Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is Wikileaks The New Media?

Short and sweet: Yes!

I write this full of emotion and incredulity on the heels of breaking news that Julian Assange has surrendered himself in the UK on weak, trumped-up rape and sexual abuse charges by two Swedish women--one of whom is a CIA collaborator.

I admit that initially, just after the newest round of leaked documents on U.S. diplomacy, I believed Assange was being naive and was conducting a personal vendetta against government in general. I thought: what in hell is so controversial about this particular disclosure? Anyone with half a political brain knows the machinations of State Department wrangling with foreign governments behind the scenes. The geopolitical world has always been a backroom of nasty deals and compromises with shady characters working on behalf of "squeaky clean" administrations. And so Assange must be personally after some kind of entity or organization.

But as with any opinion I form in haste, the line of my thinking quickly changed. I realized Assange himself (like many curious people who vote and who bother to read political science literature and exposé) was quite aware of what goes on in diplomacy. The stuff he made public was, more or less, already out there. If you happen to watch PBS' "Frontline" you'd know. Or read things like this.

Assange's point was not to embarrass governments--they do that quite well on their own. Instead, the newest disclosure is meant to educate the likes of the Palin brigade, and the insufferable parrots aligned with either party, who robotically list party talking points lifted straight off Olberman's or O'Reilly's shows when conducting an argument.

In a simple answer: Yes, Wikileaks is the new media, in that it makes available to the (sometimes un-educated) public the nasty truth behind diplomacy, war, social, and financial systems (Bank of America is in the crosshairs).

There is a brilliant line in the fifth episode of the first season of Mad Men with which Don Draper defends his career choice in advertising to a young, beatnik-type. Draper says: "Americans like to be told what they want. What to do." And the media has quite happily agreed to borrow and carry half the baton from its boss, the advertising industry.

This is what Edward Murrow said about television in 1958, at the RTNDA Convention in Chicago:

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.

For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally. If there were to be a competition in indifference, or perhaps in insulation from reality, then Nero and his fiddle, Chamberlain and his umbrella, could not find a place on an early afternoon sustaining show. If Hollywood were to run out of Indians, the program schedules would be mangled beyond all recognition. Then some courageous soul with a small budget might be able to do a documentary telling what, in fact, we have done--and are still doing--to the Indians in this country. But that would be unpleasant. And we must at all costs shield the sensitive citizens from anything that is unpleasant.

This sentiment holds beyond prophetic now, for the media in general. If there exists an outlet truly designed to inform the public of the realities of our modern world, as it exists now in the 21st century, then that outlet ought to be given, even nurtured, its voice.

The criticism that Assange and his Wikileaks is committing treason (put forth with much vigor by Sarah Palin herself) is beyond obtuse. This is where an ill-educated public comes into play, repeating and disseminating this inaccurate statement into the public psyche. Assange is not an American citizen, and Wikileaks does not operate on American soil, therefore a charge of treason cannot be leveled.

It's this idiocy perpetuated by the ill-informed parrots and followers of any particular party that Wikileaks aims to stem with its disclosures.

On the heels of Assange's arrest, and of the several attempts to hack the Wikileaks site, as well as the "circling of the wagons" by many of the world's governments and multi-national corporations (fuck you Amazon, fuck you PayPal, fuck you MasterCard, fuck you Joe Lieberman--you spineless political parasite, fuck you Twitter for not listing Wikileaks as a trending subject the last few days, fuck you France and Sweden for not having the balls and fortitude to support free speech, etc.), I am happy to report that over 500 mirror sites have popped up online.

A group called "Anonymous" is working hard to launch these mushrooming venues all across the Internet, making sure nothing is disrupted as Assange moves forth with his defense.

This is the real media, in the real age of information. Wikileaks would make Edward Murrow proud.

1 comment:

Deni said...

Fantastic post! (Sorry I took so long to comment - new job and all).

I would add something to this, but for the fact that you pretty much said exactly what I've been thinking about this whole issue.