09 December 2010

Wickedly dying for a leak!

So, what are we to make of the new global phenomenon of leaked cables? There are 2 extremes: on one hand, they look like a total game-changer; on the other, like a bit of a fizzer...

Naturally, I can't keep up with the sheer volume of material. But, some of the gems one reads: The Saudi royals are hypocrites who party up and engage sex-workers. The Nigerian government is laced with Shell's spies. A senior US official in Africa says that China is "a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals" (pot calls kettle black...)

Whitehall officials express surprise and denial to their US cronies about Gordon Brown's claim to be scaling down the UK's Trident-submarine programme.

(Let's not forget that a single Trident missile, which can be launched remotely by the UK's PM, is capable of inflicting many Hiroshima-sized warheads at once! And, Oh but, by the way, Gordon Brown is no longer PM...!)

What are we to make of all this?

If anyone thought dismissively about the idea of a 'knowledge economy', well this proves it's time to think again. Look at all this 'knowledge' out there on line now; knowledge that 'we' (the likes of you and me) didn't know about just a few days ago. And look at the cyber-war inflicted against J.A., his reputation, his website, and his bank accounts; and now the counter-cyber-attack by his supporters. Is the man a hero, a journalist, a cyber-warrior, a rapist, or a 'virtual' criminal?

Is he the 21st Century's Robin Hood?

Does this not change the game of politics on the global stage, once and for all, forever?

Or is it just a big yawn, because it reveals what everyone had already guessed anyway (but were happy not to think about)? ... while, more importantly to those who rule, it reveals nothing at all?

Look at it this way...: Of course the Nigerians know that Shell knows about everything their government is doing. Of course the Saudi royals are sinners (and how do I get invited to their parties?) Of course some US diplomats have negative things to say about the Chinese (and vice versa), and of course they all know that this is how people think. Of course Gordon Brown's pontifications about disarmament were irrelevant - given that he must have known as well as anyone else that he was about to be turfed out of Downing St...!

Personally, I don't know whether to yawn and go back to bed, or get up and have another leak!


At 10:00 PM, Blogger Grant Duncan said...

Someone called 'Alex' left the following comment, but now it's mysteriously 'disappeared'.

Alex has left a new comment on your post "Wickedly dying for a leak! ":

Agreed, there doesn't seem to any 'news' in the leaked cables, or at least nothing that wasn't fairly obvious anyway. Two other issues are, in my view, more interesting:

1. Supposedly secret or confidential information is not very well protected = at least in the US military. I expect to see a whole load of hand-wringing and information access changes there and elsewhere - changes which might very well be operationally obstructive. We might also consider that a lot more negotiation and diplomacy will in future be kept off the record in fear of another 'leak' - ultimately reducing any long-term moves towards greater transparency.

2. The response to the Wikileaks site, and Mr Assange personally, are quite worrying. Suspension of a bank account, government pressure on Paypal and Visa to block donations to Wikileaks, and Amazon's decision to stop hosting the site are just a few examples.

What we have seen in response from 'Anonymous' and 4chan (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/12/06/anonymous_launches_pro_wikileaks_campaign/) is a sign of things to come, I believe. This whole affair is developing into a battle about freedom of speech - specifically, on the internet. As we have seen before 'anarchist' groups like 4chan (and to a similar extent, those file-sharers who are the eternal target of the RIAA and MPAA)have the technical means to stay one step ahead. That is, of course, until the government intervenes to censor the internet at a national level. But of course we live in fully fledged democracies and that will never happen!! will it?

except in France-


and maybe even New Zealand-

Posted by Alex to Policy Matters at 12:52 PM


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