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.