Read the whole thing.

Amazon and Paypal retracted the services they were offering.
The US Government came down hard on those who were suspected of being behind the leaks.

And today, the fear engendered by the threatened release of a batch of Wikileaks documents is gone.
This is not the same generation that saw the release of the Pentagon Papers.

Wikileaks is not your father's Pentagon Papers.
In the context of our generation, it is something much less.

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