Archive for December, 2010
The power of principled leaking to call governments, corporations and institutions to account is amply demonstrated through recent history. The public scrutiny of otherwise unaccountable and secretive institutions forces them to consider the ethical implications of their actions. Which official will chance a secret, corrupt transaction when the public is likely to find out? What repressive plan will be carried out when it is revealed to the citizenry, not just of its own country, but the world? When the risks of embarrassment and discovery increase, the tables are turned against conspiracy, corruption, exploitation and oppression. Open government answers injustice rather than causing it. Open government exposes and undoes corruption. Open governance is the most effective method of promoting good governance.
The world today groans under corruption and exploitation, injustice and oppression, from the individual to the planetary scale — and the injustices range from the frustration of individual lives, up to wars ravaging entire nations and ruining millions.
Our planet has become a neighbourhood, tightly connected by economic, informational, and communicational links.
But our planet’s political system remains, at the supranational level, barbaric — as if our neighbours in the next nation were still inscrutable, incomprehensible outsiders. The human race still allows itself to be governed by jealous, clashing, tumultuous commonwealths; by States, such monsters still, as these cables reveal, that they will consciously and deliberately consider endangering millions of innocents because of their leaders’ differences of opinion.
International politics is an anachronism. The citizens next door are our sisters and brothers; and States’ backroom dealings often conspiracies against us all. These dealings sugarcoat together the innocuous and the vilest acts of war and terrorism; all run together over champagne and caviar.
This system is a throwback to a distant age, a relic of kings and their courtly intrigues.
But the modern nation-state system is not an eternal phenomenon. It is historically young; indeed, the modern State system, from the 18th century and earlier, could usually only be imposed upon the populations of the world by force or conquest. It is not a fact of nature.
It can change — indeed it must.
Today, this very day, as human civilization faces the immediate and dire prospect of sending itself into environmental disaster, the spectacle of sovereign nations bargaining against each other while they tip civilization off an environmental cliff, is more absurd than ever.
The nation-state may not disappear any time in the near future. But if it thinks it can pursue its own interests at the expense of others, it will continue to endanger the human race; and it will continue to encounter such resistance as at present. Human beings can live a better way.
The hilarious spectacle of illiterate accusations of treason against individuals not citizens of the relevant states is entertaining, if a sad reflection upon the intellectual development of certain political sectors.
But there is a “treason” that Wikileaks represents: it denies loyalty to the State; it denies loyalty to *any* State. Its loyalty is to truth, to fact, to knowledge, to the love of humanity and to individual conscience above all. Its organisation and supporters are citizens of the world; they bear no allegiance to any absurd geogrpahic entity; and indeed this is the only defensible position for an enlightened human being in the 21st century.
International law barely exists; and while multinational corporations may race to the bottom, organisations like Wikileaks can race to the top, through preferred jurisdictions as one State after another tries to drag down free speech and the free press.
But this law of the jungle, this supranational vacuum of the rule of law, is precisely the setting, and the outcome, of unjust international relations — of the polite barbarism of diplomacy. This is the venue into which Wikileaks steps. Wikileaks takes advantage of supranational uncivilization in order to civilize it.
But it is also a guerrilla insurgency, nonviolent, armed only with information, much more powerful than any bomb.
The attacks upon it are real enough, from respectable editorials inciting murder and assassination — a crime, to which free speech does not extend its protections — to abusive lawsuits and denunciation by all the massed forces of the embarrassed, unjust status quo. It fights a war of information. With a servile media in the democracies, and repressed media elsewhere, a liberal transparency approach is not enough. The state of the world demands a transnational information insurgency.
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The world is changing. Diplomacy will never be the same; respectable voices decry that diplomats will never again have frank discussions! Clearly not so. But the voice that cries out in horror against diplomatic inabilities is the same voice that shares caviar with murderous foreign policy. Diplomats, indeed, might never again want to have *certain* frank discussions: namely, those discussions that wreak vast injustice upon the world; those that talk blithely of going to war against populations of millions; those that speak of evicting entire populations as if they never existed; those that attempt to shut down human rights investigations and protect the perpetrators. We need not mourn their demise.
No better example is possible that:
The public scrutiny of otherwise unaccountable and secretive institutions forces them to consider the ethical implications of their actions… when the risks of embarrassment and discovery increase, the tables are turned against conspiracy, corruption, exploitation and oppression.
Wikileaks is pushing the nation state system out of its complacent and vicious, cynical equilibrium. It is not an attack against the international system, but an attack against international *un*system; it is humanity crying out for law and order on its planet. The determined and courageous efforts of a small group, empowered only by the internet and their principles, push towards justice even the system of the world.
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As for the anachronistic state and its system — to this beast, accustomed to polite savagery, now provoked and flailing in all its atavistic fervour — we can say:
To avoid wholesale document dumps — stop classifying innocuous party gossip and television reviews, along with covering up shocking human rights abuses.
To avoid conscientious and principled violation of secrecy laws by its citizens — respect international law and human rights.
To see no more damaging and embarrassing megaleaks — treat the peoples of other nations as you would your own.
To avoid embarrassment from small, persecuted activist groups — stop trying to dominate the world.
To avoid leaks from military personnel — stop ordering the military into operations in supreme violation of international law.
To avoid leaks that embarrass you — stop doing embarrassing yourself and the dignity of the human race.
To avoid leaks that expose injustice — act justly.
For when there is justice, there will be no more leaks — there will be no need.