Thursday, July 15, 2010

WikiLeaks, but without a Filter

Valiant Protector of Free Speech. Puller-back of The Curtain. WikiLeaks publishes leaked documents and protects whistle-blowers with virtually no money and a handful of staff. It is an "uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking" driven feverishly by an acid-pure ethic of journalistic probity.

"There should be no subjectivity," says its founder and mercurial guiding light is Julian Assange. But WikiLeaks is all over the place. It has no discernment. Like a soothsayer it throws the bones for us to see, but maybe a 15-year old soothsayer, who doesn't consider the consequences of those bones. Wikileaks posts anything: Sarah Palin's email, and shameful and vicious footage and voice-over of US helicopter pilots shooting twelve people, some of them children and journalists, on an Iraq street. That's its strength, some say.

Trading Cause and Conscience for Calm, it's nice, romantic, probably wrong to think of Assange as the earnest guy with backpacked laptop over one shoulder, boarding pass in his pocket, forever blending into the line that's taking off its shoes at security. But "everything about this is odd," said the Guardian's Stephen Moss who interviews a rather petulant, hardly romantic Assange here here.

Being an information activist does have its intrigue, I suppose. Journalists say phoning him his a multi-leg relay of murmurs passing the coded message, the phone ringing at midnight, interviews through a trans-Atlantic blur. And surely it's not an easy job. Some say huge, mindless powers: exposed corporations, peeved governments, Sarah Palin, would like to get him in the sights of their high-powered attorneys, or something more diabolical. Others say, nobody's listening.

Is Assange the first of us screaming and pointing to the grassy knoll? If we turned our heads and looked at the grassy knoll would there be a billboard that says "Your Newspapers Have Been Co-opted! Do Something!" What would we do?

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