By Craig McKee
I can’t help but get the feeling that there’s more to the whole WikiLeaks phenomenon than meets the eye. A lot more.
On the surface of it, this organization and its public face, Julian Assange, seem like the best things to come along since Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers. Like many people who believe in transparency, and that secrecy is the enemy of democracy, I want very much to believe in WikiLeaks.
But frankly, the whole thing is making me very uneasy. It all seems too good to be true, and you know what they say about things that can be described that way.
I love the fact that the fledgling organization (which seemed to spring from nowhere in 2007) has released literally hundreds of thousands of documents, videos, and diplomatic cables. This material has shone a light on a number of very bad things the American government and other governments around the world have done and are doing. And the rhetoric on their web site is right up my alley.
Take this excerpt from the “about” section of the WikiLeaks site:
“Consider Daniel Ellsberg, working within the US government during the Vietnam War. He comes into contact with the Pentagon Papers, a meticulously kept record of military and strategic planning throughout the war. Those papers reveal the depths to which the US government has sunk in deceiving the American people about the war. Yet the public and the media know nothing of this urgent and shocking information. Indeed, secrecy laws are being used to keep the public ignorant of gross dishonesty practised by their own government.”
I couldn’t agree more. And this statement from the same section sums up a large part of what this blog is about:
Today, with authoritarian governments in power in much of the world, increasing authoritarian tendencies in democratic governments, and increasing amounts of power vested in unaccountable corporations, the need for openness and transparency is greater than ever.
Bang on. But things are not always what they seem.
The story of WikiLeaks is happening so fast that it’s hard to keep up. Companies like VISA, PayPal, and Mastercard are now refusing to work with WikiLeaks – apparently due to government pressure. Supposed “fans” of the site have retaliated and have attacked the above corporations’ sites in what has been dubbed “Operation Payback.” David meets Goliath again?
But could there be something bigger at stake? And could that be the freedom of the Internet itself? Already, the Pentagon has labelled Assange a “cyber terrorist.” That should set off major alarm bells. When the U.S. goes after a high-profile “terrorist,” it’s usually to distract people from what they’re really doing.
Assange is in custody in London because of trumped-up sexual assault charges laid in Sweden. This cements his rebel person as a kind of cyber Robin Hood. Again, too easy?
The Internet offers the potential for real democratic discourse and freedom of speech. The 9/11 Truth movement would not have had nearly the success it has had in pursuing that story without it. But the Internet could also be used as an instrument of control. Could it be that using the Internet to control what we know and what we can communicate is the ultimate objective? And could aggressive and apparently subversive actions like Operation Payback be a convenient justification for governments stepping in to curb Internet freedom?
If you think this is farfetched, just look at what freedoms people willingly abandoned after 9/11.
Could the WikiLeaks saga be the first major instance of a cyber “false-flag” operation? The organization has brushed off accusations in the past that it’s a front for American intelligence, and I really hope that it’s not. I want to believe in all this could be for real. But there jury’s still out. We have to scrutinize every development in this story very carefully. We have to watch out for the familiar patterns of past disinformation campaigns.
History shows us many examples of supposed attacks against a country that turn out to have been fabricated by that country’s own government. There’s plenty of evidence, for example, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew for weeks or months that the attack on Pearl Harbor was coming. The argument goes even further: that Japan was provoked into attacking so that the American public would support entry into the war.
And there are many more examples (Gulf of Tonkin, Operation Northwoods and others). The biggest, of course, was 9/11 itself. By the way, Assange is on record as calling 9/11 “annoying” and a “false conspiracy.”
Whenever we’re fed a story that seems too clear cut (good guys, bad guys and the like) we need to be extremely vigilant. We were so traumatized by the Sept. 11 attacks that we happily swallowed an explanation that we could make sense of. Problem is, it was a lie.
With any reassuring scenario for why some major event has happened, we need to ask ourselves the age-old question: Who benefits? If this “cyber war,” results in curbs on free speech and action to restrict the freedom of the Internet, we’ll have our answer.