The Beginning

Posted: December 1, 2010 by bennettfiasco in Politics
Tags: , , ,

No doubt everyone is familiar with the wonderful WikiLeaks Fiasco.  Politicians and governments everywhere are shouting down Julian Assange at every turn.  As is to be expected.  Nobody likes their dirty laundry being hung out for everyone to see.  But kudos to Assange for being a champion for transparency.  And kudos to Salon for having some sound coverage of the dump’s aftermath.

Glen Greenwald takes mainstream media, or “The Good Journalists,” to task for their reaction to the leaks…

Then, with some exceptions, we have the group which — so very revealingly — is the angriest and most offended about the WikiLeaks disclosures:  the American media, Our Watchdogs over the Powerful and Crusaders for Transparency.  On CNN last night, Wolf Blitzer was beside himself with rage over the fact that the U.S. Government had failed to keep all these things secret from him:

Are they doing anything at all to make sure if some 23-year-old guy, allegedly, starts downloading hundreds of thousands of cables, hundreds of thousands of copies of sensitive information, that no one pays attention to that, no one in the security system of the United States government bothers to see someone is downloading all these millions — literally millions of documents? . . . at this point, you know, it — it’s amazing to me that the U.S. government security system is so lax that someone could allegedly do this kind of damage just by simply pretending to be listening to a Lady Gaga C.D. and at the same time downloading all these kinds of documents.

Then — like the Good Journalist he is — Blitzer demanded assurances that the Government has taken the necessary steps to prevent him, the media generally and the citizenry from finding out any more secrets:  “Do we know yet if they’ve [done] that fix? In other words, somebody right now who has top secret or secret security clearance can no longer download information onto a C.D. or a thumb drive? Has that been fixed already?”  The central concern of Blitzer — one of our nation’s most  honored “journalists” — is making sure that nobody learns what the U.S. Government is up to.

But one of the best points of the article is the following regarding the behavior of NYT’s Executive Editor Bill Keller…

Then we have The New York Times, which was denied access to the documents by WikiLeaks this time but received them fromThe Guardian. That paper’s Executive Editor, Bill Keller, appeared in a rather amazing BBC segment yesterday with Carne Ross, former British Ambassador to the U.N., who mocked and derided Keller for being guided by the U.S. Government’s directions on what should and should not be published (video below):

KELLER:  The charge the administration has made is directed at WikiLeaks: they’ve very carefully refrained from criticizing the press for the way we’ve handled this material . . . . We’ve redacted them to remove the names of confidential informants . . . and remove other material at the recommendation of the U.S. Government we were convinced could harm National Security . . .

HOST (incredulously):  Just to be clear, Bill Keller, are you saying that you sort of go to the Government in advance and say:  “What about this, that and the other, is it all right to do this and all right to do that,” and you get clearance, then?

KELLER:  We are serially taking all of the cables we intend to post on our website to the administration, asking for their advice.  We haven’t agreed with everything they suggested to us, but some of their recommendations we have agreed to:  they convinced us that redacting certain information would be wise.

ROSS:  One thing that Bill Keller just said makes me think that one shouldn’t go to The New York Times for these telegrams — one should go straight to the WikiLeaks site.  It’s extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the U.S. Government, but that says a lot about the politics here, where Left and Right have lined up to attack WikiLeaks – some have called it a “terrorist organization.”

Curious.  Even the beloved NYT is falling prey to acquiescence.  The real summary of what’s going on with “Good Journalists” comes in the next paragraph with help from The Guardian‘s Simon Jenkins.

It’s one thing for the Government to shield its conduct from public disclosure, but it’s another thing entirely for the U.S. media to be active participants in that concealment effort.  As The Guardian‘s Simon Jenkins put it in a superb column that I can’t recommend highly enough:  “The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. . . . Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets.”  But that’s just it:  the media does exactly what Jenkins says is not their job, which — along with envy over WikiLeaks’ superior access to confidential information — is what accounts for so much media hostility toward that group.  As the headline of John Kampfner’s column in The Independent put it:  “Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority.”

Greenwald then shifts to focus on the “Good Citizen” who is “furious that WikiLeaks has shown them what their Government is doing and, conversely, prevented the Government from keeping things from them.”  And it illustrates something so true about American society today.

Nonetheless, our government and political culture is so far toward the extreme pole of excessive, improper secrecy that that is clearly the far more significant threat.  And few organizations besides WikiLeaks are doing anything to subvert that regime of secrecy, and none is close to its efficacy.  It’s staggering to watch anyone walk around acting as though the real threat is from excessive disclosures when the impenetrable, always-growing Wall of Secrecy is what has enabled virtually every abuse and transgression of the U.S. government over the last two decades at least.

That is why this WikiLeaks Fiasco is so important.  The operation of a machine in the dark may be soothing to a people as citizens and consumers, but it is not beneficial.  Understanding the behaviors elected and appointed officials, CEOs and business owners partake in is crucial to the proper treatment of citizens and consumers everywhere.

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Comments
  1. What an amazing post. Bravo. I believe that Wikileaks represents our First Amendment Rights – to Freedom of Speech and Press. I’ve been poking around the internet reading what other folks have written about Wikileaks and am alarmed at how many say to ban him, arrest him, or even kill him. Don’t people realize that Julian Assange and Wikileaks are simply the messengers of the information they receive? Why isn’t anyone screaming to know WHO in Washington SENT Wikileaks the information in the first place? Technically, they would be the ones who actually broke the law (although I hope they get away with it). I, for one, hope Julian Assange, Wikileaks, and the suppliers of information to Wikileaks, continue to fight the good fight.

    Those who are demanding Wikileaks be muzzled are just begging our government to censor the information we receive. Joe Liberman is doing a good job of moving the censorship machine forward by shutting down Wikiliks’ web hosting through Amazon. I’m sure there will be some broad based legislation that will be rushed through about this that will leave gaping holes open to further suppress our First Amendment Rights. We can thank the NYT’s, Joe Liberman, the Wolf Blitzers of the world, and all the other imbeciles for our loss of freedoms. Thanks for nothin’ Assholes!

    These are sad times were living in. Never in my life did I think the day would come when I’d hear members of the media demand censorship from our government. I also can’t believe people don’t realize what a big deal this is.

    Anyway . . . sorry for the rant. I thought your article was great.

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