Foreign Policy

The #1 Game-Changer of 2010: Wikileaks By a Landslide

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Over at Truthdig, Richard Reeves makes the case that, unlike most stories clogging annual journalistic top ten lists, Wikileaks is the one big new development:

No. 1 on the game-changer list would be WikiLeaks. If we need final proof that the new information technologies change everything, WikiLeaks is that proof. The engine of democratic power—and totalitarian rule as well—is control of the flow of information to the people. For better or worse, leaders have been losing that power for at least the last three decades, beginning probably with the development of CNN in 1980.

That power, the power to shape public opinion and reaction to specific events, is gone. If there were another Pearl Harbor or another Holocaust, we would all learn about it at the same time, details to follow in minutes. We might not do anything about it, but we would know.

Whole thing here.

I think Reeves is right here. The power shift under is way, way, way bigger than Julian Assange and it's bigger than Wikileaks. Whatever happens to them specifically, the larger forces they represent aren't going away any time soon. To me, it's like unauthorized file-sharing. Napster and various other iterations of it was definitively croaked (including Pirate Bay just this past year). And downloading is bigger than ever.

As long as the insta-cliche of "game-changer" is in the air, let's take a moment to proclaim the radical loss of secret knowledge by governments, corporations, and the like "the new normal." Like it or hate it, better get used to it. The proper reaction isn't, "How do you stop it?" It's "How do we live with this?" As Reason's Jesse Walker wrote recently, it's a leaky world and no umbrella is gonna keep us fully dry.

Contrary to the various Dems and Reps and handmaidens in the press calling bloody sedition, I think the U.S. government has come off looking relatively decent in the recent batch of cables that have been aired (accent on relatively). Our diplomats and agents abroad do not seem to be participating in the grossest form of hypocrisy and corruption that is commonplace. Which isn't to say that the U.S.'s foreign policy isn't stupid, poorly conceived, and generally ineffective. Only that we're mostly on the up-and-up in being as stupid as we seem. The Sauds, the Russians, the Afghans, and the Pakistanis can't boast that.

And for those who think that Wikileaks is inherently anti-American or pro-lefty, do remember the group's role in circulating the emails of East Anglia University's Climate Research Unit. Wikileaks represents a new alphabet, a new grammar, a new language. Long after it's purged the Holocaust deniers on its payrolls, disappeared from memory, and Julian Assange is a cast member on Dancing with the Stars or Celebrity Rehab, we'll still be living in the world they helped create. The net result just may well be governments, scientists, businesses, and other sources of power that act more openly and honestly.

Reason.com on Wikileaks here.

Reason.tv asks four journos whether Wikileaks is a force for good:

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87 responses to “The #1 Game-Changer of 2010: Wikileaks By a Landslide

  1. Mine are more interesting, and I made the same argument

    1. LOVE MEEEEEEEEEE

      1. Heller, thanks for the picture of your dick but WTF did the mohel have drink during the Brit milah?

          1. “Moynihan’s essay averring that Assange is not a “real” journalist, and WikiLeaks is not a journalistic enterprise that ought to enjoy First Amendment protection, is especially noteworthy in this regard: Of course, there have been others ? plenty of them ? who have labored mightily to curry favor with the feds by anticipating and creatively prefiguring Assange’s coming indictment, but Moynihan deserves special “credit” on account of the mental gymnastics required to target Assange in the pages of an allegedly “libertarian” periodical. Bravo!” Love the bitchslap

            1. What’s aggravating is the idea that only the journalist profession has freedom of the press.

            2. IT seemed to me that Moynihan’s qualm with Assange is that he should be responsible for the information that he leaked. I didn’t see him argue that Assange belongs in prison or that wikileaks should be shut down.

          2. How dare he dissent from the libertarian line! Dissent must be crushed for freedom!

            1. Yeah, what a strict litmus test. How dare anyone expect libertarians to hold basic libertarian views.

      2. Ummm – pass.

    2. Assange is going down. If the Swedes or Brits don’t make an example out of him, we Feds will find a way to get it done. If his punishment is not severe and inevitable, others may follow in his footsteps.

      http://youareproperty.blogspot…..ps-up.html

      http://youareproperty.blogspot…..ps-up.html

      1. When is reason going to release all of their internal memos? Come on, Weigel, throw us a bone!

        1. I think you miss the point here. Government is bad. They should never have secrets. Private enterprise, especially journalism, is good. Their secrets are protected under the First Amendment. I would add that, in considering what constitutes “private enterprise” one must exclude private property which is stolen via illegal copying and distribution, because every unprincipled anarchist knows that, if you can’t see it, it isn’t property. Hope this helps.

          1. I agree that some of the documents released by wikileaks do come up against libel and slander laws when we are talking about private individuals. Governments and public figures do not have rights to anything. They are public servants and nothing more.

            I’m not an anarchist, but the argument has never been that “if you can’t see it, it isn’t property.” THe actual argument is that something isn’t theft if nobody’s ability to utilize a resource has been infringed. Interpreting private property as a right to profit is not accurate.

            1. Interpreting private property as a right to profit is not accurate.

              I have no right to sell my potatoes (my property) at a profit? I did not know that. If somebody steals my potatoes and eats them himself, is that OK too? What if he sells my potatoes? Is that good or bad?

              1. You have a right to sell your potatoes at a profit if you can find someone willing to buy them at a price that will be profitable to you. You don’t have a right to be guaranteed a profit via government preventing other people from selling potatoes in competition with you.

                Just like you don’t have a right to maintain your “property values” by restricting the actions of your neighbors.

                So no, you don’t have a right to profit AS SUCH if you can’t obtain one through unfettered exchange on a free market.

    1. LOVE MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

      1. I told you Heller you’re too tinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnny

        1. CLICK THIS —-> pay attention to me, rctl

          ^^^^^^^^ CLICK THIS ^^^^^^^^^

          I NEED YOUR APPROVAL BECAUSE MY MOMMY AND DADDY NEVER LOVED ME.

          1. LOL you Sugarfreed your link. Try again my little bitch.

            1. At least you are finally using the term sugarfreed correctly.

              1. I’m using 2 ways because I want to-a little joke of mine.

  2. Ban spammer please

  3. Ban idiots with small brains, dicks and stupid handles.

    1. Only YOU have the power!

      1. SIV, “Ask me anything What it says. Other things too!” Why?

    2. LOVE MEEEEEEEEEEEEE

      1. For fuck sake stick it in my ear. I can’t find a God dammed Q-tip?.

    3. Why not ban people with small handles? That dot fucker pisses me off sometimes.

      1. Really? I dislike anon assholes

  4. I dunno, Sidney Crosby’s goal in Overtime changed the game against the US.

  5. “That power, the power to shape public opinion and reaction to specific events, is gone.”

    That’s, quite frankly, contradicted by recent events–as recent as September 6, 2003:

    WASHINGTON (AP) ? Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe it is likely that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, says a poll out almost two years after the terrorists’ strike against this country.

    Sixty-nine percent in a Washington Post poll published Saturday said they believe it is likely the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks carried out by al-Qaeda. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents believe it’s likely Saddam was involved.”

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/w…..iraq_x.htm

    That poll was taken six months after we invaded Iraq. Almost 70% of the American people polled believed that Saddam Hussein was complicit in 9/11–and someone thinks the power to shape public opinion and reaction to specific events is gone?!

    How would Wikileaks have improved that situation? The Plame Affair went public months before that poll! Torture only became an issue after all those Abu Ghraib photos went public–but even after that, the mob defended those “interrogation methods” tooth and nail!

    Wikileaks may be a game changer, but the significance of having access to information can be overstated. For most people, being fooled isn’t about not having access to the information–it’s a character issue.

    There’s no shame in being lied to, but no amount of lies could ever make me condone something like torturing people by some other name either–and there just isn’t anything about Wikileaks that improves people’s character.

    1. >> Almost 70% of the American people polled believed that Saddam Hussein was complicit in 9/11

      70% of the American people don’t know what “complicit” means.

    2. What do I care for your suffering? Pain, even agony, is no more than information before the senses, data fed to the computer of the mind. The lesson is simple: you have received the information, now act on it. Take control of the input and you shall become master of the output.

      1. I prefer “Fear is the mind-killer”; regardless, as long as a critical mass of people will do whatever they’re told when they’re frightened, they’ll continue to be susceptible to “noble lies”.

        More information doesn’t change that equation. Scare the masses, and they’ll do whatever the guy in charge says will make them safe. …and they’ll lash out all the dissenters too–guaranteed.

        Bush did that during the War on Terror. Obama did it during the financial crisis. And the worst of those abuses didn’t happen behind our backs–they happened right in front of us. We knew all about it!

        People who rationalize whatever the guy in charge is doing so long as they think it’s being done to save them? Can’t blame subsequent abuses on a lack of information.

        I’m a big fan of more ammunition, which is what Wikileaks is, but let’s not get confused about what the problem is here. A huge chunk of the people out there believe what makes them feel good regardless of the facts–and Wikileaks does nothing to address that.

    3. What a strange rant. Anyway, it is better to have the information than to not have it. That is the point. Yeah, 7 out of 10 Americans may have been that stupid, but the fact remains that the truth was widely available had people bothered to look. That is different than living in a time when you could even access such information no matter what resources were available.

      1. In terms of criticizing the overblown game-changing triumphalism it’s spot on.

        Gillespie says straight out that for the US government, the hidden was not too different from the visible. And even with information opening available for people to read themselves some people are still spinning various findings as hard as they can. (positively or negatively)

        This doesn’t represent a sea change because it won’t significantly affect the ‘decision points’ of governments going forward – because such revelations haven’t changed them in the past. (I’ve said this before but how many wars were prevented by revealing and confirming in the Pentagon Papers the blaring mendacity of the US government wrt Southeast Asia?)

        1. “This doesn’t represent a sea change because it won’t significantly affect the ‘decision points’ of governments going forward – because such revelations haven’t changed them in the past. ”

          First of all, it is not just changes in communications technology that is changing the game. We have changed too. The speed at which information becomes available and is distributed keeps increasing, and the wikileaks story is only the beginning. I also disagree that revelations of truth haven’t made a difference in the past.

          1. We have changed too.

            And that’s exactly it, ‘we’ have not. We’re still the same bags of water powered by mitochrondria and governed by 1.5 kilo mass of electrical connections.

            Human society is run by human beings, and the information available has long beeen greater than the ability to assimilate it all. The decisions that are made individually, collectively, and/or by (willingly assigned, grudgingly accepted, or hostilely opposed) proxies are still made by human beings with the same limitations and incentives as they’ve had for millenia.

  6. Nick stop that. Wikileaks played no role in breaking the Climtegate story. I challenge you to find one 2009 vintage story article on Climategate that refers to Wikileaks as a source.

  7. The notion that Wikileaks played anything other than a reluctant me-too role in the CRU emails is ridiculous. See here:

    http://climateaudit.org/2010/11/30/assange-on-climategate/

    And here:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/201…..ange-wuwt/

    Charles the moderator (at WUWT) challenges Assange to contradict his version of events, but as we all know Julian Assange explains himself to nobody, at least not on request.

    1. They’re still better than other mainstream outlets that tried to ignore them or avoid publishing them by reasoning that it was an unacceptable invasion of privacy or whatever.

      1. That’s what my Dad calls “Damning with faint praise.”

  8. Disagreed. Wikileaks is a positive, but it’s marred by that asshole Assange.
    More importantly, in any sort of practical effect, that hag Pelosi’s ‘healthcare’ is bound to cause ‘way more harm than Wikileaks could ever correct.

  9. Hey! I thought this was a libertarian site! I want my “nothing will change” doom & gloom articles about the impact of wikileaks on politics, and I want them now!

    🙂

  10. The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association judges could use some “wikileaking”.

    Now, when a US pipe band wins the World Pipe Band Championship, THAT will be the “End Times Game Changer”. Not holding my breath for that eventuality…but it’s only been 23 years since the first win by an “overseas” band, so who knows…maybe in my lifetime.

  11. As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth’s final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.

    1. You sound like you’ve been drinking even more than I have – here’s mud in yer eye – bottoms up!

      1. No, he’s read too many of Assange’s C-minus term papers on, uh, something like graph theory. Shouldn’t dignify it by actually calling it graph theory.

      2. Eternity lies ahead of us, and behind. Have you drunk your fill?

  12. Well my favorite conspiracy was mentioned, and given credibility through the leaks so I’m pleased.

    Craig Stapleton, GMOs, threatening France, etc.

    Great stuff.

  13. Yeah, there’s nothing worse than a guy who transforms the world as we know it, but doesn’t live up to our image of unblemished heroic righteousness. I mean the nerve of that guy! Hell, that’s even worse than a sports star who doesn’t fulfill his mandatory function as a role model for ten year olds.

    And, when you get right down to it, Assange is just like all the others who changed history. No individual is important because, after all, if they hadn’t done it, someone else would have. Assange, like Walter Frederick Morrison, invented something so simple that anyone of a bazillion other people could have done it (notwithstanding the fact that none of those other bazillion people actually did).

    I’m sure that any one of us libertarians who tried something never done before would have easily avoided the mistakes that Julian Assange made. And, faced with instant rock star fame on a global scale with women throwing themselves at our feet, we would have brushed off uncertainty and temptation and instinctively behaved with absolute confidence and impeccable integrity. People would probably have compared us favorably to Gandhi or Christ.

    Yeah, if only everyone were like us…

    1. this

    2. “And, faced with instant rock star fame on a global scale with women throwing themselves at our feet, we would have brushed off uncertainty and temptation…”

      I may not have rock star status on a global scale, but women do find me irresistible.

      And I handle it gracefully.

  14. People would probably have compared us favorably to Gandhi or Christ.

    Both of whom were killed for their good deeds.

    What I have noticed is that the cables have been out for a month now, and the sky has yet to fall.

    1. Yes, and so, we can all agree that the cables are nothing more than adolescent ameriphobe porn. Of course as libertarians we are obligated to defend the rights of pornographers. Without celebrating porn of course, the enjoyment of which is a matter of taste not principle. Bad taste.

      1. Showing that the American government does evil acts does not make one an “Ameriphobe”.

  15. Wikileaks made outing government secrets fashionable. And this comes at the worst possible time for democratic governments, which after having finally learned that secrecy is the antidote for a powerful populace, are now being threatened with the loss of that tool.

    Unfortunately, the public is as afraid of having power as the government is of losing it, so not everyone sees this as a good thing.

  16. Some minor points: the wikileakers played only a small role in the CRU leaks. Further, anti-American asshole Assange is an asshole and all those people going to form OpenLeaks agree. Last, the proper term is ‘file-stealing’ not ‘file-sharing’.

    1. Openleaks is going to be formed by ex-employees-of course they have an axe to grind.

    2. If you steal from a thief is it really stealing?

      1. At least in Texas “theft” includes appropriating property you know to be stolen.

      2. Don’t let a tree fall on you. You might not hear the wood splintering.

  17. The only thing wikileaks has significantly “changed” is the self-satisfaction levels from lolbertarians. Pro tip: Ayn Rand, as an ardent war hawk, would want Julian Assange hung up by his balls.

    1. Ayn Rand also was no libertarian.

    2. Ya but would she want him to wear a condom?

  18. Truthdig, where editor-in-chief, Robert Scheer, still blames Clinton’s repeal of Glass-Steagall as the primary cause of the financial “collapse”.

    1. …and you think the squirrels are bad here….

  19. No more “gamechanger”. Please. New word.

    1. GAMERCHANGER!

  20. The blog post was great and right on but then links to four establishment hacks who have nothing good to say about wikileaks – bit of a disconnect there…

  21. Isn’t it too soon to declare victory?

    What will the government do to prosecute Assange? The Public Relations campaign has started, but what else may they try? Remember Manuel Noriega?

    Has anyone polled public opinion to see how many in the public think we should go get him?

    1. I doubt Assange is polling well in Peoria especially after the job the media-government complex have done on him.

  22. Avast! Ye scurvy dog! The Bay be as fit and true as ever it were.

    http://thepiratebay.org

    1. Yeah, I’ve used them a few times this week. Uh oh. I mean…. no, I didn’t. Phew!

  23. What does Ellsberg’s attorney think?

    “Mr. Assange is no boon to American journalists. His activities have already doomed proposed federal shield-law legislation protecting journalists’ use of confidential sources in the just-adjourned Congress. An indictment of him could be followed by the judicial articulation of far more speech-limiting legal principles than currently exist with respect to even the most responsible reporting about both diplomacy and defense. If he is not charged or is acquitted of whatever charges may be made, that may well lead to the adoption of new and dangerously restrictive legislation. In more than one way, Mr. Assange may yet have much to answer for.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/…..on_LEADTop

    1. Who says everything anybody does has to be in the best interests of everyone?

      People having freedom means them having the freedom to do things I don’t like–and embracing that fact is what libertarianism is all about.

      1. Embracing rights isn’t the same thing as approving of something. As P.J. says, freedom is its own punishment. If you use your freedom to do stupid and socially destructive stuff, well then by golly I’ll use mine to point out that your being an ugly destructive fool.

  24. I believe Ellsberg would disgaree and that guy ain’t his lawyer – the huy represented the NYT in the Pentagon Papers…

    http://www.thenation.com/video…..ument-dump

    1. I accept the correction that Abrams was the lawyer for the NYT. I’m also well-aware that Ellsberg has gushed positive about Assange. I still believe Abrams is worth listening to, and that he has several cogent points. The uncritical valorization of Assange around these parts is truly appalling.

  25. If Wikileaks is such a game changer, let’s wait for the huge dump of Chinese or Iranian or Saudi or North Korean internal musings, places were leakers would be summarily executed. Wikileaks is only a game changer because it hurts the West, specifically, the U.S., which is Assange’s goal.

  26. The net result just may well be governments, scientists, businesses, and other sources of power that act more openly and honestly.

    Much more likely that “bad stuff” happens completely off the record so there’s nothing to leak, or so strongly encrypted as to be equivalent.

    The best way to kill “transparency” in the long run is to make it so very expensive in the short run that nobody will tolerate it.

    As “Think of England” suggests, no “closed” state is going to change because of WikiLeaks – and I suspect very strongly that the “open” states will simply start to clam up.

    (And I suspect there will also be far more popular support for it in the face of hostile actors like Wikileaks than without it.

    Thanks, Julian! Thanks a lot.)

    Van: Nothing. That’s what’ll happen to him at the hands of the US government, and he damned well knows it – which is exactly why he’s so willing to attack the US.

    When he attacks Russia and embarrasses the FSB, I’ll give him more credit (and a much shorter life expectancy, so I can’t blame him, either).

    1. The intelligence community in the U.S. has a LONG memory. They have history of friendly relations with MI6 and MI5.

      Don’t count your chickens just yet.

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