Far be it for me to get involved in politics, and the debate about whether or not bringing all those diplomatic cables out in the open was a good idea still remains to be seen. But I would like to comment on the aftereffects of this action.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s been some mildly shocking news, but nothing that’s really disastrous for any one (country). In fact, I’m not even sure that I’ve seen any reports that a country is about to act on one of these now publicized messages. It’s being reported on the news, and will surely be repeated every time a future incident with whatever country happens, blaming it all on the cable leak. What this whole affair exposed was (and is) not about the contents of those cables at all, it was about how governments act when some of their secrets become public.
And it’s not a pretty sight, is it? Governments, companies, individuals who are supposed to be impartial, democratic, are now blocking information from reaching its citizens, doing exactly that for which they criticize other governments. I’m talking about the US government in particular of course. They have, in very non-subtle ways, blocked access to wikileaks for government employees and pressured Amazon into unplugging the Wikileaks website. After this little powerplay others soon followed. Momentum was gained and Wikileaks moved from country to country, getting kicked out of France and is now cut off from potential donations because Paypal, Mastercard and Visa blocked them. Assange himself was arrested just today in London. Did Wikileaks really deserve all this? Our governments seem to think so. If you don’t, then you haven’t chosen the right government.
Take a good look here, because this is the ugly side of our governments. This is what happens when they feel threatened in even the slightest way. And the information released really wasn’t that shocking (so far). It just confirmed stuff people already knew. There are some conspiracy theorists on the internet who believe that non-sensitive information was deliberately leaked for government purposes, but that’s a bit silly. If that were true then I don’t think it outweighs the negative consequences of a government showing its citizens its most ugly side. Preventing free information distribution. It just doesn’t work. Not on the internet. There’s already dozens of mirrors everywhere, and there’s an encrypted data file floating around on BitTorrent that’s rumored to have the full contents of the cables, just waiting to be decrypted when Assange speaks the magic word. Information can’t be stopped, and the internet is giving anyone the means to take advantage of this. Although Assange is doing it in a rather flashy way.
That being said, besides the statement that ‘information should be public’, I can’t quite see how releasing all these cables to the public is making the world a better place. Since no government seems to have changed its stance on any of the issues exposed, the only effect the release seems to have is to make (a portion of) the citizens pissed off at their government for trying to hide the information. Considering that Assange had enough foresight to plan the release of this information in such detail, I wonder if (and hope that) we can expect something more in the near future. That, or else a news report that Assange is suddenly found dead in an alley somewhere.
Here’s some more resources:
- Good gossip, and no harm done to the US
- How Wikileaks altered the way we see the world in just one week
- Julian Assange and the computer conspiracy