Friday, January 21, 2011

Evaluating WikiLeaks

Headnote: By focusing on Wikileaks we are ignoring the government's actions. Here is a Youtube by a thoughtful man with proposed solutions, the founder of Independent Diplomats. 

Is WikiLeaks evaluating WikiLeaks?

Are they considering costs over benefits? I wonder. Although I’m a tad more inclined to hang out with oblivious young in-the-basement computer geeks than with responsible old workers who have a political party membership card, I am really wondering. Both common sense and Management 101 tell us that after a completing a project,—and leaking a federal government is a pretty big project,—it is important to do a project evaluation. It’s like how, after a step-by-step complicated decision or task, you would conscientiously do the last step, “evaluation,” in order to steadily improve your decision-making.

My focus now is on the leaks of the diplomatic cables of the US government.

America’s focus was clouded, before Christmas, with knee-jerk emotions like, “It’s just not fair!” and “Man, we should go assassinate the dude.” (The dude being Julian Assange) At the same time, from reading computer geeks on the web, I saw less emotional people who seemed more like bystanders saying things like, “Transparency is good” and “In the long run I want more government transparency.”

I say “bystanders” because I sensed they felt
no connection to previous organized initiatives at increasing transparency such as the “Freedom of  Information” act and “Whistleblower” laws. Perhaps they thought such initiatives are always from the government, for the government, and while the government… floats… separate from the people, away from geeks who could feel satisfied living with no more initiative than a wet mop.

Initiative from a thoughtful public is good. For you or me to argue that taking thought or having initiative is hopeless, that our government is just as strong and immobile as a boulder, and just as impervious as a government of communism or an Islamic theocracy, is to argue in favor of our limitations. Before I would agree to put on the blue spectacles of despair I might pause to consider the volunteers over at the shabby little Center Street party campaign headquarters: For these shiny happy people government is not an island. Boulders don’t have knee-jerk reactions.

And if, perchance, the government was even more impervious than the Islamists, well,—Can any sci-fi loving computer nerd forget Angel, and the folks at Angel Investigations, taking on “The Powers that Be” in the final episode of Angel? As a friend of Johnny Tremain said circa 1776, “A man can stand.”

Going further down my nerd trail of thought, I have never forgotten the final line of a 1960’s animated episode of The Lone Ranger called The Human Dynamo. After capturing the eponymous super villain, to take him in for trial, the ranger said, in a sober close up, “… No man may be both judge and jury.” Today I am reminded of a certain foreigner, Assange, who finds it easy to be both, easier to leak than to  figuratively ask a jury of thousands of US citizens whether they want a big easy leak, or no leak at all, or if they would rather to work together to advance further transparency/leak legislation.

We the people were denied a chance for national dialogue, denied self-determination.

Is Assange at long last doing a project evaluation? Is the nine-person (including Assange) "advisory board" of WikiLeakers now balancing costs over benefits? I think not. I think those guys would rather watch TV “news” than take a grown up interest in newspapers, let alone take an interest in evaluating… So it’s up to we the people.

If you’ve read this far, then like me, you too are a reader, and it follows, then, that I may have little to add to your store of facts on recent benefits such as government diplomatic cables showing the jaded Europeans how the Yankees really are na├»ve, or facts on recent costs such as the US helping a handful of people to relocate and warning several hundred they are imperiled. (Reuters Jan 8, 2011) What I can offer is my middle-aged memory.

I remember a US computer guy who used the web for democracy. He wanted to help decent people fight against oppression in the developing world. Accordingly he released onto the web an encryption code so they could resist without having their heads chopped off. While the costs could have been to aide the attackers of 9/11, and I think he felt badly about that, the benefits were global. He was idealistic yet not ignorant of military history and geography. He knew that in the Muslim world, or in Africa, under guys like Mugabe, “transparency equals death….”

Recently Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson ended his column (Calgary Herald Jan 8, 2011) with this paragraph:

On some occasions, foreign policy involves a binary, moral choice. Assange has chosen the side of Mugabe, apparently without regret. He has provided ammunition to a tyrant as surely as if he were an arms dealer. And he calls America an enemy of democracy.

Sean Crawford
On the Great Plains,
January 2011

Footnote: Is it just me, or do some idealists seem almost proud of being cut off from time and space, of not knowing geography and history?

I sometimes think that if I was, say, discussing a UN police action in “Khaffirstan” with such a person, that I would have to stop to explain the “brass cannon” facts of life. That could require an entire essay, (Dec 26/10) and by the time I was finished we would be too tired to continue the discussion.

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