Why I’m In Favor of WikiLeaks’ Professed Ideals and Aims
I am not a fan of government secrecy. Maybe some things should be kept secret, but by and large? Our government has overused that excuse to the point of absurdity. We can no longer trust the government to keep its citizens informed about what it’s doing.
Since the run-up to the Iraq War, it’s been pretty obvious that we can no longer trust the news media to keep us informed, either. At that point, journalism utterly failed in its civic duty to question the government and inform the populace about critical issues. Someone needs to step into that gap.
Why I’m Not Pro-WikiLeaks
Some of the information they leaked includes data that identifies people in the field. This puts real people at real risk — people who are trying to do good. This is not responsible reporting.
For all the reasons that it was bad when the Bush Administration blew Valerie Plame’s cover, it’s also bad now that WikiLeaks has blown the cover of various sources in the field. I can’t support that.
Why I’m Very Much Anti-Anti-WikiLeaks
For all the danger that WikiLeaks’ cover-blowing has caused, I feel much more threatened by the attempts to censor the Internet and shut down discussion. The idea that Senator Joe Lieberman can ask Amazon to pull the plug on any organization’s Web presence and have it done in under a day is absolutely chilling.
Now, upstream providers are denying service to WikiLeaks mirrors as well. There’s a concerted effort to turn WikiLeaks into the Internet equivalent of an unperson. And “unpersoning” people is not the action of a free society. It’s the way a totalitarian regime operates, not the way I want my democracy to behave.
I’m disgusted with the number of financial institutions that will happily process donations to the Ku Klux Klan, but not to WikiLeaks. It’s been pointed out with some accuracy that it’s now easier to send donations to al-Qaeda than to WikiLeaks.
This says something about who and what it is we really oppose. And I don’t like what it says. We need to stand for freedom, for an informed citizenry, and for justice.
(In that vein, AlterNet’s list of Six Companies That Haven’t Wussed Out of Working With WikiLeaks is somewhat encouraging.)
Regarding DDoSes as A Form of Protest
I agree with the EFF’s statement that it “doesn’t condone cyber-vigilantism, be it against MasterCard or WikiLeaks. The answer to bad speech is more speech.”
Regarding the Pentagon Papers Parallel
The argument that this is in any way different from Daniel Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers is ridiculous. The two are very similar. If you ever wonder how you would have stood during that incident (“sure, it’s easy to see in hindsight what was right… but would I have done the right thing back then?”)… take a look at your reaction to WikiLeaks. The two parallel each other pretty well.
To the journalists who are calling for Assange’s prosecution: Are you mad at him because he’s doing the job you should have been doing? Are you so full of spite that you’d advocate to eviscerate the First Amendment that protects your own profession? Oh, right — many of you weren’t really making use of the First Amendment’s protection anyway, since you’re not rocking the boat. That’s why Assange had to rock it instead.
Regarding Rape Allegations Against Julian Assange
There has been a lot of disinformation about this. The pro-WikiLeaks side have been claiming some things that are completely untrue. The only reason I can think of to spread such disinformation is that they don’t want anyone to know the real allegations. That doesn’t make them sound like they’re very confident in Assange’s innocence, by the way.
The charges against Julian Assange include allegations that he tore a woman’s clothing off, that he had sex with a woman without her permission while she was asleep, and that he held a woman down by her arms and pinned her with his body weight.
These are real charges of real rape activity, and the things you may have heard about “a condom broke”, or some bizarre thing called “sex by surprise” are all 100% fiction.
Furthermore, the pro-WikiLeaks side’s false claims haven’t just been about the charges against Assange, but also about the women who brought the charges. For example, there’s a claim that one of them is “a feminist” — as if wanting equal rights should be used as an excuse to deny her justice? There’s the claim that she wrote some kind of “article about how to get even with men”, which is also completely false: she translated a preexisting English eHow.com article on revenge in general, not “against men”. Then there are the claims that either or both of the women are in the pay of the CIA — claims that have not a shred of evidence to back them up.
Assange’s supporters have gone beyond simply smearing these women, and have posted their names, addresses, and other identifying information. In many cases, people claiming to support Julian Assange have threatened to rape his accusers. Then they’ve gone ahead and harassed and bullied other women who had the temerity to point out that the “it was just a broken condom” claim was a lie. And of course, that harassment includes death threats — threatening to kill people merely for trying to speak out publicly.
This behavior is completely unacceptable. It’s inhuman. It’s disgusting.
I am in favor of the free flow of information. But I’m also in favor of taking rape charges seriously. And I’m in favor of whistleblowers, accusers, and those who cry “An injustice has been done!” being able to get a fair hearing without being subjected to death threats. That applies to the Swedish women’s accusations against Assange just as much as it does to WikiLeaks’ revelations about the actions of world governments.