Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wikileaks: Cause and Effect

When all the hyperventilating and screaming about the Wikileaks is done, I suspect that one overriding truth will emerge; that is that a result of all the release of secret data, nothing really happened. No real harm was done by the release of information, and not much changed, for better or for worse.

A good many politicians and pundits should carry away a great deal of embarrassment, of course, as a result of all the screaming and wailing over something that turned out to be such a “no big deal” issue, but they will not because embarrassment requires self examination and these people never do that. The government should learn that all of the secrecy is simply not necessary, but it will not.

Much is being made in terms of questioning the motives of the Wilkileaker, Julian Assange, and why he is doing this to America and not to other nations. The assumption is that he hates this nation and that we should hate him back and punish him in various ways from imprisoning him to killing him on sight. I’m always rather astonished by people who claim that when someone is evil that we should respond by becoming equally evil.

Like most people who have become somewhat maniacal in their causes, Assange has published a “manifesto” and, like most such writings, it makes for rather heavy reading. Such writers are usually more absorbed in the process of delivering their thoughts than they are in the concept of actually making those thoughts understandable. To the degree that I get his points, he seems to be saying something like this.

He sees secrecy as the instrument of an authoritarian government and believes our government has become authoritarian by means of conspiracy and secrecy. To return the nation to a true democracy the instrument of secrecy must be removed. He doesn’t really say why he is targeting the US, but the implication is that he sees us as the one nation that is actually a democracy at the core which has been hijacked by an authoritarian conspiracy. He seems to see other nations functioning as designed, either as democracies of whatever degree, or as an authoritarian nations with governments to suit. And, of course, it is we who have military bases in more than 700 countries world wide, which has considerable implications for world stability.

I can’t say that I entirely disagree with him in principle, although I’m not sure I’m on board as to the matter of degree. I don’t think it can be argued that we do have a democratic government which is moving in the direction of authoritarianism. How far we have come, the speed with which we are moving, and how far we are likely to go can all be argued, but I don’t think we can dispute that our government is less responsive to the will of the people, and less beneficial to the “common man,” that it once was.

Unfortunately, I suspect that the Wikileaks episodes, rather than removing secrecy, will cause it to increase and become more rigorous and will strengthen rather than weaken what Assange regards as the "conspiracy” that is eroding our democracy.

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