Two, Three, Many Wikileaks

Wikileaks is the most important thing to happen to the cause of democratic rule since the multitude of grassroots uprisings in 1968. Even sympathetic commentators miss the fundamentally radical threat to the existence of the bureaucratic state it represents; Wikileaks is most powerful contemporary weapon in the arsenal of radical, grassroots transparency advocates and democrats. A decentralized plethora of Wikileaks-type websites focused on local, state, and national affairs in every nation, scouring for document leaks from governments, corporations, and organizations has the potential to shatter an intrinsic part of the modern state’s anti-democratic structure: the ability of bureaucrats and officials to hide decisions and actions from the demos itself. Not only can this be done with the tools now available to us, it must be done.

State secrecy is nothing new, but the rise of the modern bureaucratic state is barely a century old, coinciding with the rise of massive industry and, ironically, with the advent of universal suffrage. Its rise chronicled by intellectual luminaries of the day such as Max Weber and Robert Michels, bureaucracy was the extension of rationalized organizational patterns from industrial capitalism to the sphere of government. Prior to the twentieth century Western governments kept the masses from participating via restrictive suffrage laws; after the advent of universal suffrage this shifted to limiting the possibility of direct democratic influence through oligarchic control over organizations necessary for the maintenance of the modern industrial society: political parties, state institutions, and capitalist corporations. Radical democrats fought back, and the twentieth century is littered with attempts at curtailing the power of elite oligarchy found in bureaucratic institutions via workers’ councils, grassroots political parties, the alternative press – but none ever succeeded in breaking the hold of secrecy and control they fought.

Complete transparency in government (and the economy) is a necessary feature of any truly democratic socio-economic system. Alienating the democratic will of many into that of a few representatives is a compromise (Rousseau claimed it was the abolition of democracy), and to retain any sort of democratic power the citizen must ultimately have access to everything their government does, overtly and covertly. It provides a necessary check against anti-democratic rule and government lies and half-truths. Without full access to information, it is often difficult for a person to make the best choice in any circumstance. Without access to information, the modern citizen has become a passive player in what amounts to a sham democracy, controlled by elites and bureaucrats cloaked in secrecy. It is the bureaucrats and elites who have access to critical information, allowing them to rule unchecked. Wikileaks provides the demos the possibility of reversing that trend.

The growth of the national security state and the technology it has used to dis-empower the demos is without parallel in world history. Yet, as Karl Marx long ago observed, every socio-economic advance eventually creates the conditions for its own demise – its own gravediggers. Capitalism created immense wealth, poverty, and the most concentrated and powerful ruling class in history, but via the collection of the urban working class and intense development of technology the possibility (still just a possibility) of a truly egalitarian order. The modern industrial bureaucratic state, itself part and parcel of contemporary capitalism, created vast swathes of routinized specialists across society whose technical expertise and need for secrecy eventually compromised the possibility of democratic check on their rule. Yet, the seeds for change, always existent within the bureaucracy, are now being actualized.

Much has been made of Wikileaks as reaction to the craven complicity of the mass media to the state. This is undoubtedly true, but again misses the point. Noam Chomsky pointed out long ago that the media, privately run and owned by corporate executives, has always been a gatekeeper and a fundamental part of industrial society. Reporters do not only desire access to the state, preventing them from consistently acting as a check on the oligarchs; the media is a pillar of the modern state. It has as much interest in the state’s survival (profits, elite status itself) as Wall Street or Barack Obama. When its paid employees attack the recklessness of Wikileaks, they are attacking their own ability to carefully manage and shape information for the public’s consumption. Wikileaks does no editing, save for redacting some names; it presents information to the public for its own analysis, understanding, and enlightenment. Wikileaks does not rely upon legions of trained reporters, but rather other citizens for its information. The release of the documents from Iraq was done by a courageous soldier who had come to understand the extent of the American state’s imperialism and crimes, and wished, for the benefit of other citizens and without monetary remuneration but rather prison in the offing, to expose the plutocrats who had conducted the war.

Wikileaks was, thus, always a latent possibility with the advent of the Internet and direct mass information exchange worldwide. Like any other anti-systemic movement, it only took a group of committed people to organize and exploit that possibility. It is, then, up to those committed to radical democracy and egalitarian social change to extend the gains made by Wikileaks by proliferating its example and encouraging the growth of transparency via document dumps at all levels. A world where all levels of government and the economy would have to be wary of exposure is one where the rank-and-file would no longer be met with opaque silence about the inner-workings of government, but could begin to take the oligarchs and plutocrats to task, the first step in a truly democratic worldwide revolution. Bureaucracy’s wall of mystique will be shattered, and the demos will wrest control away from the officials and the elected representatives who rely on secrecy to cut deals, divide the population, and keep the masses dis-empowered.

It is not often that the wheels of history give us the potential to swing the pendulum toward democratic rule and a curtailment of elite power. We have such a chance now, and it is up to us to take advantage of it. Let a thousand Wikileaks bloom – let us build the democracy of tomorrow, today.

Peter LaVenia is Co-Chair of the NY State Green Party and a PhD candidate in Political Theory, SUNY Albany. He can be reached at: Chair2@gpny.org. Read other articles by Peter.

17 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Wingnut said on December 5th, 2010 at 7:33am #

    Hi Mr LaVenia (and readers)… good piece… thanks. I agree with most of what you’ve said, but another side of the story wasn’t told. What do we do with black ops spy data? I worked with (supposedly-) heavily classified data of all types… during my time in the U.S. military. There were a few logical reasons why we didn’t dare release data to the USA civilians. First, they are blabby. When you release heavy black data to civilians… they think its juicy… and they almost BRAG about how they know information that others don’t. (Its because of an enjoyment-of and an addiction-to… empowerments… but that discussion is for another day.)

    Second, by civilians HAVING this often-impertinent-to-them information, they are targets for other folks who have less-than-positive intentions regarding the squatted’n’bordered-up section of God-owned planet Earth… called the USA. Briefer, they become targets of attackers, from within and without, though it is a bit difficult to tell what an attack looks like anymore.

    So, if you would be so kind, can you continue your piece but include the other side of the ballgame? If YOU were a government and/or military official, and you KNEW that releasing certain types of information to the general public… is dangerous to the nation and to its individuals… would you do it anyway? Is it more important to have 100% transparency, or more important to keep the citizens out of danger? This is a real life problem… I’ve been there. Thoughts? Thanks.

    Wingnut (Larry)
    Anti-capitalism-ist
    Bessemer MI USA

  2. bozh said on December 5th, 2010 at 8:37am #

    why bother with reading any leak when an eye is worth more than all of the leaks put together.
    and so far leaks do not reveal the most important news: why is nato-u.s in iraq and afgfh’n and what it is the evil soyuz wants to achieve.
    my guess is u.s-nato want land and it is going to get it anyway it can; includes use of wms.
    and we don’t need chomsky to see that media is part of u.s governance; and sworn to uphold u.s laws and constitution. tnx

  3. hayate said on December 5th, 2010 at 2:18pm #

    “A decentralized plethora of Wikileaks-type websites focused on local, state, and national affairs in every nation, scouring for document leaks from governments, corporations, and organizations has the potential to shatter an intrinsic part of the modern state’s anti-democratic structure: the ability of bureaucrats and officials to hide decisions and actions from the demos itself. Not only can this be done with the tools now available to us, it must be done.”

    That could be true and is worth pursuing. Unfortunately, though, it followed this:

    “Wikileaks is the most important thing to happen to the cause of democratic rule since the multitude of grassroots uprisings in 1968. Even sympathetic commentators miss the fundamentally radical threat to the existence of the bureaucratic state it represents; Wikileaks is most powerful contemporary weapon in the arsenal of radical, grassroots transparency advocates and democrats.”

    Which even if it has some truth to it, it’s a gross exaggeration to claim those things about Wikileaks. So far, the Wikileaks leaking has been playing into the hands of the ziofascist/fascist propaganda machine. This is due to what material they are releasing and the ziofascist media outlets they allow to filter what they do release.

  4. shabnam said on December 5th, 2010 at 10:07pm #

    Two top Obama Administration officials spent much of the hearing touting the President’s success in putting “draconian” sanctions in place against Iran, as called for by Congress. But the officials, Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the State Department William Burns and Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Department of Treasury Stuart Levey, often found themselves on the defensive.

    “We’ve wasted enough time – fourteen years,” said Ileana Ros Lehtinien(R-FL), the top Republican on the Committee who will become its chairwoman next year. “No more waivers, exceptions, excuses.” While Burns and Levey highlighted that the Administration had gone further than any of its predecessors in enforcing sanctions, the Committee was largely unimpressed and demanded more strenuous measures.

    “If these sanctions don’t work, then the next step would be a blockade,” said Don Manzullo (R-IL), looking over his shoulder to Ros Lehtinen. “And the next step would be some type of-you hate to use the word-but military action.”

    Gary Ackerman (D-NY), a strong supporter of crippling sanctions passed by Congress earlier this year, pressed the Administration officials to defend the concept that sanctions could actually stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, saying that the US must find an “alternative means”.

    Ackerman questioned whether turning Iran into “an economic basket case like North Korea” would be effective. Despite isolation and impoverishment, North Korea became a nuclear weapons state during the Bush Administration. You’ve got to have a plan B,” said Ackerman.

    Brad Sherman (D-CA) was more blunt. “The king of Saudi Arabia told us what plan B was,” he said, referencing cables released by Wikileaks suggesting the Saudi monarch has called for a US strikes on Iran.
    Sherman, who has argued that sanctions must punish ordinary Iranians to be effective, urged for the adoption of further sanctions legislation he has proposed. Sherman also called for the passage of a resolution to take the MEK, an organization that enjoyed support from Saddam Hussein and has killed American and Iranian civilians, off of the US terrorist list. Sherman and other members of the Terrorism Subcommittee have demanded more information regarding the MEK’s terrorist designation from the State Department. The CIA recently briefed the Subcommittee on the matter and Burns promised to provide further materials from the State Department.
    Burns, who would later warn that the Green Movement does not want to be linked to the US through direct support, began to instead discuss US support for universal human rights in Iran, but Poe cut him off. “My question was what are we doing to promote the opposition in Iran. Not human rights.”
    Incoming Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen also expressed support for the MEK in her opening remarks. “I’d like to start by recognizing some of my constituents who are in the audience; they are Iranian American, who are staunchly opposed to the Iranian regime,” she said.

    Ros-Lehtinen expressed her frustration with the global community’s approach towards Iran. “Since the 1990’s, the US and international efforts to stop growing Iranian threat have been half-hearted at best. The problem is not that a tough approach has failed, but that it has yet to be fully tried,” urged Ros-Lehtinen.

    She went on to press Under Secretary Burns on whether the US would demand a full suspension of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. “Previous negotiations where aimed at reaching an agreement that would require Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activity as mandated by the UN Security Council resolution. Is a complete halt a perquisite or is the administration willing to considering a partial halt?” she asked.
    JUDEOFASCITS IN THE OCCUPIED CONGRESS ARE BARKING AGAIN FOR MORE BLOOD. As long as America and its slave president is under control of the Judeofascist, no one is secured. Destroy them all.

    {http://www.payvand.com/news/10/dec/1049.html}

  5. John Andrews said on December 6th, 2010 at 1:03am #

    “Wikileaks is the most important thing to happen to the cause of democratic rule since the multitude of grassroots uprisings in 1968.”

    Wikileaks is indeed a great site, Peter, but I think you exaggerate its significance in terms of important things happening to what passes for ‘democratic’ rule. I mean, your statement completely ignores the invention of home computing and, even more important, the invention of the internet itself, which is far, far more important to the cause of real democracy than any particular website.

    Wingnut,

    I’m not at all convinced about the need for secrecy. In the overwhelming majority of cases secrecy is just another tool for rich and powerful people to exploit others. It’s worth reflecting on the fact that the US did not have any so-called ‘intelligence’ services until 1946, but had nevertheless managed to become the most powerful nation in the world. Similarly with official secrets. The US had no system of classifying official documents until WW1, when it was decided to copy the British model – not that the Brits really needed secret documents themselves, except for their use as a tool for building an empire based on the exploitation of others.

  6. Deadbeat said on December 6th, 2010 at 3:11am #

    Noam Chomsky pointed out long ago that the media, privately run and owned by corporate executives, has always been a gatekeeper and a fundamental part of industrial society.

    And Noam Chomsky is the pot calling the kettle black. He TOO is a GATEKEEPER — the gatekeeper in keeping the citizenry from analyzing and confronting the influence of Zionism on the U.S. political economy.

    WikiLeaks also “leaked” their material through the same MSM that Noam (U.S. Imperialism(tm)) Chomsky supposedly criticizes and that published the government propaganda that too the U.S. to war. Somehow the author offers no skepticism regarding WikiLeaks “leaking” through the NY Times who printed the lies of one Judith Miller.

    Isn’t it interesting that the pseudo-Left UNCRITICALLY accepts the WikiLeaks information vetted by the NY Times the same outfit that published all the LIES that came from the Bush Administration. The author writes the following …

    Wikileaks does no editing, save for redacting some names; it presents information to the public for its own analysis, understanding, and enlightenment.

    [1] How do we know this to be true.
    [2] How do we know that the NY Times didn’t suppress information embarrassing to Zionists? We do know that the information that was released did not embarrass Israel.

    The complete unquestioning embrace of this “leak” by the “Left” and the hype as hayate points out raises many more questions about the veracity of these “leaks” and the motives of WikiLeaks.

  7. Wingnut said on December 6th, 2010 at 3:36am #

    Hi John and others. Yeah, John, I hear ya, and one side of me agrees. And thanks for the history and info on classifying things… very interesting.

    Yep, good points. Should ANYTHING be hidden from the common-folk?

    To advance THAT thought (what little I can)… should we/they even BE spying and otherwise collecting such things? Spying seems to happen BECAUSE-OF distrust, and it CAUSES distrust, as well. More on that in a minute.

    John, you brought some mis-wordings on my part… to light. The example said that the hypothetical leaker KNEW that releasing classified data… would be harmful to country and citizens. But in my real-life scenarios, I never knew it would be damaging and/or dangerous to release. I was TOLD it would be, but I never saw proof. Of course, proof that something would hurt something… is not a proof that I would intentionally seek… and I suspect I’m not alone.

    Two songs popped into my mind during this… Suspicions… and Suspicious Minds. Sometimes I think… if we ALL could take down borders…. between nations, between yards, between races, between religions, ALL borders… those suspicions and the US vs THEM they seem to cause… would evaporate. But would it? Do borders bring light to differences between “groups”? Do borders actually CAUSE the differences or somehow help perpetuate such? Do differences cause/perpetuate the borders? All, none, some (of the above)… plus a hundred other factors to borders and suspicions… most of which I’m likely not smart enough to come up with or ponder thoroughly? erf.

    Right here, I thought for a moment about INTRAnation suspicions. What do abnormal Americans like myself… have suspicions-of, regarding my fellow countryfolk and our/their policies/police. I came up with 5 quickly-thought-up suspicions…

    spouses cheating,
    folks talking behind backs,
    sellers being crooked/gouging,
    authority folk hiding things,
    kids getting away with murder or hiding things.
    (I have no kids or spouses)
    (Is the 5th one related to the 1st? I think it is. More on that in a moment.)

    These are things that could make me distrust, and make me want to spy on something and collect dirt for potential future ammo in some dirt clod war. :) Where am I going with this? I have no idea. But if you look at the list above… notice they are ALL “hiding” things? That was NOT a long-thought list… I just spewed it out as fast as possible, and was quite surprised at how each contained an element of “hiding”. Fascinating, at least to me!

    I’d love to hear more comments on it all, and I hope I’m not railroading the initial topic (how leaking spurns de-corruption?). In reality, I’ve found the people (esp authors) at DV to be VERY tolerant of (my) wandering-off on tangents. I really like this joint.

  8. mary said on December 6th, 2010 at 5:35am #

    On Assange’s accuser –

    Assange Accuser Worked with US-Funded, CIA-Tied Anti-Castro Group
    By: Kirk James Murphy, M.D.

    December 05, 2010 “FDL” — Yesterday Alexander Cockburn reminded us of the news Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett broke at Counterpunch in September. Julian Assange’s chief accuser in Sweden has a significant history of work with anti-Castro groups, at least one of which is US funded and openly supported by a former CIA agent convicted in the mass murder of seventy three Cubans on an airliner he was involved in blowing up.
    Anna Ardin (the official complainant) is often described by the media as a “leftist”. She has ties to the US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups. She published her anti-Castro diatribes (see here and here) in the Swedish-language publication Revista de Asignaturas Cubanas put out by Misceláneas de Cuba. From Oslo, Professor Michael Seltzer points out that this periodical is the product of a well-financed anti-Castro organization in Sweden. He further notes that the group is connected with Union Liberal Cubana led by Carlos Alberto Montaner whose CIA ties were exposed here.

    /….

    Yet in Assange’s case his alleged victim – the gender equity officer at Uppsula University – chose to throw a party for her alleged assailant – after they’d had the sex that even Swedish prosecutors concede was consensual. Barrister Caitlin again:

    [The] phenomena of social networking through the internet and mobile phones constrains Swedish authorities from augmenting the evidence against Assange because it would look even less credible in the face of tweets by Anna Ardin and SMS texts by Sofia Wilén boasting of their respective conquests after the “crimes”.

    In the case of Ardin it is clear that she has thrown a party in Assange’s honour at her flat after the “crime” and tweeted to her followers that she is with the “the world’s coolest smartest people, it’s amazing!”. Go on the internet and see for yourself. That Ardin has sought unsuccessfully to delete these exculpatory tweets from the public record should be a matter of grave concern. That she has published on the internet a guide on how to get revenge on cheating boyfriends ever graver. The exact content of Wilén’s mobile phone texts is not yet known but their bragging and exculpatory character has been confirmed by Swedish prosecutors. Neither Wilén’s nor Ardin’s texts complain of rape.

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article27005.htm

  9. John Andrews said on December 6th, 2010 at 7:36am #

    Wingnut,

    I happen to be reading ‘The Politics of Lying’ by David Wise at the moment, and it’s quite relevant to this discussion – particularly on the subject of secrecy.

    I suppose there might be instances where secrecy is important – but I can’t think of a case for it in routine government.

    As for borders, well I think they too are a device to make it easier for our rulers to control us, and I just wonder how many of them endure ‘whole body scanners’ whenever they want to fly anywhere.We ordinary people have more in common with ordinary people on the other side of the planet than we do with the elites of our own countries. Borders are pretty much like anything else our rulers have invented – more for their convenience and profit than ours.

  10. hayate said on December 6th, 2010 at 11:39am #

    mary said on December 6th, 2010 at 5:35am

    Good find.

  11. bozh said on December 6th, 2010 at 3:16pm #

    however, chomsky did not point out that the media is owned by the same people which own cia, fbia, govts, judiciary, schooling, army, armaments; in short, governance.
    that the media lied and in exact way as judiciary, army, educators, experts, pols, w.h, u.s constitution, one needs only eyes to see and ears to hear.
    this was noted long before he was born.
    supremacists leave out nothing out of their control! tnx

  12. mary said on December 7th, 2010 at 3:21am #

    Julian Assange has just been arrested by the UK police. (BBC breaking news)

  13. mary said on December 7th, 2010 at 3:25am #

    The strapline reads –

    BREAKING NEWS:Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange detained in London after Sweden issues a European arrest warrant

  14. mary said on December 7th, 2010 at 3:39am #

    The final para of an article in the Guardian.

    Live with the WikiLeakable world or shut down the net. It’s your choice

    Western political elites obfuscate, lie and bluster – and when the veil of secrecy is lifted, they try to kill the messenger

    ‘But politicians now face an agonising dilemma. The old, mole-whacking approach won’t work. WikiLeaks does not depend only on web technology. Thousands of copies of those secret cables – and probably of much else besides – are out there, distributed by peer-to-peer technologies like BitTorrent. Our rulers have a choice to make: either they learn to live in a WikiLeakable world, with all that implies in terms of their future behaviour; or they shut down the internet. Over to them.’

    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/dec/06/western-democracies-must-live-with-leaks

  15. mary said on December 7th, 2010 at 7:13am #

    It all gets weirder and weirder. What’s Assange doing writing on this Murdoch rag?

    {http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/wikileaks/dont-shoot-messenger-for-revealing-uncomfortable-truths/story-fn775xjq-1225967241332}

  16. mary said on December 7th, 2010 at 10:39am #

    Bail has been refused to Mr Assange. Therefore he is in custody. The powers that be/the gangsters in charge are working in unison now to cut off Assange’s legs.

    Visa and Mastercard have joined Pay Pal and Post Finance in withholding facilities to donate to Wikileaks and/or seizing donations in transits.

    John Pilger and others have stood surety in the sum of £100,000 for Mr Assange.

    ‘Mr Pilger, who also offered £20,000, said he knew Assange as a journalist and personal friend and had a “very high regard for him”.

    He said: “I am aware of the offences and I am also aware of quite a lot of the detail around the offences. I am here today because the charges against him in Sweden are absurd and were judged as absurd by the chief prosecutor there when she threw the whole thing out until a senior political figure intervened.”

    independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/wikileaks-julian-assange-refused-bail-2153390.html

  17. hayate said on December 7th, 2010 at 11:11am #

    “Visa and Mastercard have joined Pay Pal and Post Finance in withholding facilities to donate to Wikileaks and/or seizing donations in transits.”

    They all act together. It’s a sodding crime syndicate throughout and this planet is in dire need of a “French Revolution”.