The First Task of Statesmanship
Keep an eye on Wikileaks. It is the first cyber-insurrection in world history.
It is a war for control of the dominant narrative: who gets to describe and define “what’s going on in the world” as far as the world’s people are concerned.
For the past 5,000 years of human history the dominant narrative has always been created by the dominant power, currently the USA. George Bush’s Iraq war narrative is interesting because he publicly lost control of it shortly after the invasion (no WMDs) even though the Western media continued to repeat his version long after it was disproved.
Now Wikileaks threatens America’s control of the entire narrative of world events and, thus, its justification for seeking to control them (democracy, press freedom, human rights, etc.).
Of the recent trove of cables released to three newspapers by Assange & Co., the media has published only those it considers to be “acceptable”. It has not published those which, according to those who have seen them, are “explosive”. Presumably this reticence has to do with their desire to continue in existence, which the USA could render difficult.
The New York Times, the champion of press freedom for other countries, refuses to publish any at all until after foreign newspapers have done so. Even then it puts the most pro-American spin on them.
And the recent release constitutes less that 10% of the leaked cables.
Then there is the Bank (of America?) File which, being closer to Americans’ pain threshold, could be far more “explosive” than foreign embassy material. It could, for example, explode the Federal Reserve’s narrative of the GFC events or reveal suspected criminal corruption in the US financial system.
In addition to these goodies, as Mr. Assange recently noted, Wikileaks is now attracting a greater volume of much higher-quality leaks from around the world. Pissed-off, passed-over clerks, secretaries, and corporals now have an outlet for their long-suppressed resentment of crooked Ministers, CEOs, generals.
A thumb drive, three keystrokes, and you’re Captain Nemo.
Yesterday’s developments were instructive. Every hacker on earth found A Cause. They can all be players in bringing down ‘The System’. Some of these guys are very smart (some probably work in agencies they are sworn to protect) and the rest are young men in Tallinn, Valparaiso, and Los Angeles with fiberoptic links and time on their hands.
MasterCard was shut down for 24 hours. Not only its website, but its entire worldwide card processing ability. I know because I witnessed it, in real time, along with millions others around the world. Visa was down for an afternoon. Both MasterCard and Visa accept charges for pornography, gambling and the Ku Klux Klan, while Wikileaks has not been charged with any offence.
To organize their efforts, the hackers have turned to sites like Facebook and Twitter. That has drawn these Web giants into the fray and created a precarious situation for them. Both Facebook and Twitter – particularly Twitter – have been praised by the US Government and Big Media in recent years as outlets for free speech. Foreign governments trying to control the flow of information found it difficult to block people from voicing their concerns or setting up meetings through the sites.
Twitter is in a particularly delicate situation because its founders have celebrated their service’s role in political protest and free speech and capitalizing on the good will engendered by playing that role. Remember Twitter’s role in the Iran election protests?
Several thousand would-be revolutionaries have already been supplied with Wikileaks’ doomsday file: the complete dataset containing truly scandalous and damaging material. Once they receive the key they will unleash the material on a now-waiting world, with no possibility of redaction, censorship, or interpretation by the media.
Traditional Big Media will be in a quandary as New (web) Media seize their chance to one-up the old guard. This is potentially Armageddon for Big Media, whose true loyalties will be impossible to hide.
Not only world wide, but amongst Americans themselves there is considerable frustration with the US government and a desire to punish–or at least embarrass–it by whatever means. The Berkeley City Council is considering a motion to declare the original leaker who is currently in the brig,
Corporal Bradley Manning, an American Hero.
- Cancun: China is meeting all of America’s previous objections to a climate treaty and will thus leave the USA as the sole climate villain.
- PISA scores: the international rankings of 15-year olds in math and reading. China (Shanghai) on top; USA way back in the field. This is a snapshot of the future.
[For an excellent discussion of official secrecy, read Jimmy Johnson’s The Secret Secret, at Counterpunch.org]