May 31, 2011

3 Important Things About The New Wikileaks Controversy

WikiLeaks-founder-Julian--007.jpg

um, yeah, this is the best picture from 2007 we could find for today's Guardian


Last week, Frontline did a documentary on Wikileaks which blew my mind.  In it I learned Bradley Manning is gay.  And short.  And nothing else.  No wait, about ten minutes in I learned I hate Frontline.


bradley manning.jpg

enemies of the state




I didn't think anything could make me an Assange supporter, but it turns out that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  That's right, I'm Alone.


I.

Assange wanted to leak to the NYT, Der Spiegel, and the Guardian.  However, he wanted the NYT to publish first to avoid the U.S. charge that he was leaking info to foreigners, i.e. take advantage of the 1st Amendment.  But the NYT wanted Wikileaks to publish first, so then it could simply report on what was leaked, rather than be a leak.

These are probably legitimate concerns except for the fact that Wikileaks and the NYT are having this discussion explicitly.  I'm not a lawyer but isn't that racketeering?  It is like a bunch of mob guys discussing who should be the one to do the hit based on their parole  status.  Assange:

There was collaboration from beginning to end in terms of timetabling, researching stories, talking about how to understand data, etc., etc., embargo dates, the works. [NYT editor]  Keller has tried to say we were just the source; they were a passive recipient... in order to protect themselves from the Espionage Act they needed to be completely passive, or be presented as completely passive.

One man's collaboration is another man's conspiracy. So any collaboration between a journalist and a source, between one media organization and another media organization, can be viewed, the Attorney General Justice [sic] [Eric] Holder says, as a conspiracy that flows through.

Assange is diabolically clever, I wouldn't expect anything less from the self-aggrandizing  Cobra Commander. He's made this "collaboration" the point.  Since they collaborated, the NYT can't pretend they were passive recipients, so they must therefore defend the legitimacy of such collaborations in general.

He's holding the press to task: your job is to keep the government accountable.

But they're terrible at it, as evidenced by the fact that while they were "collaborating," while they had all this juicy info sitting in front of them, the story the Times chose to run was one about... Bradley Manning.


cobra commander.jpgThe New York Times must stand up, and it must hold the line of the traditional form of journalism, because if it is not protected, it will be the end of holding the national security sector to account!!!

II.

Remember Climategate?  Sarah Palin had a public orgasm and 4092 commenters blew up like Scanners.   Climategate was the set of leaked emails that appeared to show climate scientists hiding data against global warming to suppress the critics; a global warming conspiracy.

"Climategate is an interesting case [says the Frontline interviewer].  What's the intent that you had when you leaked the Climategate e-mails?"

The truth needs no policy position, so there does not need to be an intent. We have a framework, and the framework has an intent.

This is exchange is so powerful it takes days to understand it.

First, Assange didn't leak the Climategate emails, which makes one of these two people a fibber and the other a fool.  Assange did, later, host the data after the initial leak; and since it doesn't affect the next point, let's just move on.


III.


"Climategate is an interesting case [says the interviewer].  What's the intent that you had when you leaked the Climategate e-mails?"

The truth needs no policy position, so there does not need to be an intent. We have a framework, and the framework has an intent.


Assange believes that truth needs no intent, which is obviously false.  Without a context, the truth can mislead.  Excluding the context on purpose, when you know that it will be misunderstood, is often as good as lying.  This has always been my/everyone's concern about Wikileaks.

But note the interviewer's question: "what's the intent you had?"  That sentence is everything that's wrong with the press.  Here are the assumptions the interviewer has made:

  1. He assumes Assange believes in "global warming." Why would he assume this?  Because Assange is anti-U.S. government.  So to the reporter, anti- U.S. government and belief in global warming go together.
  2. If Assange believes in global warming, the interviewer assumes Assange wouldn't want to release those documents because it would hurt the cause.   Even though Assange has repeatedly said how he wants "everything" public, the reporter assumes that Assange would only want to release things which complement his own personal biases.  In other words, he assumes Assange is going to be like him.

Which is why his incredulous follow-up question is

But if you believed that we had a climate problem, that man was contributing to rising greenhouse gases -- I don't know, do you believe that's a reality?

He's stumped, exasperated.  Why would you hurt your own case?  I mean.. you don't doubt global warming, do you??????

That's the difference between Wikileaks and the regular press.  For the reporter, climate change is not a scientific question, or else it wouldn't matter what cables get released.  It's a political one, in which competing narratives are bolstered by circumstantial evidence and appeals to authority and control of the debate.

Assange picks up on this and replies:

I do not think anyone working outside of climate science understands whether that is true or not, because people simply do not understand all the complexities. Rather, instead we look to see who is the most critical voice. What are the motivations behind those people?

Assange just dropped a truth bomb about science, evolution, psychiatry, energy policy, economics, etc: since most people have, at best, a college level understanding of the science but not nearly enough to appraise it themselves, the debate about science is really a political debate-- no, a religious debate--  adorned with the trappings of  "measurements" and "data." 

I would have preferred we try to "elevate the debate" and talk about primary sources; but he seems to think that won't work on the public.  So Assange will use intent as a proxy for truth, the closest approximation in the absence of really understanding what's going on.

The reporter thinks that intent is the only thing that matters.

So you publish the truth regardless of what effect it's going to have on the debate? Fair?

Read that quote again.  And again.  And again.  This man represents the Fourth Estate that decides what truth you're allowed to read.


IV.


How can an organization go about doing things it shouldn't do, but wants to?

...we got hold of Guantanamo Bay's main manuals, we discovered that there were sections outlining how to keep information from the Red Cross and how to falsify records in relation to Red Cross visits to detainees. And this really surprised me... who would be foolish enough to put in a military manual that that sort of deliberate fabrication...?

But I came to understand why: that if you have a center that is devising policy, the center of a military [or a] commercial organization, and it wants to have that policy widely implemented, including by grunts, then it needs to go down in writing, because otherwise you just have Chinese whispers occurring, and the grunts can't work out what it is precisely that they are meant to be implementing.

Instead, [the grunts will] conduct behavior that is purely in their own interests, and the central policy gets distorted.

That's what the Cobra Commander thought, too, which is why he structured it like a traditional military operation.  Regardless of whether your orders are good or bad, the only way to have them reliably executed is to make them official.

So that's a rather interesting understanding of how organizations really only have two choices to deal with transparency.  The first choice is they can simply stop doing things that embarrass the public, so instead of committing an unjust act, commit a just act.

Pass. What else you got?

The other choice is that they can spend more on their security... they can take things off-record, speak orally and continue with this course of unjust action. But if they do that, they will become inefficient compared to other organizations, and they will shrink in their power and scale. And that's also great because unjust organizations are in economic and political equilibrium and competition with just organizations.

It is very easy, very easy, to decide whether what Wikileaks is doing is right or wrong.  I don't mean you'll decide correctly, I just mean it only takes you a second to decide.  Just like it took you with WMD and climate change.

The hard question to answer is what happens now that Wikileaks is a reality.  The wholesale release of secret documents is now part of our cultural foundation, like porn, coffee, cohabitation, English, pants, driving, football. These things will be with us for generations.  Assange thinks that this reality itself-- not the documents themselves, but the ability to access secrets, reduces the size and power of governments.  Is he right?

If online porn can be seen as the wholesale leaking of sexual secrets, then its effect on traditional sexuality-- good and bad-- may serve as an analogy worth pondering. 


---


The WSJ wants Assange indicted for competition








Comments

One way organizations could... (Below threshold)

May 31, 2011 12:24 PM | Posted by Mike Kenny: | Reply

One way organizations could plausibly put things in writing for the grunts while also avoiding appearing to do illegal or outrageous things is to use specialized terminology for what might normally be considered illegal or outrageous and too foolish to put in writing.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 3 (3 votes cast)
they can take thin... (Below threshold)

May 31, 2011 4:01 PM | Posted by Leonard: | Reply

they can take things off-record... But if they do that, they will become inefficient compared to other organizations, and they will shrink in their power and scale. And that's also great because unjust organizations are in economic and political equilibrium and competition with just organizations.

Assange may not be aware of it, but USG has no competition. Generally, sovereign entities don't have competitors. (Private corps do have real competition, of course, but they are not the bigbads of opaque rights-violation.) So there's really a third option: the state becomes ever more bloated, disfunctional, and schizophrenic. Brezhnev, except with no West to indicate a way out. And this is just what we see.

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"Assange thinks that this r... (Below threshold)

May 31, 2011 4:27 PM | Posted by OhNoKenny: | Reply

"Assange thinks that this reality itself-- not the documents themselves, but the ability to access secrets, reduces the size and power of governments."

That's close, but not quite it. Individually, the leaks are incidental. But, by providing a forum that will post any secret document, regardless of who it embarrasses, WikiLeaks frightens every organization which creates and processes embarrassing information. The goal is to force those organizations to be more careful with their information. This, in turn, reduces their communication bandwidth. And this reduces their ability to control their own organization, and their ability to coordinate with other secretive organizations, which ultimately reduces their size and power.

Is it good or bad? I think it's impossible to say at this stage. But it's brilliant and it's working.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 27 (27 votes cast)
I have little doubt that po... (Below threshold)

May 31, 2011 5:03 PM | Posted by mths: | Reply

I have little doubt that porn did indeed reduce the power of governments. And churches.

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when you live in a pathocra... (Below threshold)

May 31, 2011 6:16 PM | Posted by without: | Reply

when you live in a pathocracy, the only remedy is complete transparency.

besides, context is over rated--it's primarily defensive and self-serving in nature. it isn't some fixed, objective reality...it's just the "ya but..."

context doesn't change what took place, it only changes how harshly we decide to judge what happened (so it says more about us, than it does about what happened): "did you abduct that 9 year old girl? and amputate her arms and legs? and remove her teeth? and offer her on the street corner to all comers for a small fee, as a living sex doll?" "ya, but..."

ps: the conversation between the NY Times and wikileaks wasn't any more racketeering than the conversation you had with your accountant about how best to characterize your deductions last year, so as to fall under the label of "tax avoidance," and not the label of "tax evasion." the times/wiki conversation was nothing more than two lawyers earning their keep (skillfully, i might add). possession may or may not be 9/10 of the law, but characterization is 100%.

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Indeed. And if we look at t... (Below threshold)

May 31, 2011 6:23 PM | Posted, in reply to OhNoKenny's comment, by gwern: | Reply

Indeed. And if we look at the quote:

> The other choice is that they can spend more on their security... they can take things off-record, speak orally and continue with this course of unjust action. But if they do that, they will become inefficient compared to other organizations, and they will shrink in their power and scale. And that's also great because unjust organizations are in economic and political equilibrium and competition with just organizations.

We can see here that Assange's views haven't changed. He still is trying to implement the graph attack he outlined back in 2006: http://iq.org/conspiracies.pdf

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 2 (2 votes cast)
The difference between Wiki... (Below threshold)

May 31, 2011 6:46 PM | Posted by EH: | Reply

The difference between Wikileaks and online porn is that online porn's "revelations" are of secrets that affect -- and are possessed by -- almost nobody (cf. pooping). The Wikileaks secrets tend to be of things that affect a larger number of people, like Americans who would like to travel outside of the country. The downside is that unlike the Department of Defense, the TSA probably doesn't have anything to leak because their evil is just as banal as it appears.

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the ability to access se... (Below threshold)

June 1, 2011 4:25 AM | Posted by Whatever: | Reply

the ability to access secrets, reduces the size and power of governments. Is he right?

No. Just knowing about it doesn't change anything. It's what one does with the knowledge.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -1 (9 votes cast)
What, use terms like 'colla... (Below threshold)

June 1, 2011 10:01 AM | Posted, in reply to Mike Kenny's comment, by Rookie: | Reply

What, use terms like 'collateral damage?" Just as the term 'standard model' went from something equivalent to 'flagship model' down to 'average model' as advertisers overused it, so terms like collateral damage slowly drift towards their intended meaning that is trying to be avoided. And so will vague terms be reinterpreted by those who use them (ie the 'grunts') and the message is diluted.

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Reading TLP is one of the f... (Below threshold)

June 1, 2011 11:32 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Reading TLP is one of the few things that make me feel like the slowest guy in the room. Alone has a knack of making me feel small and stupid and hopelessly myopic.

I am sincerely grateful.

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One way organizations co... (Below threshold)

June 2, 2011 10:05 AM | Posted, in reply to Mike Kenny's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

One way organizations could plausibly put things in writing for the grunts while also avoiding appearing to do illegal or outrageous things is to use specialized terminology for what might normally be considered illegal or outrageous and too foolish to put in writing.

This won't work, because either the grunts won't be able to understand it, or you'll have to provide some sort of Rosetta Stone, which will, inevitably, be leaked.

There are also a surprisingly high number of people who, while they will do things that would make a Gestapo agent puke, won't lie to official investigators. "Mr. Smith, the manual says that in this particular situation, you are to give the detainee a 'sanctified cleaning regimen. What does that mean?' 'It means you stick him in a big tank of water and boil the Hell out of him until he talks.'"

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Assange is right that leaki... (Below threshold)

June 3, 2011 7:24 PM | Posted by JohnJ: | Reply

Assange is right that leaking government secrets makes the government weaker. That's why I really wish he'd focus a little more on those governments that do really bad things instead of always focusing on the good guys (yes, America).

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THE WHOLE WIKILEAKS THING I... (Below threshold)

June 4, 2011 2:23 PM | Posted by kill Dr. Pill: | Reply

THE WHOLE WIKILEAKS THING IS A SHAM! GET IT?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -5 (9 votes cast)
If he wasn't so interested ... (Below threshold)

June 4, 2011 2:46 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

If he wasn't so interested in branding Wikileaks as his baby, he might be able to do what he wants to do. He could gave turned Wikileaks into an actual news outlet, referenced the sources, and enjoyed all the protections other news groups do, but he wants this to be some maverick outfit. If Manning had leaked this stuff to the Times directly, no one would have arrested Bill Keller.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 0 (2 votes cast)
Someone help out yo:<... (Below threshold)

June 5, 2011 2:55 AM | Posted by DG: | Reply

Someone help out yo:

I am definitely a narcissist, I want people to do what I want, even if I cover it up with self discovery and trying to "connect deeply" - I think I am mindfucking them into me....

which would explain why I am so good at sales... I am great


so do I roll with this, I know how to get women, i can kind of connect with them with enough relationships (if they like me years later???) but then the idea of being a full human being, one that connects with every one - or is every one of us different and we can't change this drastically?

Nonsense, of course we can... now feel That in your heart

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -2 (2 votes cast)
Any thoughts on the Wiener?... (Below threshold)

June 8, 2011 3:54 AM | Posted by Whatchamacallit: | Reply

Any thoughts on the Wiener? I mean the Weiner? Why do grown men think that pictures of their wienis will swoon with pleasure? I don't get it.

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Sorry, that was "will *make... (Below threshold)

June 8, 2011 3:55 AM | Posted by Whatchamacallit: | Reply

Sorry, that was "will *make us* swoon with pleasure".

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when is Assange going to ac... (Below threshold)

June 9, 2011 10:47 PM | Posted by noob: | Reply

when is Assange going to accidentally die of appendicitis?

seriously, is this 1955?

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These days maintaining a re... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2011 12:15 PM | Posted by Penney Meinerding: | Reply

These days maintaining a relationship is a lot difficult and a lot challenging. I have personally seen that investing a good amount of time and effort into my relationship has done a lot of good in knowing my partner more and more. From my experience I feel that me not overlooking the small problems, and keep remembering the good times I had with my partner, and also personally taking efforts to grow more into my relationship has helped me a lot. These helped me in getting boyfriend back and have a healthy relationship with him. Hope this helps other. Thanks.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -3 (5 votes cast)
Nice article about the the ... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2011 2:42 PM | Posted by Ada Vendrick: | Reply

Nice article about the the Wikileaks Controversy. Its right that just knowing about these kinds of information will not change anything. A lot of stern action has to be take after we get these information.
Ada Vendrick @ get back boyfriend

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If you want to tell the wor... (Below threshold)

June 19, 2012 4:34 AM | Posted by Nell Minow : | Reply

If you want to tell the world what an irresponsible egomaniac Assange has been, that’s fine — but you don’t do it by being an equally irresponsible egomaniac. The marriage of the stupidly leaked password with the location of the file it applies to comes down to a spat between two ego-driven radicals. Gee, that’s one we all haven’t heard before.
investingforbeginners.eu

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Yes... (Below threshold)

March 29, 2013 3:11 AM | Posted by Antony: | Reply

Yes

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The whole point of these fr... (Below threshold)

April 27, 2013 5:55 PM | Posted by Blythe: | Reply

The whole point of these free dating sites is to have fun and take your time finding someone. If you are over 40, and you have spent much time scouring online dating sites, you may be wondering whether there are any lesbians your age who seriously want to find a long term relationship. These well-liked dating sites almost always have a perform where you can explore for either gender.

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Wow, you're an idiot. You'r... (Below threshold)

September 25, 2013 12:42 AM | Posted, in reply to mths's comment, by Slider: | Reply

Wow, you're an idiot. You're saying gov't is less powerful now than at the beginning of online porn?

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