I'm not entirely sure where I stand on WikiLeaks to offer my personal take on recent events. However, I've been looking at articles from mainstream media, both in Europe and in the US, as well as the many posts about the topic in my feed reader and did not want to hold off acknowledging the topic -- it is important we think about the implications.
What is WikiLeaks?
In case you have not heard or read about it, WikiLeaks is a non profit organization founded by human rights activists, journalists and former hackers. 39-year old Australian journalist and hacker Julian Assange is the leader. A small number of people drive hundreds of collaborators all over the world -- all under conditions of anonymity.
Their Website was launched in 2006 with the purpose of spreading exclusive news on international politics, corruption, and corporate dealings. They're financed through donations by individuals and organizations funneled to a global foundation network.
The organization recently released more than 250,000 confidential documents about political leaders, terrorism, and nuclear arsenals, to international newspapers.
Freedom of expression
Instead of jumping to conclusions, which alas we're too used to doing these days -- no doubt, a product of the speed at which information comes at us, as well as the peer pressure of being seen saying something about a fresh issue -- I thought it best to present what I have found helpful in my research.
Having been online for the better part of ten plus years, I've had the most varied experiences, and not once a constructive dialogue ignited from an anonymous comment. Gerald Baron, a respected and experienced crisis communication professional, writes about trolling, toxic talk and the challenges of transparency:
[trolls]... lurk around blogs, news sites and websites, contaminating almost every conversation with their toxic expressions. [...] I think they are a significant contributor to the decline of public trust and the disagreeable atmosphere surrounding much of our public discourse.
His most important contribution to the conversation though comes with the thought that if transparency was the ultimate good, then internet freedom protectors above all would demand an end to anonymity on the web.
There are a couple of posts on WikiLeaks being cut off from its domain host by Dave Winer, and from its donation collection site PayPal by Read WriteWeb. Nick Carr contributes his take on the cloud press, cloud computing is becoming "the 21st century equivalent of the printing press," he writes, paraphrasing Newsweek COO Joseph Galarneau throughout.
Jeff Jarvis has written quite a lot about WikiLeaks, mainly looking at the issue through the lens of publicness:
in Wikileaks, we see a new concern: that secrecy dies. It does not; secrecy lives. But it is wounded. And it should be. Let us use this episode to examine as citizens just how secret and how transparent our governments should be. For today, in the internet age, power shifts from those who hold secrets to those to create openness. That is our emerging reality.
And it does look like businesses are next. Mind Hacks picks up on psychological warfare in Iraq. And Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land contributes information on how to search WikiLeaks with Cablesearch.
Need for maturity
Many have passed on the post by Gary Goldhammer when I shared it on Twitter earlier in the week. He writes that transparency without judgement is gossip, not journalism. This also brings us back to the issue of transparency and openness. Goldhammer states that:
Transparency also requires judgment and analysis.
[...] from where I’m sitting, WikiLeaks and those who support its brand of “journalism” are neither inquisitive nor vital to global discourse. WikiLeaks is not part of "that media" -- it is part of a rogue, opportunistic and reckless media that has little understanding of journalistic principles nor concern for the fallout created by its selfish actions.
You want to be “part of that media?” Great, then grow up and act responsibly. Find the story and tell it with context and conscience.
Maturity and accountability seem like a good way to get started here. As Giancarlo Bosetti writes for La Repubblica print, US edition, on December 1, liberally translated by me, no friendship would outlast the conversations your friends have about you with others.
As for my own take on constructive discourse of any kind, especially on this blog. I've had plenty of scummy bottom feeding sites scrape this content, and unappealing individuals throw words bigger than they could comprehend around when posting anonymously. Freedom of expression comes with a price: and that is accountability.
Want to have a voice and an impact in the conversation? How about taking responsibility?