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Leaking Wiki

For those who don’t know, Wikileaks is not run by the people that created Wikipedia, although they used to accept user submissions. No, what Deep Throat was to the Nixon scandals, Wikileaks is to current world policy. An organization acting as a whistle blower, Wikileaks makes public documents that governments never meant to be public. At first, they made a name for themselves as a resistance fighting effort set on exposing oppressive governments, particularly China. But they’ve made waves this year exposing everything from Middle East war documents, to opinions of foreign leaders by the various US Embassies. They’ve made such big waves with their “megaleaks,” the face of the organization, Julian Assange, is in the front-running for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

But also riding on these waves is a flood of controversy that is quickly trying to silence WikiLeaks. These means vary. Some like Sarah Palin have called for Assange to be hunted down like a member of Al Qaeda. Some want him to stand trial. Some just prefer to call him out and say he’s anti-American or something to that effect. Others are dropping any relation to Wikileaks like a rock.

The resulting “CyberWar” has officially gone global and is dominating the headlines, with CNN dedicating a special section at the top of its website’s front page to news involving Wikileaks. But there are two observations to me that are really coming out of this that I think we as a world need to reflect on more.

1. Labeling Intentions: Is Julian Assange really anti-American? I mean REALLY anti-American? It’s becoming an all too popular accusatory statement to throw out there, and it has been for the last decade. Don’t want to go to war in Iraq? You’re anti-American! Want to publish US Military documents the government has deemed “Classified” in order to shed more light on the US’s involvement in Iraq? YOU’RE ANTI-AMERICAN! I don’t know what the intentions of Assange are, but it seems to me like he’s just running a watch dog organization, and American policy is just the issue he’s watching at the moment. He probably disagrees with American policy, but I don’t think his goals are as malicious as purposefully trying to hurt the nation. So until he actively expresses his intention to hurt the US and to see it fail, let’s hold off on the harsh labeling. Same with his supporters. The vast majority are not actively wanting to see the US hurt, they just support the organization’s excerisising of free speech. Which brings me to…

2. Freedom of Speech is a Slippery Slope: Free Speech is about as loose a definition the founding fathers could come up with due to this fact: It’s impossibly hard to define. Thus, since they didn’t want the job, they left it up to future definitions. As a result, today we’re pretty loose on our definition of free speech for fear of falling across the line into the dark territory known as censorship, which if you’ve see any depiction of a future harsh dictatorial government, is the first step in that direction. And at this point, the wild west is probably the best way to define the term for the government. But what about the supposed harm clause where the speech is fine, as long as it isn’t harming people? Many argue that Wikileaks is violating this supposed clause.

Counterpointing this, the news announced today that the infamous Westboro Baptist Church is going to picket the recently deceased Elizabeth Edward’s funeral. To say what you might ask? Well, according to church member Megan Phelps, “What Elizabeth Edwards got for slandering God was breast cancer & a faithless cheater of a husband. His promises are sure!” The “His” in that case was referring to god. A god. Certainly not the Capital God in my opinion. So basically, they’re traveling across the country to say that a woman that just died deserved her fate. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is nothing short of emotional terrorism. They’re not actively killing people like the traditional terrorists, but they’re trying to kill them on the inside. Rubbing salt in the wound, digging in the knife, etc. Yet, these displays are protected by Free Speech.

So, we have the Westboro people, and all we can do is call them despicable. We have Wikileaks and Julian Assange, and the Department of Justice wants to try them on Unauthorized Distribution of Classified Material or Espionage. Is it just me, or is there a serious double-standard here? Westboro is committing Emotional Terrorism, Assange is the Web 2.0 version of Woodward and Bernstein with Deep Throat.

It’s Free Speech. If you put up with one, you have to put up with it all. Else, you walk a very fine line ready to fall down a rabbit hole where you don’t want to know where it leads.

Where do I stand with Wikileaks? I personally support them. Why?

1. Free Speech: See above paragraphs.

2. The Classification System is Broken: It has been for years now. Got papers giving you bad PR? Classify them! Want to classify the papers saying you classified those previous papers? Classify them! Lock it away in some unmarked warehouse and you won’t have to worry about them for YEARS. By the time eyes set on them again, most everybody involved with either be in a position not to receive consequences, or be dead. The fact is, anything can be classified for the government for any reason, and at least some of what they do classify can be of use to the American people.

3. Wikileaks’ Wrongness is Arguable: Again, Wikileaks is the Web 2.0 version of Woodward and Bernstein. They’re not actively robbing the government. They’re being sent the material by sources, to which they verify, then publish. Argue all you want about the naming of names, or if they’re hurting people in the field by publishing them. I personally don’t see enough evidence to support this, but I could be wrong. Besides, the news organizations that Wikileaks distributes the documents to tend to redact the names anyways.

4. The Information is Actually Quite Enlightening: Alright, the Cable Leaks are very debatable in their usefulness, but the war documents released this year have been especially enlightening. Did you know that we give a billion dollars a year to Pakistan to help us fight our enemies, even though we pretty much know Pakistan is actively helping our enemies? I didn’t know that, but thanks to Wikileaks, I now do.

Overall, there are many discussion points you go into that sprout off the Wikileaks story. Hopefully, this discussion will help us get a better picture where exactly we’re at as a country. And hopefully, these discussions will help us become a better country, instead of bring out the worst in us.

  1. May 16, 2013 at 9:00 am

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