Either he’s a hero of world-historical significance, crusading for openness and justice while challenging the tyranny of the nation-state and demonstrating the power of the internet to create a distributed world without borders or he’s a traitorous rat bastard rapist whose actions have led to nothing but mayhem, cyber-crime, and maybe even a bunch of dead finks in Afghanistan. Or maybe he’s just a big political headache that Barack Obama really doesn’t need right now, which would make him some sort of Palinite teabagger racist, I guess. But then, Palin has condemned Assange, which means we’ve just entered into some kind of infinite recursion of stupid, or something.
I’m not so sure what to make of all this Wikileaks stuff. On one hand, it’s definitely amusing to watch the government in full-on “oh shit” mode. The more people realize that the folks at the top are basically a bunch of clueless, power-hungry wankers, the better.
On the other hand, Wikileaks has long since gone beyond being a mere repository for information or an outlet for whistle-blowers. If there is anyone out there naive enough to think that Assange and friends don’t have an agenda — and here’s a hint: the agenda isn’t “transparent government” — they’re either willfully fooling themselves or have an agenda of their own. There’s a good summation of Wikileaks’ evolution here:
In its first phase, during which it released several substantial troves of documents related to Kenya in 2008, Wikileaks operated very much with a standard wiki model: the public readership could actively post and edit materials, and it had a say in the types of materials that were accepted and how such materials were vetted. The documents released in that first phase were more or less a straight dump to the Web: very little organized redacting occurred on the part of Wikileaks. Wikileaks’s second phase was exemplified with the release of the “Collateral Murder” video in April 2010. The video was a highly curated, produced and packaged political statement. It was meant to illustrate a political point of view, not merely to inform.
The third phase is the one we currently see with the release of the diplomatic cables: Wikileaks working in close conjunction with a select group of news organizations to analyze, redact and release the cables in a curated manner, rather than dumping them on the Internet or using them to illustrate a singular political point of view.
Now, unless you think that “Collateral Murder” was downloaded from military hard drives and left totally unedited — and something tells me that the military probably didn’t name the video “Collateral Murder” — then it’s clear that Wikileaks has for quite some time used its access to leaked documents as a political weapon.
This immediately brings into question Wikileaks’ trustworthiness. What is Wikileaks deliberately holding back (besides the digital “nuclear bomb” that Assange keeps promising to unleash if he goes to jail, of course)? Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot. The point is that the moment they went from being an information clearinghouse to an activist organization, they immediately blew their credibility.
It doesn’t help that one of the major figures in the organization is, to put it lightly, a total fucking lunatic who, aside from being more than casually linked to 9/11 Truthers, neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers, also endorses David Icke and other conspiracy theorists who believe that — no joke — a “stargate recently opened up in the sea besides [sic] Yemen, and there is now a multi-dimensional portal in operation off the coast of Yemen, through which the King of Egypt can send messages…”
This particular person also happens to have endorsed the ongoing DDoS attacks against various websites that have run afoul of “Anonymous,” a group, if you can call it that, with a staggeringly over-inflated sense of their own importance. This bunch has started so-called “data wars” against credit card companies, Amazon, and uh… Sarah Palin. Like… you know. Cuz she said something bad about Julian Assange or something, and free speech is only for Julian Assange. And “Anonymous” goons.
And that’s really the problem here. Wikileaks has evolved from a more-or-less neutral information clearinghouse for whistle-blowers into an activist organization that is attempting to hold governments at ransom and whose unofficial army of self-righteous computer owners (all you have to do to become part of the Anonymous “data war” is voluntarily join a huge botnet, which is an even more lazy means of protesting than planting little flags out in a park somewhere to “raise awareness” of human trafficking or whatever…) will go on a rampage against services like Visa and Mastercard, to say nothing of sites like Amazon, that ordinary fucking people use every day.
Which makes them no better than thugs. So much for their ethical superiority.
The problem with Assange and Wikileaks is not that they’re releasing information — more power to them on that front, I say — but that they’re co-opting the rhetoric of “openness” and “transparency” in the service of a pretty obvious agenda. As CJ alluded to yesterday, none of them really seem all that interested in going after other countries — say, Russia — that might be a bit more hazardous to their health. I mean, the Russians didn’t even have to use Polonium-210 to kill Anna Politkovskaya, and I’m sure Assange and pals don’t want to end up with their brains splattered all over the door of their apartment building because Vladimir Putin got annoyed with them, to say nothing of withering away in some hospital room passing half-digested food into a bag because their irradiated, liquefied organs aren’t doing the job anymore.
But for these folks, it’s all about the drama of their romantic twilight struggle against some caricature of a totalitarian state. “Openness,” “accountability,” and “transparent government” are for them just a smokescreen, and as the ongoing “data wars” prove, they are willing — just like the governments they position themselves against — to fuck over anyone who stands in the way of them getting what they want.
Call it “taking it up the Assange.”
See, this is what I’m talking about:
The Free Wikileaks website, which organised the demonstrations, said protests were also planned for other Spanish cities, including Barcelona, Valencia and Seville.
It called for the restoration of Wikileaks’ internet domain, which was cut off by Amazon after it began publishing the diplomatic cables two weeks ago.
And it demanded that Visa and MasterCard restore credit card services because, it said, no one had proven Mr Assange’s guilt.
What protesters don’t seem to realize that Visa, Mastercard, and Amazon are all private corporations that are free to decide for themselves who to do business with. Whether or not Julian Assange is guilty of anything — and even if he were convicted of everything he’s accuse of, they’d just move the goalposts and claim that he was set up from the beginning — has absolutely nothing to do with Visa or Mastercard.
But then, since when have facts or logic mattered to wannabe radicals? I kind of wish the Spanish would just go back to demanding that the rest of Europe rescue them from the abyss of debt they’ve gotten themselves into.