There´s something really bold going on. Public is getting to know who it is governed by. Or, to be be more precise, how it is governed by those who it is governed by.
There´s been brave journalists like Dana Priest who won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service twice for investigative journalism. She also won the George Poke Award for shedding light on the fact that the CIA was maintaining detention facilities in foreign countries. To most of the people it never occured to question her ethics.
But Wikileaks – instead of being an institution worthy of recognition in terms of transparency, as Timothy Gordon Ash suggests here – is being demonized or at least questionned in its integrity. Assange is being portrait as a devilish blonde nerd hacking through his adolescence, his main trait of character supposedly a lack of belief in institutions. Can we trust those who don´t belive in institutions? Actually we cannot trust those who do, since institutions are not designed as religious entities to be believed in but as structures which are to be controlled by the public.
But now, all of a sudden, transparency seems to be someting threatening to democracy. The publication of data as sensitive as the ones now published would harm lives of others, critics insist. New York Times Columnist David Brooks even compares Wikileaks´public procedure of publishing secret information to peoples´little private realm: What if our secrets would be revealed to others? Wouldn´t that feel really really bad? Would relationships remain stable, would any diplomacy be possible when lacking hipocrisy?, he asks. Come on, New York Times readers are fortunately clever enough not to buy into cheap comparison living of private fears. In this context, suggesting that lies in everyday lives are sad and bad – if so, they might as well increase heappiness,- deteriorates this huge event to a private little thing. But nations lying to the public about what thery´re enagaged in is not a private cozy question, it is what media should talk about unless it is prepared to die due to futility. The cleavage is as simple as that: In private life we do not send soldiers to war to defend our lies.
While some claim Wikilieaks degenerates into Gossip , others clearly state that gossip is just an entertaining aspect of this release. What is factually intersting is that there ist enough evidence of the US acting against law. The Economist defends Wikileaks by pointing out how the Bush Administration forced Germany not to act in the interest of its citizen Khaled El-Masri but in that of the CIA. Or by naming the fact that UN abasassadors were spied on. Gossip?
In the German lefitst newspaper taz Dana Priest talks about hard times coming up for Assange. But it should not be media or journalists that destroy his reputation. What Wikileaks does is to provide information. Claiming Wikileaks responsible for anything else but the deliverance of the information, the link between source and public, is at least problematic. It turns Assange into a reincarnation of Kassandra. But in this case it´s not about predicting future, it´s about stating facts about the past. The ones to bring news to the public are defenitely not the ones to be blamed for the news.