Whatever you might think about Assange and WikiLeaks, you have to admit that the conversation around it has been nothing but fascinating. If Assange is a hero or a traitor remains the principal question at hand, but the variations on the theme seem to be unlimited.
Democracy Now! has had many amazing pieces on the story, but there is one in particular that has compelled (or inspired, depending on how you see it) to write a blog post.
The article in particular (here) quotes Glenn Greenwald, who states that: “Whatever you think of WikiLeaks, they have not been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. Yet look what has happened to them. They have been removed from Internet … their funds have been frozen … media figures and politicians have called for their assassination and to be labeled a terrorist organization. What is really going on here is a war over control of the Internet, and whether or not the Internet can actually serve its ultimate purpose—which is to allow citizens to band together and democratize the checks on the world’s most powerful factions.”
I will start this reflection off with the fact that calling for anyone’s assassination is abhorrent; whatever the crime, a person should be tried and, if warranted, executed by the state, and not the head of state or any other individual.
I find that the discussion about governance and freedom is usually too black and white to come to a satisfying conclusion. I also have noticed that many of those involved in this discussion can be pretty extreme in their position.
For example, Greenwald makes an excellent point, that the internet’s ultimate purpose, to allow for everyone’s voice to be heard, shouldn’t be sacrificed. However, I don’t think that this should come at the cost of humanity’s ultimate purpose, which is to learn to live together in unity and harmony.
Just governance should be something everyone works towards, from the grassroots up. When an injustice or a fault is found, it must be addressed. A system of governance always under scrutiny, and whose faults can be shared in a millisecond with the entire world thanks to the internet, is bound to think twice before trying to abuse its power. Creating such system of governance is intimately linked with creating a world in which justice (the true kind) prevails. True justice will be the outcome of a united consultation, a long and arduous process the outcome of which will be an international judicial system everyone can agree on. Does the chaos created by Assange’s WikiLeaks help to achieve such a purpose? I really don’t think so.
However, there is the fact that the information Assange’s WikiLeaks have uncovered needs to be shared, so as to empower the grassroots to demand the changes in the system of governance of the country they live in become more just. It implies that the information should be presented not as fodder for gossip and shock, but rather, as a tool for empowerment – background information and contextual information need to also be shared.
So the question becomes: which portions of the information should Assange have shared, and how? While there are some that are extremely important for the population at large to know, the type that are more gossip based are truly irrelevant to democratizing the checks on the world’s most powerful factions, as Greenwald puts it. Perhaps Assange’s big mistake then was to put all the information available on the internet; had he practiced tact, wisdom and moderation, perhaps he would have been able to achieve a positive outcome rather than the chaos he has now created.
2 thoughts on “WikiLeaks’s Assange: Some thoughts”
I agree with your take, and I haven’t seen this view really well represented in media (although I certainly haven’t been reading everything).
On the one hand, it’s wrong for an organization’s survival on the Internet to be suffocated when it hasn’t been charged with a crime (as Greenwald states).
On the other hand, what was the point of releasing mountains of documents most of which doesn’t point to anything illegal (or even unethical) but is merely troublesome or embarrassing?
I think there is a place for leaks in society as it is currently structured, and Wikileaks had a tremendous amount of goodwill from the public. But that position requires responsibility and restraint, and they should have focused on exposing the most oppressive violations of rights and laws. By being indiscriminate in what they release, they have wasted a great opportunity.
Still, there isn’t just one shot to get it right. Other leak organizations are already popping up, and hopefully they will be more sophisticated in how they operate.
Who said it? Authority should be derived by the consent of the people not through the threat of force.I think though Assange forgets he had a responsibility not to be so brazen about publishing the information.