The more I think about it, the more I am opposed to the way in which Wikileaks and Julian Assange operate. While investigative journalism and the questioning of government are vital to a free society, I find myself increasingly convinced that Wikileaks does not constitute investigative journalism, but rather a random and harmful dump of classified information for the sake of making a political statement.
There are valid reasons for secrets and “white lies.” Without them, civilization would collapse and social interaction would become pointless. In a well-reasoned and quite convincing article, Jaron Lanier writes:
What if we come to be able to read each other’s thoughts? Then there would be no thoughts. Your head has to be different from mine if you are to be a person with something to say to me. You need an interior space that is different from mine in order to have a different, exotic model of the world, so that our two models can meet, and have a conversation.
Asking whether secrets in the abstract are good or bad is ridiculous. A huge flow of data that one doesn’t know how to interpret in context is either useless or worse than useless, if you let it impress you too much. A contextualized flow of data that answers a question you know how to ask can be invaluable.
On the argument for Wikileaks as investigative journalism:
If we want to understand all the sides of an argument, we have to do more than copy files. It’s not as though we are supporting reporters out there on the ground to do independent investigative journalism. Random leaking is no substitute for focused digging. The “everything must be free and open” ideal has nearly bankrupted the overseas news bureaus.
I don’t mean to make this a pro-government rant. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s plenty of things that are wrong with the US government and political landscape as it is. I just think Wikileaks’ approach to the problem is neither helpful nor ethical.