Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wikileaks: a fountain of hope or a stream of pee?

I have been pondering the meaning of the Lweaks (silent W). Is the Wikileaks program of lweaking just about anything good or bad for me? If I ever get around to voting in a national election, will I support politicians who want to kill Lweaks, or will I continue to support people like Ron Paul, who say that Assuange's lweaking all over the place is just good journalism?

A Richard N. Haass (Newsweek, Dec. 13, 2010) states
[Lweaked info] comes at a steep cost ... foreign officials will be less inclined to provide candid assessments to their U.S. counterparts, thereby depriving U.S. officials of valuable insights. American diplomats will be less willing to put on paper their candid assessements, thereby depriving policymakers in Washington of the local information they need most. ... [Lweaking] will make U.S. government officials even more wary of sharing information [internally] ... It was precisely this reticence to share intelligence across departmental lines that helped make the U.S. vulnerable on 9/11.
I am rather baffled by the issues at stake. Here are a few observations to stew upon:
  1. Stability promotes economic growth. Lweaks may prompt instability, and in worst case scenario may trigger nuclear holocaust between rouge states and the rouge West.
  2. If lweaking triggers societal upheaval, the new arrangements/governments that arise from the chaos could be more stable than what we have now. If the chaos from invading Iraq was the natural result of "stirring up a hornets nest" (we have to deal with the hornets sooner or latter), lweaking could be a way of speeding up progress, and speeding up the pain the begets that gain.
  3. Lweaking is democratic in some sense. In the purest ideal of democracy, the whole world has access to all information on every relevant issue and may provide input to decisions.
  4. While causing instability now, if it becomes an accepted or expected element of society, organizations may have less overall capacity for holding secrets.
  5. A lack of secrecy will have difficult-to-predict effects.
  6. Limiting secrecy may help to prevent corruption.
  7. Limiting secrecy may make it hard for organizations to function. Suppose you have to pay more to find quality business or political leaders because humans don't like having their every move scrutinized and critized?
  8. Supposing that governments now are pretty good in the big picture -- as compared to what society humans are capable of sustaining -- lweaking could raise the cost of government by provoking huge spending on information control systems.
In summary, I have no freaking idea what to make of it all, although my default position as a libertarian is that I don't want anyone messing with Lweaks unless they have a firm argument for doing so.

Back in college I once did a bit of lweaking myself. A faculty member handed me the minutes from a meeting in which the university president presented the university radio-station committee with the information that a university donor would withhold massive annual contributions if the university did not immediately discontinue a controversial news program. Given that this was a deeply Christian university that was supposedly acting out the will of God rather than bowing down to donors, it was potentially embarrassing to the president that he had even brought up the donor issue. Eager to be a good journalist, I published the relevant section of the minutes verbatim in the school newspaper. The faculty member got a firm reprimand from the administration, but I got off without so much as a rape charge.

There is an odd twist. The controversial news program was Democracy Now, headed by Amy Goodman, who I interviewed for the school paper when she diverted her book tour to come speak in my college town during the uproar over the possibility that donors would get her program taken off the local radio. Goodman is now featured prominently on the Wikileaks site.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honey boy, it's "heroin." And "rogue."

(Your stories are brilliant as ever.)

4:41 AM  

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