Friday, December 10, 2010

Awareness, Responsibility and Wikileaks

In writing the last blog entry on awareness and responsibility, I couldn’t help but think of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. As written by Gordon Crovitz (Wall Street Journal), Mr. Assange told Time magazine, “It is not our goal to achieve a more transparent society; it’s our goal to achieve a more just society.” If leaks cause U.S. officials to “lock down internally and to balkanize,” they will “cease to be as efficient as they were.”

In reading the full article (and others), it would be easy to assume that Mr. Assange is aware of his feeling towards the matter: he doesn’t like the American government and feels they are an “authoritarian conspiracy.” Fine, we know where he stands. But in acting out in this way I question whether he is helping society become more just or is he just trading one, to use his words, authoritarian conspiracy for another. And, more to the point of this blog, is he taking appropriate responsibility for his actions? The answer, at least for me, is no as too many innocent people were adversely affected. In codependent language, one could say that Mr. Assange is a bully. He uses his knowledge and skill to control and manipulate and his version of justice is fear based.

Stephen Engelberg of Probublica wrote an informative piece on the issue in July.
For the past several decades, there has been an informal understanding between the reporters who uncovered newsworthy secrets and the government intelligence agencies, which tried to keep them from public view.

We would tell senior officials what we'd learned. And they would point out any unforeseen consequences that might arise from publication, such as the death of an American informant. Ultimately, the call on what appeared rested with editors. But it was a decision informed by more than our own guesswork.

My point in reprinting that quote is that the above mentioned editors did not act without careful in-house (and out-of-house) dialogue. They looked at potential repercussions and then printed what they felt would be responsible in terms of the public, the government and themselves. The editors made a decision that, in their minds, served all those concerned in a mutually respectful and, presumably “healthy” manner. Sure, it didn’t make for a perfect world. Perhaps it didn’t even make a more just world. But their decision could be considered interdependent. It was the best they could do so that the greatest number of people were being equally and respectfully served.

But don’t mistake me here, I am not a pollyanna believing that most large organizations and bureaucracies act or even believe in interdependence. The world isnt perfect but then again, neither is interdependence as a concept. However, let’s call Mr. Assange what he is… not a hero looking for a just society but a bully getting his needs met by hurting others.

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