I just tweeted the following thought:
WikiLeaks, as a publishing model, made two-faced politics (as well as business, let’s not forget) very challenging. It deserves fresh look.
And I think it’s true. Whistleblowing in many large organisations is strongly supported and part of continuous-training programmes for all workers – certainly, the theoretical message we often get from HR departments leads one to believe that such an act is an honourable and sometimes all too necessary one.
And WikiLeaks has been nothing more nor less than a virtual implementation of a real-world instinct which perhaps more of us should take on board and exhibit. That its very visible editor has allegedly fallen foul of the law shouldn’t allow those of us interested in the wider issues of publishing in the 21st century to forget that WikiLeaks offers up an interesting challenge to what was clearly un secreto a voces: those who occupy the top and middle-range echelons of power quite casually lie to their voting publics about sincerely serious and significant issues.
But, perhaps more importantly where the private sphere impacts on the public, this two-faced behaviour, so casually redolent of corrupting Communist regimes of the 20th century, and where allowed to take place, is permitting the private sector – in some cases literally – to get away with murder.
Yes. WikiLeaks was unfair, in one very important sense. Everyone knew they could speak their mind behind the closed walls of supposedly democratic government. And speaking one’s mind is sometimes not a pleasant moment to witness – even as it may be appropriate and, perhaps, inevitable. Yet what WikiLeaks did was to radically change the ground rules without warning the participants that a smoke-and-mirrors operation was suddenly to become a goldfish bowl of revelations.
If we were to contemplate anew a fresh sort of WikiLeaks, where to some degree democratic government understand the value of an almost absolute public oversight of almost all democratic deliberations, and where it was also judged and agreed that private industry should be submitted to the same rights of whistleblowing access in order to prevent abuses of power and quasi-criminal activity, then perhaps we could move on from what has clearly become a series of personal questions – questions where the behaviours of one individual have come to represent and substitute reasoned argument about the institution in question as well as its philosophy and mission.
I would go further, in fact. I would submit that if we are to have half a chance in the next decade of rescuing representative democracy from the clutches of private fascism and individually motivated and levered criminality, we will need the kind of constructively merciless and truthful institution which WikiLeaks could quite easily have become.
And if you feel I’m wasting my time on this matter or can’t see the need for modern politicians and businesspeople to hide behind their expensively mounted façades of PR-engineered realities, just take this final thought away with you: how many traditional politicians and businesspeople who you know would be happy, comfortable and in favour of working in the limelight of an independent and exclusively information-dumping organisation run along the conceptual lines of a WikiLeak’s publishing model?
And if the number collapses to fewer than the fingers on one hand, ask yourself exactly why.
Before, that is, you ask that the hand in question be cut off.