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