Toward Open Government

Without whistleblowing, leaks, and investigative reporting, the world might not have known about My Lai, the Pentagon Papers, Abu Ghraib, the Afghanistan Convoy of Death, and the US-government and Canadian-government involvement in torture in the so-called War on Terror.

That an organization like Wikileaks is purportedly revealing confiential, secret, and not-so-confidential leaks is something that every supporter of an open society ought to support. It is often stated that knowledge is power, and despite John Dalberg-Acton’s caution,1 in the context of knowledge, power is considered a good thing. Power belongs to the people; therefore, knowledge belongs to the masses.

Nasty things often hide in the dark. Knowing this, many governments demand their citizens submit to intrusive measures, chirping that if you have nothing to hide, then you need not fear encroachments into their private sphere like telephone monitoring, body scans, customs checks, census questionnaires, etc. That Albert Einstein, John Lennon, and others were subject to FBI scrutiny is anathema in an open society. Yet, the self-same governments hide behind secrecy acts and disinformation.

Unsurprisingly, Wikileaks has been assailed by government officials for the release of certain documents.

Concomitant with government zealotry for guarding secrecy has been the further eroding of the right of the citizens of many countries to privacy. Thus there is, for example, the Patriot Act in the US and Bill C-32 in Canada.

Thus Wikileaks, and its founder Julian Assange, were greeted by supporters of open government.

A recent article suggested that Julian Assange of Wikileaks should have been awarded Time magazine’s person-of-the-year.2 I do not care about who Time singles out for an award. Anything Time states is tainted since it belongs to the propagandic, disinforming corporate media. As such, it is beholden to generating profits for and promulgating viewpoints favorable to its owners and shareholders.

Openness is not about Assange. Neither is progressivism because it is not wrapped up in personality. Progressivism needs idolatry like it needed the false promises of hope and change from Barack Obama.

Insofar as Assange divulges information without prejudice through Wikileaks, this is laudatory, and certainly his legal and civil rights must be protected. However, progressivism does not need to chain itself to the anchor of Assange. Assange has much to clarify regarding social justice issues. Praising Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu while saying nothing about the occupation-oppression of the Palestinians is a glaring omission. Trusting the corporate media and praising media mogul Rupert Murdoch while remaining silent on the dangers of the increasing consolidation of the corporate media into fewer and fewer hands suggests a questionable adherence to openness of information. Assange’s unclarity on these points may be construed as morally damning.

Assange and Wikileaks should be at the forefront of unequivocably supporting the public’s right to know what their governments are doing. There is no need condemn either Assange of Wikileaks too hastily, and neither should one jump on a bandwagon too quickly.

There are questions that surround Wikileaks. How open is Wikileaks itself? Does Wikileaks release all leaks? Why or why not?

Progressives support the right of the people to know, but they should exercise a measure of skepticism to Wikileaks and Assange until they are both more revealing.

In the meantime, citizens must demand that their government representatives operate in the open and uphold the right of the citizenry to privacy in their daily lives. Then the sordid espionage networks can be dismantled.

  1. Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I disagree with this sentiment, believing instead that the corruptible are drawn to power. Nevertheless, if power corrupts, then let all people equally share in the corruption. []
  2. Kanomi Blake, “A Tale of Two Websites,” Dissident Voice, 20 December 2010. []
Kim Petersen is an independent writer and former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on December 21st, 2010 at 7:27am #

    let’s remember also at least one no leak: atomic bombings of hiroshima and nagasaki. it was’t a leak but a torrent!
    and happened what? in u.s and canada? but, of course, even greater anger by same perps.
    this time koreans and vietnamese were slaughtered; in the mns. then came afghanis and iraqis, somalis, yemenis, pakistanis, nicaraguans, chileans, cubans, guatemalans, et al.
    And all these slaughters of largely innocent people and peoples had been also approbated by ‘religions’ and not only by people of a specific ideological bend.

    in any case, mns had been slaughtered by same-thinking people. the only justification for such slaughters had been their thinking.

    their thinking being: we have the right to think and u don’t. so, think the way we do or we will slaughter u.

    please review the historical record. u’d see that thinking has not changed for at least 8k yrs.
    and it is not gonna change in decades. at present time only few people are working to end supremacistic thinking. tnx

  2. lichen said on December 21st, 2010 at 3:08pm #

    I don’t think it matters what Assange’s other political viewpoints are–he believes in government transparency, and exposes the crimes of the US empire–that is his thing, that is what he is in public for. People who want to character-assassinate him with anti-zionist conspiracy theorists are obviously hiding their real, right-wing motives.

  3. kanomi said on January 4th, 2011 at 8:33am #

    Hi Kim!

    Great points there. Thanks for referencing my editorial. Sorry for the slow reply, only now returning from holiday.

    To be fair, I don’t care either who TIME propagandizes as Person of the Year, but I found the soma-induced doublespeak around their selection of Zuckerberg over Assange entertaining; I found the constant running anti-Internet commentary throughout that article disturbing; and I find — and this is something I wish I had hammered home better in my article — the utterly contemptible, hypocritical, transparent position of the elites vis-à-vis Zuckerberg and Assange to be emblematic of the whole disaster that is this civilization:

    * Zuckerberg takes the private relationships of millions and sells them
    * Assange takes the private words of elites and frees them

    The first guy is a billionaire and the second man is arrested. What better lens do we need into a broken, dead culture of make-believe?