When it comes to wikileaks I’m beginning to feel like a drunk in the corner of a pub. If you prod me out my stupor, I might start droning on about what ‘they’ are doing.. because the last twelve months have been a bumper period for wikileaks doing extraordinary things. And it appears that just when you think they couldn’t do anything more extreme than they’ve already done.. well, no, they’re about to top it.. according to their own account by releasing seven times the quantity of documents they released earlier this year… that’s an awful lot of documents. And if this is the work of the charged (but not yet tried) Bradley Manning then he’ll be recorded in the infamous hall of fame of intelligence leakers.
So, we obviously don’t know exactly what the release will contain. But from wikileaks’ own twitter feed, we can gather that these are diplomatic cables between the US and allies, and that a lot of world leaders come in for a lot of adverse commentary. There is, for example, said to be commentary on the political situation in Russia, and unfortunate characterisations of Russian political leaders – which is likely to be unhelpful in a time of rapprochement between the US and Russia. The Russian media say that the US has briefed the Russian government on what will be contained in the leaks. This appears to be the same for an awful lot of countries( Israel, Norway, Denmark, UK, and Australia).
We also know that wikileaks say that the British government have placed ‘d-notices’ on British newspaper editors reporting on the leaks when they come, which is a reasonably strong sign that these documents contain inflammatory material.
So, with the Iraq and Afghanistan leaks, wikileaks made the claim that this was in the interest of universal human rights, and that we should all know what was done in our name. I was uneasy about this because of the unintended consequences of such actions, and we still have no idea what the consequences might be. The justification for this new proposed leak – according to wikileaks themselves – is “The coming months will see a new world, where global history is redefined. Keep us strong”.
The coming months will see a new world, where global history is redefined? Do they want an island in the middle of nowhere, where they can ferment world war? A white cat to stroke? Some candles and soothing music so they can reflect fully on the word hubris, and what it really means? The legal difficulties faced by their dear leader are also couched in problematic terms, or terms I find problematic: “Protect WikiLeaks from assassination or extradition: VOTE for Julian as Time Person of the Year http://is.gd/h81Fg”. Yes, I’d love to vote for Julian for person of the year, no really. No, you’re right, I wouldn’t. And there was me thinking this was all about speaking truth to power.. no, it’s about protecting Mr Assange apparently. Can they really continue to claim they are merely reporting ‘the truth’, ‘without fear or favour’? Surely not. They’re out to change the world, they’re techno revolutionaries!
Wanting to change the world might be a laudable aim. Afterall a lot of social human development has occurred through these kind of visions. It might even be laudable to want to change the way that diplomacy is conducted, but what happens if you actually change the world, and ‘redefine global history’. That’s a chaffing big call for some messianic geeks with computers. Too big a call. The cry for a ‘year zero’ has rarely had positive connotations, historically. This particularly variant of revolutionary zeal is unlikely to end well this time either. Zizek was right when he said (in a paraphrase) that we want chocolate without calories, beer without headaches, and consumerism without consequences.. his argument was that we don’t recognise the structural violence inherent in the western dominated international politico-economic system. And he was right and wrong all at the same time. He’s correct in his critique, but wrong that we should necessarily be spooked by it. This is our reality, and the sort of upheaval that wikileaks are touting are a direct threat to it. It might be better if they started behaving like normal people – go put on a cardigan, eat some cheese and contemplate a stiff letter to The Times.. there, you see? All better.