Everyone is talking about the New Yorker’s profile on Julian Paul Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. The MSM took notice of Wikileaks after it published a video of American soldiers killing unarmed Reuters journalists in Afghanistan.
Author Raffi Khatchadourian provides plenty of interesting details about Assange’s life, but adopts a somewhat strange stance to his work. He makes the valid point that Wikileaks has created a bounty of their own secrecy in order to safely bust government and corporate secrecy, and that power could just as easily be misused by Wikileaks as it is by the latter two.
But he also says this:
[U]nlike authoritarian regimes, democratic governments hold secrets largely because citizens agree that they should, in order to protect legitimate policy. In liberal societies, the site’s strengths are its weaknesses.
I take issue.
A. That is facially, patently, emphatically untrue.
B. For example, when did we citizens of the USA get together and give carte blanche permission to our government to hide from us whatever they see fit? Or even limited permission?
C. Democratic regimes hold secrets for the same reasons authoritarian regimes do: to keep citizens in the dark about things that might make them angry enough to question those in power. Also, to avoid international condemnation for war crimes and human rights abuses.
D. In liberal societies, Wikileaks’ strengths are the same as in more repressive societies. State secrets do not suddenly become valid in one form of government, while remaining problematic in another.
E. An elite in a “liberal” “democracy” cannot claim exemption from scrutiny simply because hir country is “liberal” and “democratic”. It doesn’t work that way. Liberality and, hopefully, democracy should be defined by their transparency, not exempted from it.
(Yes, I am including war secrets in my statements. Killing is wrong. The government hides information about it’s state-sanctioned killing so that citizens can’t be upset by it. Your average person is sickened by any sort of killing, as the video depicting the Americans killing journalists showed.)