Katelyn Sack

Katelyn Sack
Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
December 31
Writer, artist, U.Va. Ph.D. student and President's Fellow in Politics.


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MARCH 23, 2011 7:58PM

Why I Support WikiLeaks

Rate: 13 Flag
There are three serious criticisms of the WikiLeaks model of scientific journalism.  After carefully evaluating them all, I still support WikiLeaks, Anonymous, and Julian Assange.  The first criticism is that Assange is idealistic.  The WikiLeaks model of scientific journalism assumes the state of transparency in the world today is poor, and improving it will make people freer.  The second is that Assange is naïve:  he assumes people's untapped capacity for political engagement is huge, when in fact people are busy, selfish, and lazy.  Third, WikiLeaks, Anonymous, and Assange have all been termed terrorists.  
We have a largely unrecognized transparency problem in America today. Where, critics say, is the line?  If you can read the Iraq War logs, why can't your neighbors read your email?  The difference is that individuals have privacy rights, while democratic governments have special responsibilities to keep their constituents informed about their conduct.  Corporations might be said to have similar responsibilities to their shareholders.  Transparency is not a threat to everyday people, as some are being misled to believe.  
It currently violates the Congressional secrecy oath for members to quote in Congress from widely published diplomatic cables.  It is illegal for Air Force employees to read The Guardian and The New York Times, and for soldiers to report war crimes to the people through the press.  The connection between lack of transparency and impoverished political discourse, diminished civil liberties, and an ill-informed democratic process is clear.  More transparency would mean more freedom and democracy in the U.S. today.  WikiLeaks honors this democratic potential through enabling greater freedom of information at home and abroad.  
But pick at democracy, its critics charge, and the idea unravels.  Most people must work to live, many have families with people who depend on them, and these obligations and pursuits keep us caught up in our tiny travails.  Americans also watch, on average, about 20 hours of TV a week.  Do we really think that people will be interested in making the world a better place if they know the truth about its problems, and the role we play in perpetuating them?  
I choose to believe in people.  The American government is currently in seven foreign wars – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Horn of Africa, Colombia, and Mexico.  Since I wrote that sentence a week ago, we began an eighth foreign war in Libya.  The U.S. government spends more than twice on weapons than the next ten biggest-spending world governments combined.  And there is no popular consent, either to the bloated defense budget or to the unending wars.  Not even Congress got a say before we started bombing Libya.  
The American government starts wars.  The American people pay for them, in blood and money.  This has to stop, and "we the people" are the only ones who can hold our government accountable.  
Finally, high-level governmental officials and pundits alike have called WikiLeaks, Anonymous, and Assange terrorists.  This viscerally frightening term becomes conceptually empty when it is abused to brand those who stand up for freedom and democracy as outlaws.  
Please, let's have this argument.  Who has and hasn't killed people, under what circumstances, and how many?  The U.S. military versus WikiLeaks.  Let's tally the number of Americans alone killed by each organization, shall we?  
Terrorists kill people.  Armies kill people.  WikiLeaks publishes facts complete with their documented sources.  Some of their sources are currently being tortured by our own government.  Bradley Manning, who gave evidence of war crimes and global corruption to the press, is stripped naked in solitary confinement less than two hours from me as I write this.  There is little I can do for him, except donate coffee money to his legal defense fund and talk about his plight.  
Private First Class Manning's torturers are more accurately termed terrorists than he is.  But the sad reality is that WikiLeaks supporters can't effectively challenge the terrorism charge.  The entrenched governmental bureaucracy and its plutocratic figureheads are the ones who get to define who is and is not a terrorist.  It is quite possible that supporters of scientific journalism will continue to be branded dangerous, harassed, detained, and otherwise targeted unjustly by U.S. governmental forces.  Security, we will be told, is more important than liberty.  War is peace.  Whistleblowers are criminals.  
This is why the terrorism moniker and criminal charges against WikiLeaks, Assange, and their supporters only serve to highlight why we must embrace scientific journalism.  Orwellian doublespeak must be answered with truth, art, music, writing, film, and other forms of intelligent life.  The continuing high-level assaults on WikiLeaks and its affiliates only illustrate why initiatives like RevolutionTruth and Crowdleaks are so important.  We are fighting fascism with civility, disinformation with transparency, and fear mongering with data.  We are leading a second Enlightenment.  Our struggle will be long, but our legacy will be freedom of information.  Supporting WikiLeaks is about supporting the rule of law.  
So join us.  Be a Manning.  Speak truth to power, by speaking truth to the world.  

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The revolution will not be televised. It will be Wikileaked.
Katelyn, thanks for the thoughtful post about WikiLeaks! It's discouraging how Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Bradley Manning have been demonized for doing things to help society. While WikiLeaks is rarely mentioned in news reports about democratic uprisings in the Middle East, I give them plenty of credit as the catalyst. It all started with Tunisia and Wikileaks' release of revealing documents about the ruling family in Tunisia, etc.
"individuals have privacy rights, while democratic governments have special responsibilities to keep their constituents informed "

Right on, right on, right on Sistah!

And what designanator said.
@ Alaska Progressive - that would make a great song, with the record scratch sound effect over "Wiki."

@ designanator - thanks, and I agree about the positive effects of WikiLeaks, along with social networking, the bad economy, and some very young societies, on democracy in the Middle East. It's funny how little credit WL gets for this in academic discourse, when our models about economic factors and democratic development would have suggested a global economic downturn should seriously harm the state of democratic governance in already less well-off states.

@ Bonnie Russell - yes. Congresspersons, like my wonderful former representative Tom Perriello, get penalized at the polls if they work for the people instead of the corporations that foot their bills.

@ Fred Hallman - many thanks!
You are so off base on some of your statements. You are looking an only part of the picture. Look at it again using the parable by Bastiat of the broken window. It's titled That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen.

Look at the recent happenings with NPR and their meeting with rich "donors". The gentleman from NPR made an off the cuff comment about NPR not needing public funding. It got out. The unseen problem with that statement is that those who want to cut NPR funding took it and ran with it damaging their funding. Do you not see where some of the stuff in the wikileak documents can cause more harm than good?

Next, I don't know if I would call Manning a terrorist. He is a thief and has committed treason if he did what they say. The fact he is in the military just makes those items even more grave. He raised his right hand and with his own free will took an oath. That he broke.

Everywhere that I can think of, and if you know someplace it isn't please let me know, receiving stolen property is a crime. Therefore wikileaks has no right to what they received. They also knew, or should have know, the stuff was not obtained legally and given to them.

To function governments must have secrets. Not everything is available for you to see. Do you want everybody to know where the next cruise missile is going to land? Kind of defeats the reason for launching it doesn't it?

Does the government go overboard on what they classify? I'm sure they do. President Obama's school records are not a national secret. What are they hiding in there? Who knows, but you can't see them.

The media should have the responsibility to be the watch dog of government. Those responsibilities come with other responsibilities. They have to be careful not to damage the national interest with things that can do more harm than good.
Wikileaks is a threat to many powerful people and organizations. These individuals will not tolerate any threats to their power. The status quo will change when it suits their purposes to change it. It is in the interests of the ruling elite to flood the general public with misinformation and divisive issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and the right to bear arms.
Here's the truth. Not many people can stomach it.

We are all keeping secrets from each other, and those secrets are killing us and the relationships in which we dwell.

What is true for governments is also true for societies. Many of the so called secrets that were Wikileaked were only secret from the American people, from our enemies not so much.

As to whether the information was gotten illegally, those who provided the information broke laws by releasing the information....and there were thousands of them. No one is even attempting to track them down. Instead, they focus on Assange because he's gettable and the others aren't.

There's no difference between The New York Times publication of the Pentagon Papers and Wikileak's publication of the leaked secrets. Reporters often utilize illegally gotten information.

The difference lies in the effect, not the act. Wikileaks deeply embarrassed this administration, as well as previous administrations, and that's why they are being witch hunted.
aristotle decided to characterize society by simply asking:

"who decides?"

it still works, although modern complexity and the sheer size of human society means the actors are groups, not individuals.

the people do not 'decide' in america, it is not a democracy. the government decides, and the process is complex. so people not only can not act politically, they usually don't even have access to information about what is happening.

this benefits government officers. it allows them to get personal advantage from their position. then someone blew the whistle, and disturbed the cozy situation. it may have been bradley manning, they haven't bothered to try him before punishing him, but suppose it is. worse yet, manning talked to wikileaks and let the whole world know.

the government strikes back, and the american people accept their lies. if you say education is needed to resist, that's so. but it will never be enough.

political action is required, and there is none evident. the american people have been trained to obedience. sometimes, most times, the bad guys win.
Thank you! Finally- I get so tired of pols (even the liberal ones) claiming how awful Wikileaks is. Wikileaks exists to put their feet to the fire, and (try) to hold them accountable.

Sadly, it seems that the days of justice have left our shores. Even publicly known crimes, ranging from lying to congress, massive fraud by Wall Street banks, and violations of the constitution are ignored. While I'm glad Wikileaks helps make these crimes known- it only makes me feel a tad more sad as I know that no one will do anything about it...except torture Bradley Manning
much more on my blog on assange
Ms. Sack, great post! You really lay it on the line.

The negative comment by catnlion reminds me of something I've been thinking about for awhile: Few countries have enshrined Freedom of Speech and of Press as America has but no one seems as eager to remain silent, self-censor and internalize propoganda and baloney (bologna?) as we are.
While the government pokes deeper and deeper into the secrets of it's own citizenry, it is unwilling to expose any of it's own. We live in a nation run by hypocrites!
Great closing! I'll be quoting you.