Thursday, December 09, 2010

WIKILEAKS, SHMIKILEAKS AND ALL THAT ASSANGE JAZZ!

Disclosure of gossip only so far!Embarrassing, but nothing criminal,- so who cares?
I wish the news media would stop giving him the space in their papers or the time on air!

With all the talk of illegality concerning the leaked USA diplomatic cables, I have been waiting to see and read about all the illegalities, corrupt activities or inappropriate behaviour in which the USA and other countries’ leaderships would be involved. The expose-like Watergate tapes it certainly ‘isn’t’ so far! Gossip,- sure! Personal quotes and innuendos about leaders,-yes. Private chit-chat, ‘confidentially yours’ observations about the leaders of host countries and other similar babble is being promoted by the print media as something of interest to the public at large. But is it?

The concern that what is said in public is different to what is said in private is totally and wholly misplaced! Who is not polite to others in public,- while privately one may feel totally the opposite? What is so surprising about everyone being civil to world leaders at public functions and official meetings, while on a personal level having a totally different opinion of each other? Don’t we all exercise the same right to interaction with people every day of our lives? Who cares what each Ambassador happens to think of our PM or Foreign Minister or of this or that Senator on a personal level?

I take my hat off to anyone who enters the political or diplomatic arena and puts themselves through the constant scrutiny of the media and now also of the public servants on whom one has to rely for correspondence in the internet age. With electronic documentations which are so easily copied and removed without having to do more that press a few buttons, gone are the days when spies had to resort to furtively photographing documents, then using photocopiers in the dead of night after breaking into offices, avoiding the security cameras and guards, etc., etc. Those were the exciting times which provided great fodder for the movie industry. But now? All you need is some wizardry with computers, hacker-know-how, a few floppy discs or data sticks to copy and store the large masses of information like those hundreds of thousands of cables which are supposed to be in Assanges' and Wikileaks’ possession and hey presto, the spy’s work is done in minutes while supposedly just working for the boss,- government or private.

What is Julian Assange’s crime actually? It seems it is not a crime to disclose information,- it is a crime to steal the information. It may be also a crime to distribute stolen information though,- like distributing stolen goods. But as everyone in the free world knows, as long as the media gets hold of information which comes their way, they will use it. It is known as freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Whistle blowers however are prevented from the freedom to disclose information for which they are supposed to have signed a confidentiality agreement. If they have information which they feel very strongly that it should be disclosed, then they have to make some very difficult decisions. How dangerous is it to themselves, to their families, to the company or to their country, to their colleagues, etc. ‘Deep throat’ during the Watergate scandal tried to hide himself to avoid being discovered. Vanunu from Israel also tried, but failed to avoid being returned to Israel and was jailed for some 20 years and is still being hunted down if he makes a wrong move or tries to contact the media. There are plenty of other cases around the world,- the Soviets and others will simply eliminate their whistle blowers!

But what about that American Jewish bumbling would-be-spy cum whistleblower,- Jonathan Pollard? He tried to give some information to the Israelis some 20 years ago, i.e. to a USA ally but failed because they weren't interested. With their high-tech know-how, the Israelis probably already had the info. even then and if not, would have had it by now many times over. So why should the US authorities still keep Pollard in jail?

This brings our countries’ leaderships into focus. “Transparency” seems to be the new buzzword now. How ridiculous such a notion is to the ears of anyone who has had any leadership experience whatsoever at any level. Whether in business, in the local community, in the NGO sector,- in fact anywhere at all,- even within families,- there are certain things which we don’t mind who knows about them and there are others we prefer not to have them widely exposed. Every person decides for him/herself what we want to disclose about ourselves and what we don’t. Not everyone can agree with every decision which we make in our daily lives and which impacts on others within our circle of influence,- so how can the leadership of a country whom only some of us elect to lead us, possibly accommodate all of their citizens’ expectations at any one time? Decisions have to be made by our leaders in spite of some being unpopular with a majority, let alone with a minority in the country! They have to take the risk that these decisions may be wrong in the end, but at any one time they may have to act in whatever way they see fit. What interviewees tell the interviewer for media exposure is probably the opposite to what they would really like to say to and about the interviewers in private!

I think most of us prefer strong, decisive leadership, but leaders whom we can trust and this is the crux of the problem. Are the best people coming forward to be elected to high office? In Australia we have political parties, they select the candidates, then we have to elect them and once elected, they choose their leader who becomes our Prime Minister. In the USA, they have a rigorous pre-selection process for the Presidential candidates from each Party and then, only the people who care enough about the political process bother to register to vote. I am not sure which system is better at selecting our top leaders, but at least in Australia, with my vote, I aim to send a ‘good’ person to become a Member of Parliament. With ‘good’ people in each parliamentary Party, at least you have a hope to end up with a good leadership. It takes a lot of know-how, leadership skills, ability to research, people skills, debating skills and much more for good political leadership. Professionals and lay-people who enter politics are rarely high-profile community leaders for example, or academics, or heads of corporations, that is, people with a proven track record in public life before entering politics. When they are such individuals, they are often fast-tracked up the leadership ladder, but they still need to be accepted by the public at large.

The critical press, the journalists who write up and comment about every decision taken by our leaders have not been leaders themselves, nor politicians and this is where we now find ourselves with the current ‘disclosures’ through Wikileaks. These disclosures so far have really been as petty as they are boring, but obviously embarrassing for the individuals concerned. Is this the aim of Wikileaks,- to embarrass the USA leaders and its allies’ leaderships? If that is the case,- then I think it is in bad taste, it does nothing to promote good relations between countries,- it is nothing more than like, e.g., embarrassing me in front of my friends. I wouldn’t be pleased about that either, but my friends would still stick by me I hope!Similarly, the friendly nations are rallying to the support of the US.

I don’t want Australia’s leadership to be embarrassed and I don’t think that except for the far-left Chomski, et al., neither do American citizens like their country’s leaders to be embarrassed in the eyes of the world.

So what did Assange achieve, except notoriety? What common good has he provided with these embarrassing revelations? If he has more damaging material in his possession, then one would need to consider him a threat to the national security of whichever nation will be targeted in his next revelations. If that will happen, I really don’t think I would like to be in his shoes and his supporters will also feel the icy blasts of governments wherever they will try to set up shop!

I just wish the news media would stop giving him the space in their papers or the time on air!To quote Vaughan Smith, the founder of the journalists'"Frontline Club" in London where Assange was staying (THe Age, 11/12/'10):"There is an interesting relationship between the media and Julian Assange. With Wikileaks, Assange has effectively put up a huge, vast mirror. In it, journalists are looking at themselves and we're not all liking what we see. It's time to think about our trade. We need to have a bit of courage."
MM

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