5 Thoughts: Veni, Vidi, Wiki

1. NO REPORTER (OR FORMER REPORTER) can resist two-centsing the Wikileaks Affair. Yet my opinions are still raw and untempered; this movie isn’t over yet, and any real proclamations of herohood or villainy are thus still naively premature. This unfolding fact is some comfort to those of us on the fence: who dislike Mr. Assange’s person and motives, applaud Wikileaks qua Wiklileaks, think some doors work better when closed, are appalled by their government’s heavy-handed attempts to quash fair journalistic game, roll their eyes at the kneejerkisms of “both” “right” and “left,” and feel the “hacktivist”(1) response is both counterproductive and self-seeking.

2. It’s hard to deny that Mr. Assange comes off as a petulant, smash-everything egotist even in his own writings — a reflexive anti-authoritarian who got lucky with a similar and better-connected discontent. That is not a valid criticism against the leaks themselves or what’s revealed in them, and I wonder about the commentators who think it is. On the other hand, if one’s acts are deliberately provocative, can one honestly disavow a responsibility for their consequences? Ghandi didn’t think so. Neither did Socrates, Jesus or Korczak, and neither do I. (I don’t know what that consequence is, but I’m pretty sure assassination isn’t appropriate.)

3. Speaking of what’s in the documents: As someone who’s actually spent time in newsrooms, it’s some cold comfort to me that a few newspapers are sifting through the documents as Wikileaks releases them. It perturbs me to read on various message boards that WL is somehow “above” journalistic protocol, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of respect for the “mainstream media” in general these days — everyone seems to think the news is biased against their cause — yet I think most reporters would favor reporting, say, Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iranian angling over a list of sensitive overseas U.S. targets. Frankly, I do not trust to decide my country’s foreign policy someone who sees conspiracies everywhere — whether they work for my government or are just trying to bring it down.

4. Am I alone in thinking it rank arrogance that Assange gets to decide what’s good for us all, as though he’s some self-appointed dispenser of verities? I can’t put a finger on it — at least not any of the typing ones — but there seems to me a supreme smugness in the act. Whether that balances or is overbalanced by, say, the revelation of American contractors paying for child sex-parties, or the arrogance of credit-card companies limiting economic speech, is not the issue; this isn’t a case of Aristotle’s Excluded Middle. One can do the right thing and still be an ass about it; whether or how that affects the act is a matter of personal taste.

5. Ann asked me the other night: “If he came to you, would you publish them?” My answer was yes, I’d publish the important ones. But that’s a big pile to go through, and as the days turn into months I’d have to eventually wonder: Was it worth it?

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(1) These retributions are not caused by “hackers,” people who like playing with and extending the capabilities of everything around them. They are perpetrated by “script kiddies,” which may fairly be analogized by those protest-infiltrating elements who smash windows and burn cars instead of making heard their voice.

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