December 21, 2010
|Photo: Paulo Jorge Vieira.|
First of all, I must make a confession. I haven’t read any of the diplomatic cables leaked on WikiLeaks. I have read dozens of stories about them from both mainstream and alternative sources. Or, to be more accurate, I have read dozens of stories about WikiLeaks and about Julian Assange and his alleged sexual misconduct. I have read stories in which Assange is portrayed as a selfless hero, a persecuted martyr of the movement for truth and justice. I have also read stories that call for Assange’s execution as a “traitor,” a spy, or as Joe Biden called him, a “high tech terrorist.” WikiLeaks has been portrayed as the essence and culmination of all things that are possible with the Internet. WikiLeaks has also been portrayed as an insidious menace that endangers the lives of American soldiers all over the world. As with so many complex issues, the propaganda machine nearly forces us to pick one of two options: WikiLeaks is good or WikiLeaks is bad. Choose a side and go to war—there’s plenty of ammunition for you to use on either side.
But wait a second, what about the cables themselves? The whole point of WikiLeaks is that information can get from whistleblowers to the public unfiltered and uncensored by corporate or government interests. Or is it? Why, as we are learning now, were the cables sent to the U.S. State Department, CIA, and media outlets such as the Guardian and the New York Times first, before being released on the site? This allowed the establishment media to frame the debate and the story and make it about WikiLeaks and Assange, not about the information being leaked. Surely Assange and others at WikiLeaks knew this would happen to some extent, although I’m sure Assange hadn’t counted on his sexual misadventures being front page news. If the folks at WikiLeaks only cared about the public getting unfiltered access to the cables, they would have posted them without redaction and without giving corporate and government PR flacks a head start on how to spin the story. WikiLeaks itself, however, benefits greatly from the corporate media attention and handling of the story. Can a website have a greater PR coup than to have donating to it be banned by large banks or its site booted off of Amazon? All of a sudden, giving money to WikiLeaks is rebellious and cool. Julian Assange is a rock star. Fox News has yet another boogie man to induce fear and loathing. The establishment media has tabloid fodder to use for months—attracting desperately needed eyeballs to its dying publications.
The only losers in this equation are those of us trying to find out the truth about the way the world operates. Lost in the spectacle of WikiLeaks is any truth that was present in the diplomatic cables. Keeping in mind, of course, that “just because something is secret doesn’t mean its true,” as Alex Jones recently pointed out. We must remember that if there are any nuggets worth ferreting out in the original cables, those of us who don’t work for government or mass media corporations are the ones who will have to dig them out. Being informed is a lot more work than being propagandized, and I have a feeling I am not the only one who has fallen for the WikiLeaks spectacle.
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