Shortform post on Wikileaks

Frank of Swifthack has asked me for a brief summary of my lost Wikileaks article. Given that my near three thousand words of material on Wikileaks, Julian Assange and an incident with a Christmas Pudding was lost in the database crash of last December, here is the very (very) short version (lecture notes, if you will) of that post.

1. Julian Assange can be both a rapist and a protector of our civil liberties/a virtuous quasher of secrets; there’s nothing inherently contradictory about being someone who is good in one area and bad in another. As a good friend of mine noted on Facebook, if history has taught us anything, it’s that people are complex and nuanced.

2. With respect to point one, Assange should go back to Sweden and allow the law to take its course. It is very unlikely that these charges are political in nature (that requires, at the very least, believing in a grand conspiracy where the Swedish judiciary is in the control of the CIA) and it’s unfortunately quite likely that he’ll be investigated and go free1.

Also, Assange should shut up about how this is a plot by crazed feminists to get him. His lawyers should shut up about this being a honeytrap by shadowy powers.

3. With respect to the contents of the leak itself, we must remember that these leaks are the interpretation of data by diplomats rather than the raw data itself; not everything mentioned in the cables will be true and a lot of it will have been spun by countless individuals in a chain of PR, bluff and bluster well before it got to the point of being written down.

Sometimes we are told exactly what we want to hear.

4. Still, some of that data is interesting. The USA isn’t interfering in South American politics to the extent that Chavez would have us believe. America does know how many civilians are being killed in their foreign wars, despite claims to the contrary.

5. Still no smoking gun about the Inside Job Hypothesis. No worries though; Assange is actually a CIA plant, don’t you know?

6. There is a lot of talk going on about whether it is reasonable for governments to keep secrets from the people. Some have (I think rightly) pointed out that we, as citizens, owe our governments nothing because governments serve us; if the people we elect to be in charge want to deal in secret, then they are going to need very good reasons to do so.

The question is, is there a case for secrecy? In the missing post I spent quite some time arguing back and forth as to what would constitute good reasons and whether these good reasons actually stand up to scrutiny. A lot of the material basically boiled down to trust; if you trust your government you are more likely to think that they are dealing both in good faith and acting on some set of broad principles that will determine the tenor of whatever is going on behind closed doors. If you do not trust your government, then anything that goes on in secret is immediately suspect.

Whether secrecy is a requirement for certain inter-state activities, such as negotiating treaties, et cetera, is a subject on which I have no hard-and-fast view; I suspect secrecy isn’t necessary for successful diplomacy but because everyone is doing it no one wants to challenge the status quo.

7. Redacted.

So, there you go. The hazy memories of a post long gone, in note form.

Trah.

Notes

  1. I say “unfortunately” here not because I think he’s guilty but because, even in the utopic social democracy of Sweden, it is hard to secure prosecutions against rapists.

About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.

11 comments:

  1. Gratias! Seems to me that most of the points you discuss have already been hashed out elsewhere before — except maybe for the part about rape charges being hard to secure in Sweden.

    Anyway, I wonder if you currently have any thoughts on some of the weirder conspiracy theories, like the one claiming that the massive political and financial backlash against Assange only started because Wikileaks announced they’d be leaking information about banks. 🙂

    — frank

    1. Actually, that was one thing I did cover in the lost post; I think it’s plausible that a lot of financial institutions are reducing (or removing) their support for Wikileaks-related activities because they’d prefer Wikileaks disappears before the bank-related data gets released. I’m not sure this is a conspiracy, though; it just seems like normal operating procedure (given how a lot of the big banks are largely unregulated and thus can deny service to whomever they please).

  2. Your whining (on Twitter) about Kiwiblog comments to DPF and others is pitiful. You don’t like it don’t read it. This will spare you your sanctimony and the trouble of your many complaining comments to DPF. Dobbers are scum.

    1. Thank you for your typically abrasive and off-topic contribution to this post. Can I recommend that if you don’t like my tweets about the disgraceful behaviour of the Kiwiblog regulars, that you just don’t read them?

  3. Awesome post, Matthew. The “honeytrap” comments by Assange’s defenders are giving me awful Richard Worth flashbacks (though I must admit the idea of the CIA using such techniques theoretically makes a heck of a lot more sense than Phil Goff doing so).

    1. Thank you. A “Phil Goff Honeytrap” sounds like a cocktail. The kind of cocktail a grandparent might have drunk back in the day. I suspect it would be only marginally more alcoholic than a Shirley Temple.

    1. Given that your very own blog has this to say about comments:

      Whether such contributions remain standing will be solely at the discretion of the blog owner.

      I think the person who wants to control the debates they have, rather than engage in them freely is you.

  4. Not a very intelligent response Matthew. Nobody is under any obligation to provide space for views they may not agree with.

    Using state agencies and their allies to generate hate and dehumanize a certain political sector is the real issue.

    As a self-professed liberal you should care about this. That you apparently do not should be food for thought. If you were a true liberal, how could you not care?

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