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article imageOp-Ed: Wikileaks is committing suicide in the name of tabloid gossip

By Michael Cosgrove     Dec 3, 2010 in Politics
No amount of lofty hype about working in the public interest will change the fact that Wikileaks has failed to do that, but it has succeeded in force-feeding the world with tittle-tattle and gossip which may result in its downfall. What a waste.
Now that the world has got over the initial shock-waves caused by the latest batch of Wikileaks documents it is becoming clear that Julian Assange made a serious error in ever believing that their content would shake the world, reveal our leaders’ incompetence and prove what we ‘already know’, which is that we are being led by the nose by shadowy figures wearing James Bond suits and carrying cyanide-tipped umbrellas.
All that existed in Assange’s mind alone, and he must surely be regretting the manner and extent to which the wind has turned against him and he may well be fearful for the future of his brainchild as well as his personal freedom. He has every reason to be.
Perhaps the most tragic aspect of it all is that his latest gambit started off so well, what with the splashy headlines about Arab countries ganging up on Iran, Pakistan’s nuclear security lapses, Chinese hacking and other geopolitical issues. Very quickly however, many observers, including myself, began to realize that hey, we already knew this. What’s so new and earth-shattering about these stories? They are important stories of course but we already knew about them, end of story.
Next came the realization that, contrary to popular belief, Western governments and many others were actually negotiating various world problems in exactly the way they had told us they were doing. There were no secret plans to invade anybody, there was no double-dealing and there was no new world order being controlled by the White House from a bunker in Geneva. This was deflating news for conspiracy theorists and the press alike. And the press, having launched its most potentially damaging stories, began dredging up some of the remaining 95% of the documents at their disposition in order to keep selling hits and paper.
The sad result of all this is to be seen on today’s Guardian front page. The Guardian is one of the papers which is authorized to publish the documents and having already run out of big stories the paper is now looking rather bleak and forlorn, like the remains of a Christmas party which never lived up to expectations. Its dark blue and would-be scary and mysterious computer script logo “The US embassy cables” resembles something from X-files, it has lost is dramatic allure, and one could even be forgiven for finding it faintly amusing.
The Guardian s Internet site  December 3rd 2010
The Guardian's Internet site, December 3rd 2010
More importantly though, the headlines sum up the depressing and ironic present situation very well. On the right are the major stories from the cables. Afghan contempt for British military capabilities? That does not paint the whole picture, as the BBC points out, because the British quite simply didn’t have enough troops to do the job asked of them. The same was true for the Americans moreover. That is not the best journalism I have ever read on the Guardian.
From then on it’s all downhill. The major diplomatic stories have given way to stories about Karzai being corrupt, his vice-president’s corrupt antics in Dubai, foreign contractors hiring Afghan ‘dancing boys’ and the opinion that Gordon Brown was an ‘abysmal’ prime minister. The geopolitical considerations of two days ago have disappeared, to be replaced by irrelevancy and amateur character appraisal and, again, all these stories and opinions were already known.
There’s even worse. Berlusconi followers may want to read over 700 very important words about how partying makes him tired, and it would appear that Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi never travels without his “voluptuous blonde” Bulgarian nurse, to whom he is “very close.” Also, Turkmenistan’s president wanted a yacht as big as that of Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich but he couldn’t as it would have been too big for the waters in which he sails and – a real scoop this - “Sarkozy chases pet rabbit around office” (no really, I’m not kidding.) There are many more.
To see the quality press, from The Guardian to The Times, not forgetting The International Herald Tribune, Le Monde and a host of others, reduced to publishing this kind of worthless tabloid gossip is not an agreeable sight. It’s everywhere to be seen and it has turned the press into a circus. Real news is being eclipsed for the sake of satisfying the public’s taste for the cheap and the sensational. The European economy? The fact that yet another woman was hanged in Iran a couple of days ago? All that is now to be found further down the page, if at all.
This is not whistle-blowing, it’s tawdry tittle-tattle. There are no considerations of the public interest here, unless by “public interest” one means the public’s interest in pointless and insignificant stories. And this is what Assange has risked his site’s existence for? For Sarkozy’s rabbit and a Bulgarian nurse? The sheer volume of indiscriminate releases, be it of diplomatic importance or not, has pushed governments around the world to put him under pressure. Also, France is set to ban any French host company from accepting Wikileaks and – as The Guardian’s front page points out – take the site down (although as I write this it is back up again, this time in Switzerland.)
The first words to be read on the Wikileaks site are "WikiLeaks is a non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public." But Wikileaks' latest releases are mostly anything but important news. On the contrary, Julain Assange has taken enormous risks in order to force-feed the whole planet with the journalistic equivalent of pollution and Wikileaks has become the epitome of tabloid journalism.
I want my money back.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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