WikiLeaks: From 'Torch
of Democracy' to Anti-American 'Cudgel' (Die Presse,
set out to be the torch of democracy - but instead became a digital cudgel for
America-haters. ... And in view of the behavior of Julian Assange, one must to
conclude that this development was not mere coincidence - but by design."
The idea was an deceptively simple and the beginnings were
promising: A "news service for the people" was envisioned by
enthusiastic idealists who, in 2006, started a digital postal service on the
World Wide Web. The WikiLeaks Web site was designed to be a point of contact for
whistle blowers around the world who, under the protection of anonymity, wanted
to expose alleged abuses by institutions, enterprises and governments.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who took on the role of
itinerant preacher in this staunchly committed and secretive online community, spoke
of the blessings of total transparency and the democratizing effect of pure,
unfiltered information. It is not without reason that WikiLeaks' slogan is
"We Open Governments": government secrecy was to be consigned to
This idealism was initially well received. WikiLeaks
published documents from the Scientology sect's inner circle, produced evidence
of corruption in Kenya including confidential documents from a Swiss Bank. With
Assange, Internet activists found a new prophet, media theorists found ample
material for scientific research papers, columnists nodded approvingly - and
that's how it would have remained, had WikiLeaks not posted a video in 2010 entitled
Collateral Murder, which has now been
deeply etched into our collective memory, that showed the use of a U.S. Apache
helicopter gunship against unarmed civilians in Iraq [video below].
It was foreseeable that the video's release would trigger a
violent reaction from the U.S. government - and that was probably part of the
calculus. According to Assange's view of the world, the
United States would reveal itself for what it was: a brutal hegemon
responsible for all the ills of the planet. Washington obliged and promptly
declared WikiLeaks a threat to national security. One could argue the point as
to whether or not the U.S. reaction was appropriate - or whether it would not have
been better to factually investigate the allegations the video presents,
instead of trying naive idealists like Bradley Manning for treason, who provided
the video to WikiLeaks. Certainly, however, as a result, WikiLeaks and Assange have
experienced a massive surge in popularity.
But the result of releasing Collateral Murder had an additional side effect: the aura of
impartiality, which up to then had surrounded WikiLeaks, was gone. What
followed was a genuine information war against the United States: documents
from Afghanistan, military records about the Iraq War, diplomatic dispatches,
internal e-mails from an American security firm - anything Assange could get his
hands on that could damage the United States, was posted online. That in the
course of this campaign the identities of American informants were revealed was
written off as collateral damage. WikiLeaks set out to be the torch of
democracy - but instead became a digital cudgel for America-haters.
Posted by Worldmeets.US
And in view of the behavior of Julian Assange, one must to
conclude that this development was not mere coincidence - but by design. Those like
the WikiLeaks boss, who under orders of Vladimir Putin engage in flattering
interviews with champions of democracy like as Hezbullah's
Hassan Nasrallah, can only regard the United States
as the "Great Satan." For Assange, it is only logical to flee to
Ecuador under the protection of diplomatic immunity. It is now up to President
Rafael Correa, who himself tends to put unwelcome journalists on trial, to speak
further on the benefits of freedom of expression.
What has once again been clearly demonstrated is that
information can be collected and deployed as a weapon - and the fact that whistle
blowers who expose serious malfeasance must carefully consider who they provide
that information to. Their trust in WikiLeaks was certainly misplaced.
Worldmeets.US is a non-partisan, volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization that operates solely in the public interest. The opinions expressed in articles posted by Worldmeets.US are not necessarily those of Worldmeets.US, its sponsors, or its volunteers.