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Weighing WikiLeaks’ “Uncomfortable Truths” and Julian Assange’s “Scientific Journalism”

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Photo: Daryl Yeoh/Flickr

WikiLeaks’ founder Julie Assange published an editorial in The Australian yesterday. In “Don’t shoot messenger for revealing uncomfortable truths” he presents WikiLeaks as a moral, journalistic enterprise whose ideological origins trace back to Assange’s Australian ancestral roots. He writes:

“I grew up in a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully. … These things have stayed with me. WikiLeaks was created around these core values. The idea, conceived in Australia, was to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth.”

Assange goes on to describe WikiLeaks’ approach as “scientific journalism” — meaning that anyone can read a news story and access it’s original source materials to verify its journalistic accuracy.

Assange’s view of himself as a truth-crusading underdog is not universally shared. Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs, argues that Assange’s world view is juvenile and oversimplified. Appearing last week on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, Rose, a former National Security Council official under President Clinton, opined:

“This guy is basically a crank who is an essentially old-fashioned anarchist…which is essentially an adolescent world view — that all power and all authority is bad. Well, you know what? Not all authority and power is bad. And these cables that have been revealed show actually U.S. diplomats trying to do the right thing in generally intelligent ways. So ironically it proves the opposite of what Assange actually thinks.”

David Brooks echoed Rose’s perspective in his recent New York Times column, “The Fragile Community”:

“Far from respecting authority, Assange seems to be an old-fashioned anarchist who believes that all ruling institutions are corrupt and public pronouncements are lies. For someone with his mind-set, the decision to expose secrets is easy… But for everyone else, it’s hard.”

Brooks goes on to criticize WikiLeaks for undermining the global diplomatic conversation — that when truths are leaked, trust is compromised and relationships suffer.

Is WikiLeaks in fact a constructive vehicle for revealing “uncomfortable truths,” as Assange argues? How are or aren’t we better off as a global community now that these diplomatic cables are Internet-accessible to all? In what ways has this latest round of leaks done more good than harm or more harm than good? Or is it too early to reach a conclusion?

Nancy Rosenbaum

Written by MattAndJojang

December 8, 2010 at 8:24 pm

2 Responses

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  1. It’s fairly clear from events over the past 24-48 hours that this crew is anarchist. We may be seeing the emergence of true cyber-war. I hope the authorities can get a handle on it before real damage is done beyond denial of service attacks. Those are frustrating enough, but not as damaging as other sorts of cyber-destructiveness.

    I wanted to bring you this link to a wonderful story, too. You may find use for it some day.


    December 10, 2010 at 11:34 am

  2. Because of the emergence of the new media (such as the internet), the rules of the game are changing. But having said that what the WikiLeaks people are doing can’t be justified.They are putting not only people, but also nations at risk.

    Thank you for the link to one of Fr.Anthony de Mello’s stories. I’ve read some of his books, and he is one of my favorite authors. I especially like the way he blends western spirituality with eastern spirituality through stories. I like it when he said that: “the story is the shortest distance between a human being and truth.”



    December 10, 2010 at 8:29 pm

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