Wikileaks and the Long Game of Political Change

I have probably said before on this blog how delightful it is when someone else makes the point you want to make, only better, so you don’t have to.  There is scant need for me to write much on the latest Wikileaks #Cablegate revelations, when there is already a lot of good writing being spread about.  This is all grist to Glenn Greenwald’s mill, and he has a masterful round-up of the reaction to the leaks at Salon.com.

It’s staggering to watch anyone walk around acting as though the real threat is from excessive disclosures when the impenetrable, always-growing Wall of Secrecy is what has enabled virtually every abuse and transgression of the U.S. government over the last two decades at least.

Simon Jenkins makes a simple, powerful point: “The job of the media is not to protect the powerful from embarrassment.”  At the end of his column, he makes the following pertinent point:

But coupled with the penetration already allowed under freedom of information, the walls round policy formation and documentation are all but gone. All barriers are permeable. In future the only secrets will be spoken ones. Whether that is a good thing should be a topic for public debate.

This topic is analysed more fully by Zunguzungu in a post entitled Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government”.  The author points to Julian Assange’s essays from 2006 on the nature of government and his definition of conspiracy, and explains the view that such conspiracies can be viewed as computer-like, network-like (or even Al’Quaeda like) in their form.

[Wikileaks is] a strategy for how exposing secrets will ultimately impede the production of future secrets.

This is derived from none other than Machiavelli, from whose Il Principe Assange cites approvingly:

Thus it happens in matters of state; for knowing afar off (which it is only given a prudent man to do) the evils that are brewing, they are easily cured. But when, for want of such knowledge, they are allowed to grow until everyone can recognize them, there is no longer any remedy to be found.

I read The Prince at University and had forgotten this quote, but I think it is a crucial insight not just into the nature of conspiratorial governments, but of politics as a whole.  I see now that it was the subconscious message of my last post, tapped hurriedly on the train yesterday morning.  I’ve also tried to capture the same insight in discussions about Tony Blair and his squandering of political capital, but Niccolò makes the same point more succinctly.  I repeat, it is delightful when someone else makes the point you want to make, only better.

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