The ongoing WikiLeaks saga is captivating, in part, because its hugeness extends in so many directions; breadth, depth, duration. Like the roiling, inky geyser of the BP oil spill, WikiLeaks' revelations keep squirting their way into the world, defying the most powerful governments and technologies. A growing consensus lauds the leaks as a triumph for the left, a new model for openness. That may be. But within the folds of interlocking stories - the leaks, the cables, the hack attacks, the travails of founder Julian Assange - there are multiple threads that should give progressives and lefties pause. Here's three:
1. Information without representation
October's Iraq War document dump was far more redacted than previous leaks. According to CNN, WikiLeaks removed more data from the documents than the Pentagon did from the originals. It'd be one thing if the whistleblower website lived up to its reputation and placed everything online. That WikiLeaks censors anything at all shows a basic agreement with the United States' position; there are lives (military and civilian) in the balance, and the disclosure of their identities - even inadvertently - could endanger those lives. Except now we have an unelected, unaccountable entity making these decisions. Am I the only one who sees this as an inherently undemocratic setup?
The American military is bureaucratic, change-adverse, and designed (to quote Rush Limbaugh) to kill people and break things. It's also controlled by civilians, a truth reaffirmed in June by general McChrystal's dismissal. I didn't get a say in McChrystal's command in Afghanistan, and I didn't get a say in his successor. But if I don't like Petraeus's conduct, there are plenty of elected representatives I can beef to. If my cause is organized and passionate enough, it may build enough momentum to force leaders on the executive level to take notice. Yes, the odds are astronomical against my affecting any change. So what? That's life in a representative democracy. You get, at least, the opportunity to air grievances.
Where's the complaint box for Assange?
2. "Trust me" syndrome
After July's Afghan War documents leak, Amnesty, Reporters Without Borders, and four other NGOs expressed concern for the safety of Afghans named in the 75,000 documents. Assange offered assurances - widely accepted - that no Afghans had been killed due to leaked info.
Ponder this for a moment. Why should we believe him? Assange has every motive in the world for denying collateral damage. Also; how the hell would he know? Also; how would anyone know? If mystery murders are still on the books from Katrina, how could any westerner ever know what goes down in rural Afghanistan? It all has the suspiciously self-serving ring of BP CEO Tony Hayward's many gulf spill bloopers. Except Hayward only had 11 deaths and several hundred miles of coastline to worry about.
3. Viral Misogyny
It's not fair to discuss Operation Payback in the same breath as Wikileaks. But it's not entirely unfair, either; Assange and Wikileaks have thus far refused to disown last week's DDoS retaliations done in their name. Among other foes, the attack targeted the Swedish Prosecution Authority, the body prosecuting Julian Assange for rape charges. It's a quick step from the SPA to the plaintiff's lawyers, who've also been hammered from online. This is pretty much the same deal as Keep America Safe's attack on Gitmo lawyers (and, by extension, the rule of law itself), with one notable exception; Liz Cheney had the balls to sign her name.
The real targets are the accusers. Both women have been globally vilified, their names, faces, addresses and phone numbers posted online. One of the accusers may or may not have tried to withdraw her claims, depending on which news site you read. Most distressingly, much of the flak comes from the left; Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, Naomi Wolf. And where Interpol's timing and handling of Assange is suspicious in the extreme, no one really knows the full story between Assange and his accusers. Regardless of the details of this particular case, to have rape accusations so thoroughly and shamefully discredited sends a chilling message to women worldwide.
Operation Payback's hairy id keeps peeking out. Beneath those computer geek trappings - the "low orbit ion cannon," the D&D appeal to "chaotic good," the twinkly Tron anonymity - beat the hearts of a million frat boys. It's a triumph of misogyny hiding in plain sight. Meanwhile, last Friday's ANON OPS press release explained why the group's assault on Amazon was aborted; "Simply put, attacking a major retailer when people are buying presents for their loved ones would be in bad taste."