Friday, December 24, 2010

Surely there must be a space for some kinds of official secrets?!

Seldom before have I been this ambivalent about an issue. Am I curious about state and other secrets? Probably as much as the curious guy next door. Did I enjoy the egg on the US Secretary of State's face that resulted from the Wikileaks disclosures. Did I enjoy information about Arab countries egging on the US to flatten Iran in order to prevent the Islamic regime from getting its hands on nuclear weapons? Hell, I did!

But... really, should these disclosures have occurred? I doubt it, to be honest. I think Wikleaks disclosures are superb when they disclose crimes committed by states, banks, whoever. Surely I'd want to know to what extent states are involved in torturing or murdering people when the very same states pretend that they'd never do such a thing.

However, what purpose is served with Wikileaks spreading gossip about what the US ambassador to Germany really thinks about the German Chancellor? This serves no purpose whatsoever. Surely diplomatic staff must be able to communicate frank assessments to the governments of the countries that they serve without seeing those subsequently splattered all over the world's newspapers. I cannot understand why anyone would want to take that ability away from diplomatic staff, and why anyone would think that disclosure of such sensitive information is in any way desirable.

I am equally puzzled that all this transparency and openness agitprop is deployed by a secretive organisation like wikileaks. The personality cult surrounding its figurehead, Mr Assange, is plain ridiculous, much as he seems to enjoy it.

Somewhat relatedly, The Telegraph newspaper, a conservative broadsheet in Britain, trapped a number of liberal ministers in the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government into saying that they don't really love their conservative fellow coalition government ministers (and their policies). For starters, it's trivial that this would be the case, so what kind of revelation really was that? None to anyone with just a minor amount of critical thinking skills available to them. The paper also trapped a Liberal Democrat government minister into saying that he can't stand Rupert Murdoch's news corporation (owner of Faux News in the US of A) and that he will try to prevent  the company from taking over BSkyB, a satellite broadcaster. How did The Telegraph manage to do this? Its staff pretended to be constituents of those government ministers. So they popped in during office hours and discussed these question with their local MP (ie in this case the Liberal Democrat government ministers). These ministers, admittedly naively, were quite frank in their conversations with their constituents (ie the masquerading conservative newspaper hacks), ans duly found their private conversation with what they believed were their constituents splattered across the Telegraph's frontpage.

All that this paper has achieved is that from now on MPs will be even less honest and forthcoming with their constituents. Were these few headlines, not exactly revelatory that they were to begin with, really worth this price. Of course not. Was the paper wrong in deceiving these parliamentarians? Of course it was. Did the parliamentarians show a remarkable lack of good judgment? They probably did.

What I am trying to say is this: Not every revelation of confidential government business should automatically be applauded as a brilliant coup worthy of our support.

1 comment:

  1. Wikileaks. Meh! I was hoping for the real story on Roswell! :)


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