Better knowing than not

I have been a long time in principle supporter of Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

Whilst there is a need for confidentiality, even secrecy, in certain matters, there’s a long history of dissimulation intended to protect the vested interests of the parties involved and to deceive the public. For many years that meant that men in power could act with impunity, and not always in the public’s interests.  Political expediency or advantage and the exercise of power have long been more important than truth and transparency.

Unfortunately the media in general has allowed this to happen. Once upon a time you could rely on determined investigative journalists backed by brave editors to dig through the much to expose corruption and lies. By and large that’s now a thing of the past.

With the centralisation of media ownership, the independence of the press and media is much reduced. There are no brave editors anymore because their position is dictated to them by the media barons they report to, and that filters down through the organisations. A truly impartial, fact reporting media organisation is hard to find these days. Instead what we get is news filtered through the partisan lens of the media barons – they wield political power, and shape it to their ends. News is not news, it’s influence and leverage, and the only determined investigative journalists these days are mostly independent and unaffiliated.

To a degree we as the public have come to accept this state of affairs. We don’t ask too much and accept what is delivered to us. More often than not that’s a shallow news bulletin, slanted headline, or provocative link. There is no depth or point of comparison, and rarely any context. Unfortunately, that means is that no real truth is reported. We get details, we get opinions (often implied), but background is lacking, as are alternative perspective and nuance. And in any case we of the west see it through our cultural prism. We are conditioned to see things a certain way, and it’s rare that we are given an opportunity to question that. These days if you really want to understand you have to seek it out, which means going to multiple sources – but who has the energy to do that?

These days if you really want to understand you have to seek it out, which means going to multiple sources – but who has the energy to do that?

Now there is a proliferation of fake news articles – stories concocted to push a cause or opinion, unrelated to fact, and then sent out into the social media cloud. Someone clicks on that, and in the absence of an alternative version it becomes received knowledge, no matter that it’s rubbish. Facts and truth come secondary these days to sensationalism and the ‘vibe’. There’s a mob mentality when it comes to what we choose to believe. Far easier to jump on board a popular opinion than it is to read the fine print and choose to question.

This is why I support the work of an organisation like Wikileaks – because we get the source material. There’s no denying Assange has an agenda, and no doubt that he has an axe to grind these days, but what he does, and Snowden, is expose to light the raw material that reveals the insidious and often corrupt practices of the governments who claim to act in our interests. I for one want to know these things. I want to be independent. I want to see for myself and understand and not simply swallow the convenient lie the government or Murdoch deliver to us.

The advent of Wikileaks was a great thing. It courted controversy and at times sailed close to the wind, but I think as a society we are better knowing, than not. Wikileaks was an antidote to the misinformation fed to us, and kept the bastards honest when nothing else would. It’s been necessary.

In having this opinion I was in lock-step with many of the left of politics – up until the recent presidential election. Ironically, many of those who once excoriated Assange call him a hero now, and those who supported him think he’s the devil incarnate.

I’ve still to resolve my opinions on him – I have some unanswered questions, but at the same time my general perspective is unchanged.

The problem for many is that Assange was a hero as long as he was revealing stuff about their enemies; as soon as he began revealing stuff about their friends he became the villain. It’s a very human response, but irrelevant. Truth is apolitical. You can’t pick and choose it. I don’t care who it’s about, I want it.

Many blame Assange for the defeat of Clinton and the rise of Trump. I think that’s going too far, and even if he had an influence on the result there are factors more pertinent. Clinton ran a poor, out of touch, and arrogant campaign. Whatever Wikileaks peddled it might have been neutered if Clinton and her cronies had properly addressed it; they didn’t. And the bigger question is why so many thought it important? That’s a question for American public life, and for the Democrats particularly to address going forward. The leaked emails merely confirmed a suspicion already held, valid or otherwise.

In any case, Wikileaks didn’t invent anything – they revealed it. Personally, I’d have preferred that Clinton had got up, but I support the principle of impartial revelation. If we are to get the truth it must be unfiltered and unbiased. I’d rather know and be disappointed than be ignorant and happy – but maybe that’s just me.

There are questions though. There’s no doubt that Assange had it in for Hillary Clinton, and perhaps for good reason – she was one of the most vocal and extreme of his prosecutors. It was personal. And while what revealed was true I don’t know what wasn’t revealed – I can only trust that we got it all. Complicating that is the alleged source – Russian hackers, now accused also of rigging the election. Can you separate the raw facts from where they came from?

As a supporter of Wikileaks, I’ll be watching it keenly in the months ahead. I want to know it goes as hard at Trump as it has previous incumbent governments. And in my heart I want to know that Assange has not been poisoned by his (unfair) treatment. I want Wikileaks to be truly impartial.

Just in the last couple of days has been a further development which troubles me. I don’t know the truth of it yet, but if Wikileaks is to retain its integrity it must remain true to its original purpose. As soon as it becomes political or partial, as soon as it drives personal agendas or begins to dictate terms then its credibility is gone, and so am I.

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