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Fri Aug 24, 2012, 08:34 PM

Wikileaks: the illusion of transparency

pdf available from: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1801343
Alasdair Roberts
Rappaport Professor of Law and Public Policy
Suffolk University Law School

... This vision suffers from at least four difficulties. The first comes out of a misunderstanding of the character of the internet itself. In its early days, the internet was envisaged as the platform for a global commons -- a free space that would impose no barriers to the sharing of information, included the leaked information obtained by WikiLeaks. (WikiLeaks itself said its aim was to "provide a forum for the entire global community to examine any document relentlessly" (Schmidt 2007).) But the internet is not the platform for a true global commons, and most of the business and governmental entities that dominate the online world do not take it as their goal to construct one. In the real world of the internet, commercial and political considerations routinely compromise the free flow of information, just as they did when we relied on more primitively communications technologies ...

As the British journalist John Lanchester has recently observed, WikiLeaks' "release of information is unprecedented: but it is not journalism. The data need to be interpreted, studied, made into a story" (Lanchester 2010). WikiLeaks attempted to do this itself when it released the Iraq helicopter video in April 2010. Assange "premiered" the video at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and packaged it so that its significance would be clear. The edited video, said Assange, provided evidence of "collateral murder," of "indiscriminate . . . . <and> unprovoked" killing (Cohen and Stelter 2010). Assange made clear that his intention was to capture public attention. "The promise we make to our sources," Assange said a week later, "is <that> we will try and get the maximum possible political impact for the material that theygive to us" (Assange 2010). ...

There are good reasons which we should be skeptical about claims that disclosures such as these will produce significant changes in policy or the political order. It is helpful to make a contrast to the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. It might be possible to argue that the 1971 disclosure contributed to growing public disillusionment with the Vietnam war, and with the Nixon presidency, and thus to two important policy shifts: the withdrawal from Vietnam, finalized by 1973, and the adoption of several laws to increase oversight of the executive branch, including the strengthening of the Freedom of Information Act in 1974. However it would be foolish to claim that the release of the Pentagon Papers alone produced these effects, or even that it was the major contributing factor. ...

None of this is right. There is no such thing, even in the age of the internet, as the instantaneous and complete revelation of the truth. In its undigested form, information has no transformative power at all. Raw data must be distilled; the attention of a distracted audience must be captured; and that audience must accept the message that is put before it. The process by which this is done is complex and easily swayed by commercial and governmental interests. This was true before the advent of the internet and remains true today. Moreover it is not clear that the social order is either deceptive or brittle. We might even say that WikiLeaks proved the reverse: that what was in fact going on behind the curtain was more or less what most people had suspected and were prepared to tolerate. Perhaps for this reason, revelations were not destabilizing. There does not appear to be any fundamental way in which these disclosures have changed realities about the exercise of American power abroad ...

pdf available from: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1801343

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Reply Wikileaks: the illusion of transparency (Original post)
struggle4progress Aug 2012 OP
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OnyxCollie Aug 2012 #1
struggle4progress Aug 2012 #2
treestar Aug 2012 #3

Response to struggle4progress (Original post)

Sat Aug 25, 2012, 02:22 AM

1. .



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Response to OnyxCollie (Reply #1)

Sat Aug 25, 2012, 09:45 AM

2. Cheez-It

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Response to struggle4progress (Original post)

Sat Aug 25, 2012, 04:38 PM

3. this is what I've been saying:

"Like it or not," Assange has "the power to impose his judgment of what should or shouldn't be secret."

Why his judgment? I don't see it as desirable.

The bulk being overwhelming as a numerator is interesting too. And that top secret stuff is still beyond wikileaks. And then only 6% of the leaked cables were even classified. Does show the proportion here and thus supports the argument that the government is not so "embarrassed" or thwarted is some existential way by which it would find Julian worth even prosecuting, let alone "disappearing".

"Leaking, publishing and waiting for outrage" to produce political change. Hasn't happened on a large scale.

An "impenetrable forest of military jargon" isn't going to spur outrage. And leaking the names of people who cooperated is just irresponsible.

And they have not outraged Americans in general, and they are right that if they had leaked a few documents about some specific thing, they'd have gotten more of the outrage they wanted.

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