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article imageOp-Ed: WikiLeaks — Just another irrelevant Internet bitching spat?

By Michael Cosgrove     Dec 19, 2010 in Internet
Governments are not shaking in their boots, there are no calls to investigate the issues brought up in the leaks, heads have not rolled, is this no more than a glitzy Assange mediafest and a distraction for bored Internet denizens?
So, what have we got here at the end of the day? Let’s divide it up into four areas. WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, the support campaign that is going on to defend them, and their opponents in the American government.
The only changes going on at WikiLeaks right now are those brought about by internal dissent and departures due to what is alleged to be Assange’s autocratic and media-hungry character, which is said to be overshadowing the site and its work. The site has been brought down once or twice recently, but that was not the work of cloak-and-dagger CIA computer experts or Cyber Command, it was, much more prosaically, the work of an American patriot who spends his time attacking anti-American Internet sites in general. Ho hum, business as usual.
Things are a little more exciting for Assange on the other hand, and he is being courted by the media like something between a Polanski and a pop star. Well, it is a very readable (and thus sellable) story. ‘Boyishly-handsome and popular Internet character gets accused of sexual offenses and is jailed whilst waiting to be extradited before being bailed and going to live in a sumptuous mansion and accusing the world and its dog of wanting to kill him’, and try saying all that in one breath. Paris Hilton must be green with envy at all the attention he’s getting.
The issues filling the columns are; Did he make love to a sleeping woman or not, and how many times, did the condom burst or was it sabotaged, are the women concerned the Swedish equivalent of Mata Hari, and is Swedish rape law the same as that of Britain. The only problem with all this is that it has nothing to do with WikiLeaks or the issues either, although he can’t do enough interviews in a day to satisfy the demand. A real pro.
And his stardom has also eclipsed another major issue, American government efforts to find ways of getting him charged under espionage laws. In case anyone has forgotten, this was originally about a whistleblowing site that is being opposed by its principal victim, and all that comes under the “all is fair in love and war” heading.
Which brings us to the support campaign. Gone are the grotesquely paranoid rumors that the Americans have arranged a secret deal with Sweden to fly Assange back to Guantanamo where he will face certain death, or a fate even worse, if he goes back to Sweden. Gone too is much of the discussion about the First Amendment and press freedoms now we know that espionage is what America is hoping to nail Assange on.
What we do have though is groups of anonymous “teenage” (as they put it themselves) hackers and their older eggers-on bringing down sites which have refused to channel donations to Assange. That those companies did so at the more-or-less formal request of American authorities seems to be a reasonable assumption, but that’s just part of the game that Assange started. Support has also come from the likes of Putin, China and some rather unsavory South American semi-dictatorships who will all turn against Assange as soon as leaks about their misdeeds hit the front pages. Whatever, the campaign has nothing to do with the issues.
So what’s left after all’s said and done? What’s left is reality, and the reality is as follows. The issues have been forgotten, only to be replaced by a trifling and ordinary affair of alleged sexual assault, a totally irrelevant campaign to defend Assange, which, apart from a couple of hundred demonstrators seen in one capital or another and a flyer campaign in Germany, is uniquely concentrated on the Internet and is about attacking businesses, not governments.
Also, nobody even bothers to read what’s being leaked, or, if they do, they apparently do not seem to think that what’s being revealed is important enough to be worth kicking up a fuss about, never mind organizing a campaign to stop it.
And meanwhile governments are carrying on as if nothing has happened, apart from the fact that they will make documents harder to get hold of in the future. Diplomacy is going on all over the planet as you read this (read the Mideast news lately?), decisions are being made, alliances are being forged and broken and hostage release negotiations are continuing unabated. As for WikiLeaks, it’s business as usual.
Then again, what with the way it works and its cohort of hysterical hotheads and juvenile hacking spats, the same could be said for the Internet too.
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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