Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The Grand Diversion of Wikileaks. . . . . .
Voltaire once said "If God didn't exist it would be necessary to invent him." And given the recent dump of tens of thousands of documents from Wikileaks, I am beginning to think that we can adapt Voltaire's famous quote to our contemporary situation by saying "If Wikileaks didn't exist it would be necessary for the US Government to invent it." The truth is that Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, has done a terrible diservice to future generations. By realeasing thousands of documents which amount to little more than diplomatic gossip, Wikileaks has done something that will potentially have several negative effects. The first negative impact is that this will give governments a significant excuse to make access to information more difficult in the future. Now if the leaks presented in the past week were significant to the degree, say, that The Pentagon Papers were, then this might be a worthwhile price to pay. Instead, even though there has not been a genuinely meaningful release of information concerning the nefarious actions of governments, they now have a pre-made excuse to raise a stink about the dangers of government leaks and make such leaks more difficult. But perhaps more importantly, by creating an international media spectacle around what are actually just a bunch of titillating exchanges between diplomats (most of which any astute observer would have already figured was going on), Wikileaks has created the impression that these are the worst kinds of things that our Governments have been doing. This creates a kind of apathy in people by giving them the idea that not much nefarious stuff is actually going on. So the fact that international organizations like Amnesty are continually reporting on very real and significant human rights abuses being perpetrated in many cases by Western Governments, as well as significant collusion between Western Governments and seriously questionable regiems, these things recede in people's minds as they get wrapped up in the Wikileak spectacle. It is not unlike a child telling their parent about some minor infraction in behaviour in order to reflect attention away from a more significant event. It is a pretty simple and standard political strategy which recent right-wing governments like that of George Bush and Stephen Harper have used extensively to great effect. And even though I don't suspect Wikileaks of any collusion here, Western Governments could not have invented a more effective diversionary event.