wikileaks is one of the most exciting things to happen in politics, media and culture since the beginning of the internet.
i made the commitment here and in other spaces to step out of the news cycle, because i am tired of knowing very little about lots of things, and i am tired of becoming a temporary expert on things over which i have no power. i make a valiant effort to only read/post stuff where i can contribute…
but wikileaks makes me want to look at newspapers and news sites again.
1. it’s real stuff! part of the reason i don’t like news cycles is because it seems like they are so rarely based on fact. while wikileaks has so much on it that i can’t even pretend to read it all, the difference is that the documents are real. and while analysis is necessary, our media has become an echo chamber of non-information, pure opinion, creation mythology. it is refreshing to see actual documents that show actual corruption, and have to respond to that.
2. it means more people can be radical! the decentralization of wiki posting allows a much larger population of radical thinkers to act, and allows us to redefine who we see as radical. there’s not a lot of paid work for social change agents, and a lot of folks who want to change the world end up in corrupt institutions (or non-profits, keeping it real).
and it’s so easy to fall into blanket generalizations of “the government” or “the CIA” or “corporations” and not remember that those are institutions made up of people, each with their own moral code, their own senses of right and wrong. wikileaks, and the many leak-pages which are proliferating from digi-comrades across the globe, opens up the door for people to act on their values even if they are working within a corrupt system. now insider-outsider strategy can mean more than professional compromisers vs professional critics.
3. decentralization is strength! in nature, the strongest systems are those that can survive in a way that is linked but self-organized – dandelions, oak trees, fungi. anyone who has studied social change movements knows that hierarchical systems of organizing are easy to take out – google “assassinations in the 60s”.
wikileaks’ strength is that it invites self-organizing to happen in a way that makes it fairly meaningless if one person in the process is taken out. it’s fascinating to me to watch everyone hone in on julian assange, fundamentally misunderstanding the decentralized nature of this information war. wikileaks and the hacker army are everywhere, and have been for some time.
4. transparency is strength. we have been living in a hyper security culture, told that secrecy and backroom proceedings will keep us safe, and to just trust the government to determine when it’s a level orange moment. but…do you feel safer? i certainly don’t. i feel patted down and spied on and suspect, but not safer.
for that antiquated idea of democracy to even be attempted, there has to be transparency of information, so that voters can make choices to direct the systems of our collective living. otherwise it’s a chess game, and we’re on the board while someone else makes the moves. the more we know the more we can determine our identity relative to how we live.
5. history repeats itself. by exposing past offenses, wikileaks let’s us see how anti-democratic forces strategize, and make ourselves distinct from that politic and approach.
case in point – over and over again, our international American identity is of regressive climate policy, and acting as a block to changing our environmental footprint. why? wikileaks shows us specifics around how the U.S. worked to obstruct climate policy moving forward in international climate talks in 2009. this is meaningful and relevant as thousands of people are gathered right now in cancun for the next set of these talks.
we can say “Americans have a different identity than what you have been told, world. see how our government is working outside the democratic processes of the people? see how we voted for major changes and corporate bureaucracy silenced our desires?”
6. this scales up movements worldwide. the people who take the risks to expose corruption in this way are walking out on a limb over a yawning and dangerous chasm – but that is the limb we all need to walk out on. calling for a transparent, accountable world is one thing, pulling back the wizard’s curtain is another. it’s thrilling to see things that progressive/liberal/radical/anarchist/etc folks have suspected and/or believed showing up on the front page of every news source – and it means we have to be up to the task of strategically using this new content we have access to, and supporting those who are taking these risks so that others who are willing to take the risk aren’t silenced.
society is changing, possibly very very quickly. don’t sit it out – one immediate move to take over the holidays is to talk about why something like wikileaks is important with your family! growing cultural understanding and desire for an informed population can lead to other shifts – like an education system that produces folks who can read and analyze such information; like localized wikileak operations where politicians and businesses know that a step towards corruption is a step out of power.
all that to say, in case you haven’t noticed, wikileaks has put an exclamation mark in my consideration of the possibilities of mass media. woot.