Who’s Afraid of Wikileaks?

[de]

Eine √úbersetzung von "Wer hat Angst vor Wikileaks?" von Mario Sixtus ins Englische.

[en]

This is a translation of “Wer hat Angst vor Wikileaks?” by Mario Sixtus done by me with a little help from the Google translator toolkit. I apologize for some sentences that might be too long for a proper english translation. I also added some links. I don’t claim any ownership of the original text.


There’s always something going on about Wikileaks. There is always something to report about the Whistleblower portal or Julian Assange, its eccentric founder. Today, for example Assange was heard before a London court. Reporters on site hacked facts and fact-lets into their keyboards, TV cameras were filming Assange’s almost-new hairstyle and numerous texts sprouted on the Web, all of which circulated around the terms “rape” and “conspiracy”.

Wikileaks in reality is totally unimportant, and the stories of allegedly deliberately bursting condoms or about sexual intercourse in deep sleep are useful for yellow press headlines at most. It wasn’t Wikileaks and its previously white-haired Australian who, through its relevations, deeply humiliated the U.S. and put it into a brilliant oscillation between helplessness and actionism, no, it was the Internet.

Even if the U.S., tomorrow morning, chained up and incarcerated Julian Assange at Guantanamo, crippled the Wikileaks servers using Stuxnet II and monitored Wikileaks’ 640 000 Twitter followers around the clock by each its own CIA agents, it would not help: Since information has freed itself from its host material body, it can not be held on to anymore. A lesson that the music and movie industries had to learn painfully and which now suddenly is on the curriculum of powerful statesmen. While it currently looks like, the latter try to surpass the former in terms of failing to get a clue.

Anyone who has information that another one wants to keep secret, can carry it on a USB stick into any given internet cafe in any place where they upload it to a Kyrgyz one-click-hosting provider, run the address through a lybian URL shortener and send the link using a Mail.ru account to the international top 100 Twitterers, and then settle back watching how the information bomb ignites. And there is just one way this scenario can be shut out from the realm of possibilities: switch off the Internet.

Of course it is legitimate to discuss the moral, ethical and political implications of the phenomenon Wikileaks, as is currently happening in the feuilletons, but it is also futile. To get riled about the alleged irresponsibility of Wikileaks is about as pointless as cursing to the rain that it is raining. Free, transient, accessible information falls into the sphere of environmental conditions nowadays. They come over us like a cold wave which you can curse (German Railways) or cheer (manufacturer of long johns). To get excited about it and find the weather immoral because of its impertinence is, however, of pretty much no help against the cold.

Similarly, as the music industry believed at the time, that they had to only kill napster in order to to finally be able to continue as before, nowadays politics takes an annoyed look at Wikileaks and hopes – depending of political flavour secretly or openly – this Australian freak and his strange Wiki-thing may please disappear to whence they came, so they could go back again to cozy back-room politics like, back then, in the 20th century. The music industry erstwhile hunted down Napster, but file sharing really went off subsequently. In the case of Wikileaks there will be no difference.

There are several reasons why the current debate is not effective; the most important: the wrong questions are being asked. The wrongest is: How can you protect yourself from Wikileaks. The most bizarre outcome of this question so far: The Strategy of the U.S. government against leaks recently leaked into the public – without any help from Wikileaks. The desire to want to retain information acts like a clown act more and more.

A much more intelligent question would be: How should governments, businesses, institutions adjust themselves so that they can survive in an environment where information is simultaneously as ephemeral and ubiquitous as oxygen molecules? A clue in which direction an answer could aim is brought to us by Julian Assange himself, who wrote in the year of 2006:

“Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems.”

Now, one may think of Assange what you want: With this assessment, he is unquestionably right. Institutions that build their existence on secrecy and half-truths have to tremble more about revelations than such that act openly and transparently. Governments that work in the interest of their citizens and make the bases of their decision processes public do not need to fear revelations; those who let lobbyists draft up laws or those whose party funds are more important than the state budget, do.

A state has no privacy, it has no right to secrecy. It has sole responsibility to its citizens and the default status for government information should read “open”.

Whether toll contracts, Love Parade investigation or S21-decision process: transparency in German politics is rarely desired by the leaders. The political class will have to forget about this arrogance if it wants to survive.

The music industry had to come to terms with free-circulating audio tracks and to finally grudgingly agree with Apple on a distribution deal to avoid being kicked out of the game entirely.

Governments will have to get used to freely swirling information, whether reluctantly or stamping their foot. To trade a law for a post is becoming increasingly difficult.

But there is also good news for government leaders: They will not have to sit down together and agree with Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Apple or anyone else, but only with their citizens.

The new information environment, which we owe to the Internet, is an enormous opportunity for democracy. That can at best lead to push social evolution, to a forced rapprochement between government and governed. For this clue into the future we can all be grateful to Wikileaks.

Of course we can talk about Assange’s hearing before a London court, about burst condoms and sexual intercourse during deep sleep. And we can pretend that we had to deal with a weather phenomenon and not a climate change.

Author: Mario Sixtus original source

Translation: Martin Ringehahn [Updated 2011-01-12 19:09 EST: fixed some spelling]

Ein Kommentar zu “Who’s Afraid of Wikileaks?”

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