December 6, 2010
The truth will set you free.
Unless you work in government. The recent Wikileaks documents that outlined thousands of instances (some suspected, some known, others unknown) have shown many governments around the world to be the backstabbing, two-faced, sycophantic bastards we always knew they were.
This is as transparent as government has ever gotten. With one move, the website put out thousands of pages of formerly classified documents, and, like the release documents outlining the United States crimes in the Middle East, Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have been targeted as terrorists, criminals, and traitors to the United States.
Whether you agree or disagree with the decision to put these documents out, I have to admit that I’ve learned a few things from this whole fiasco.
Curiosity is for Terrorists
Government needs secrecy when it is necessary. Secrecy is not the default. In fact, a free society, especially a democratic society, should be informed of the decisions and tactics government officials use. Yes, the talks can happen in private, and yes, there is a time and a place to release information, but we have a government that is so used to secrets, so used to treating everything like it’s a threat to the American way of life, that we’ve lost sight of the fact that we SHOULD know what is going on.
An informed population is necessary for a democracy. Even a democratic republic needs to know as much as possible, even if makes the government look bad.
As embarrassing as these incidents may be for the government, the State Department, and who knows who else, I can’t stress the fact that if someone did something inappropriate, it’s not the public’s fault for finding out.
Which brings us to the next point…
It’s the Cop’s Fault
Most of the criticism from the government has been that the documents put people at risk. The Defense Department already killed that little fear, but it would be naïve to think that revealing classified diplomatic communications won’t hurt diplomatic relations.
But is it the referee’s fault for pointing to an illegal move, or the player’s fault for punching a guy in the face?
Okay, I don’t do sports, so let me give you a more apt metaphor. If I write an article and use an incorrect fact, comma splice, or otherwise botch some aspect of the article and am called out for it, do I A) correct the mistake and acknowledge the fault, move on, and learn from it or B) accuse the corrector of tyranny and of stifling my creativity?
I think most people would go for Option A.
Government is people. That’s it. Some are very powerful and rub shoulders with heads of state, hold the fate of billions of dollars in their decisions, or could otherwise sway the minds of millions.
But let me give you a little insight into the way Washington works.
I wasn’t there that long, but I can tell you this: politicians don’t wield a lot of power. At least, not a lot of the ones I interacted with. The power rests in polls, staffers, and advisors. Yes, there are some people who enter politics and have clear goals, then will use their position to advance their goals. However, for many of them, it all comes down to securing their jobs for the next election cycle, and I don’t have to tell you that popular vote does not make facts. Public opinion is opinion.
You are entitled to your own informed opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts.
America is Great… or Else!
I can understand people being mad at Wikileaks for exposing the government. I can understand the fear that the data may hurt diplomatic relations. All in all, taking everything into context, it’s better to have the information out than to have it remain secret.
However, it’s another thing to call for the summary execution of Julian Assange or even the assassination of those involved.
America has survived a lot of things. We survived two world wars. We lived through the Great Depression. We stood toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union for decades without falling into nuclear war. Terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers and killed thousands and we made it through, too.
I don’t think finding out that our government is composed of idiots is going to shake the foundation of American society.
To paraphrase Babylon 5, they did the right thing. They went about it the wrong way, and the bitch of it is that they have a point.
All I’m trying to say is… if you don’t want something biting you in the ass later, either don’t do it, or man up and accept the consequences.
Sorry, but no links until later this week. It’s finals week and I’m in the middle of three nervous breakdowns. Will keep you posted…