On the other hand, to say that a hurricane is a steam motor is not to use the term metaphorically, but literally. Manuel Delanda
The days go by and the spin of events surrounding one of the biggest leaks in history are unfortunately focusing more on Wikileaks and Julian Assange than the war itself.
The discussion about the responsibility of Wikileaks for publishing the Afghanistan Diary it’s simply infantile, specially if you watch their fantastic press conference, already. We must be aware that this is the kind of discussion the United States government wants the world to have, in order to avoid being held accountable for the something not so elemental: the way war in Afghanistan has been conducted.
Outrageous editorials had been published asking to stop Wikileaks and a republican congressman already voice his support for the execution of Manning, if declared guilty of treason.The United States has not exactly been associated with freedom for some time but now they are even drafting a “media shield” in attempt to target Wikileaks directly.
It seems clear that they are not yet ready to understand that they can’t conduct wars and govern as if the Internet – our Internet, that we all have built – doesn’t exist.
Seeing the officials of the United States government talking about how Wikileaks endanger civilians, informants and “partners” sounds like a joke. It is the United States that constantly endanger society with clandestine treaties like ACTA, USCyberCom cyberwar agencies and funding of unwinable wars against drugs, just to mention a few things. Maybe this is why even americans trust Wikileaks more that its government, about what is important to release and what not.
It is astounding that although some of the media outlets that participate with Wikileaks in the release of this logs – even though some kind of deny it now - has made efforts to process the raw data offered by Wikileaks (The Guardian), but still most of the news are obsessed with Wikileaks and Assange, the White House and the political damage. Other parts of the news and opinions, focus on how Wikileaks is changing the world and how it is already turning journalism as we knew it upside down.
Don’t get me wrong, i admire and respect deeply the job of Julian Assange. I’m with Wikileaks. But I love even more the impact of Wikileaks in the world and everything that the leaks generate: software emerging, tools to aid in browsing the massive amount of information released, amateur youtube comedy actually nailing down the issues at hand, The WikiCong, people talking about visualizing severity in Processing and why not, creating reading groups for the different categories of the leaks.
We must understand that these leaks are not only an issue that involves the US, Wikileaks and media outlets. It involves every person in the world affected by the way governments exercise power today. It involves us all because the leaks are not only about the war in Afghanistan but the war against truth.
There are academic studies about the importance of leaks for helping the public understand issues of public interest and the role of whistleblowers. The fact that the United States feels that Wikileaks endanger civilians with the leaks or that people think that Mr.Assange is avoiding responsibility in this, won’t really change any of the events. (Plus, how exactly Wikileaks endager civilians?) The data out there is turning into a historical record of the war of Afghanistan right now. The data is out there telling us something that otherwise we wouldn’t know. Today’s New York Times op-editorial put it clearly:
The war logs are no Pentagon Papers. They are historic documents describing events largely predating the current administration. They contain no news. They will not change the course of the war. – Kiss this War goodbye by Frank Rich
Is not that the shit is gonna hit the fan soon. The shit hit the fan while ago. Corruption and clandestine politics are our political reality. Transparency sadly, needs to be enforced. Transparency can’t be filtered by media or politicians, it needs to offer direct access to the data, the records, the source code. Otherwise, is just political rethoric or it’s most common form, populist discourse.
So, before we embark in any political strategy first we need to know were we are because if not, we don’t know were we are going. Likewise is impossible to correct the abuses unless we know they are going on.
So the US is threatening the Internet with red emergency switches, clandestine treaties, cyberwar and draconian information acts that seems to have as goal to turn the internet into yet another unjustified battlefield: Wikistan. And journalists aren’t paying attention and are falling in the media trap that made them obsolete over a decade ago. If they really think that journalism has changed forever and data and crowd-sourced news are the future, they need to engage with this material by networking and collaborating with other disciplines.
Leaks won’t work by themselves. This is why it’s called Wiki-leaks. Hello world?
However, if the discussion remains focused on Assange and his personal responsibility, it will be stuck in Wikistan more than needed and we will just help to keep feeding the information war of the state power against the truth, that has been going on for so long.
Instead, we have to plug in to the production of news. We need to learn how to make use of the raw, unedited data we all have access now, in order to build tools that can help to reconstruct events, to understand the Afghan conflict and to produce/share knowledge that can help us all to engage with information in a transformative way – both with this leak and future ones.