12.14.2010 07:07 AM

In today’s Sun: the WikiLeaks divide (updated)

“…the WikiLeaks “story” is about more than that. WikiLeaks has also had two important things to say about society:

One, the yawning generational divide that runs through modern culture. And, two, that the powerful aren’t so powerful. If all of the world’s governments and armies can’t stop a puny website, then what else are they unable to stop?

If a 16-year-old Dutch WikiLeaks fan took five minutes to cripple Visa.com last week, isn’t it time to re-examine some assumptions we’ve made about the established order?

Young people, you see, haven’t reacted to the WikiLeaks crisis in the way that their elders have.”

UPDATE: And Assange has been granted bail.  Let’s see what the dinosaurs try next.

28 Comments

  1. S. Peterson says:

    I’m an elder and I’m with the young people. This world desperately needs transparency. We in the west are like a disfunctional family. We go merrily on denying the nasty things that are done. I include Canada in this because it has become a side kick and a supporter. As is the media. Anyone ever squeak about what really happened in Haiti to put it in the state it is in. Or about the reality that is Iraq. Or about anything else for that matter.

  2. John W. says:

    Why hasn’t the official left been more outraged at the attacks on Wikileaks and Assange by the establishment? Jack Layton? Some US Democrats? How are left wing parties in Europe coming down on this? It’s a shame the young internet generation isn’t getting support from the old left.

    • hugger says:

      Good questions.

      Maybe because the Old right likes to frame issues with words like anarchist then turn the file over to the firm Murdoch and Minions?

      Maybe the wise old lefty politician isn’t anxious to offer himself up for a con game of pin a label on a donkey?

      Maybe the best approach would be to hammer those responsible for keeping the secrets and their obvious failures? The firm Murdoch and Minions is trying to take the focus and the heat off of those people, so wouldn’t it be best to turn it back where it should be?

  3. Neil C says:

    If the US government wants to learn how to keep its secrets all they have to do is come up to Canada and talk to the head of the CBC or better still talk to any member of parliament who is on the Board of Internal Economy.

  4. George says:

    We had an incident here a few weeks ago where a kid hacked into a very large school board’s data base. It made all the local news and papers but the student was punished and the school board talking criticized the kid for doing what he did, but the kid said that it was easy. The board so far has managed to make this the fault of the student who just happened to be smarter than the person who set up the board’s internet security system.

    I’m with S. Peterson and you Warren. The adults could learn something from the younger generation.

    We had an article in the local paper here recently talking about the huge growth in things like virtual high schools. How soon before the education gurus clue in that technology is poised to change education in a very big way, yet we’re still concerned about textbooks and traditional classrooms. Where’s the vision?

  5. L. LeBlanc says:

    I am a pensioner. I am appalled that the global outcry is for a man who apparently had sex with adult women albeit his taste was obviously in his pants at the time, particularly in view of the report that one of them had past CIA connections. Where is the outcry for the civilians and journalists murdered in Iraq? Where is the outcry, Canada, that our sons and daughters are dying for a corrupt government in Afghanistan? Julian Assange is at least more honest than our corporate puppet governments and the agenda he proposes has more commonsense and honor than anything done at the upper management level of any government or corporation . Why are we surprised at the reaction of young adults all over the world? They are being pillaged ….ethically raped….while the world around them is destroyed for the almighty dollar. It is frightening that the disco generation is now in power and conscience is held in a wallet and Nobody in the working class (little play on words there) is considered to any degree. I am so relieved Assange is smarter than the fools persecuting him….but so was Jesus…..

  6. Steve T says:

    Not sure if I qualify as young or old, at 43, but in any case I think there has been an unfortunate parallel drawn between Assange’s actions and those of his “supporters”. The former is truly a debate-worthy topic. The latter is criminal, pure and simple. Just because it is possible – and maybe even easy – to bring down the website of Visa, does not mean it is right. It is quite easy to kill someone, too. We don’t blame murder victims for being vulnerable, and neither should we blame corporations, schools, etc, for being easily hacked.

    • Doug says:

      I don’t endorse DDOS as a tactic, nor would I ever participate in one, but I’m not really sure how terrible a crime it is. Denying access to a place of business as civil disobedience may be an illegal act, but that does not stop well-intentioned people from using it to good effect in meatspace, for instance as part of the US civil rights movement. I’m not really sure what makes the cyberspace equivalent so much worse.

  7. Is this really about youth vs dinosaurs? Perhaps it is only in the sense that as we age and get busy many become inured to accepting our progressively more flawed system as being, well, acceptable. Through clear eyes youth seem much more able and more willing to call out the king for wearing no clothes.

    But today’s embarrassed government and authority figures are faced with nothing different than yesterday’s “leaders” were confronted with. If or when the truth eventually leaks, begin a period of denial and fake outrage, followed by investigations and repercussions and maybe some resignations. Rinse and repeat as necessary. Install another crew who will in time do the same damn things but with their own special flavour until caught and the spin cycle begins anew. They’ll all talk a lot about accountability and transparency and democracy on the campaign trail and then do anything but with the reins of power in practice.

    The only new aspect of WikiLeaks is that an individual or small group of people can now publish a shit load of information to the entire planet without having to beg on bended knee to a reporter. That is new, and it is good.

    But you won’t see me applaud the script kiddies and the real criminal hackers who are piling on to the legitimate world wide protest against the silencing of WikiLeaks. To me it doesn’t seem right to join corporations or the go-along-with-the-system politicians at their level.

    Yes let’s have some real transparency. We can have real-time world wide transparency… the technology is there, but the will isn’t, and that isn’t a new problem. Surely while Warren was part of the same establishment and governmental system he now criticizes plenty of information was kept out of the public eye, for whatever reason, that really should have been available to us all.

    I’m not laying a criticism at Warren, I’m just sayin’ that all along we ought to have been shining a bright light on a lot more. No government does a good job at this, no government likely ever has done a good job at this, and in our times the trend has been pointing decidedly downhill. No good can come of this situation.

  8. The Doctor says:

    Warren, at the heart of the matter, there’s really nothing new going on here at all. Young people have been rebelling and giving older people the collective finger for as long as there have been young people and old people. The only thing different here is the presence of technology and the platform through which these sentiments are being expressed.

    In the late 1960s, many people were essentially saying the same thing you’re saying. A little historical perspective is in order here.

  9. J. Coates says:

    The odd political allegory that crossed my mind was Pierre Trudeau doing a pirouette behind the Queen.

    On an off-topic note, dang I miss the early Trudeau years. Everything seemed just so…. possible.

  10. orval says:

    The real story is not Assange but Private Bradley Manning of the US Army who (allegedly) stole the State Department cables from a secure data-base to which he had access and sent these to Wikileaks. I say allegedly because Pfc Manning’s court martial won’t take place until spring. Talk about transparency on the internet – Pfc Manning’s charge sheets are on the web at http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2010/07/manning070510.pdf. I hear Wikileaks has offered to provide money for Manning’s defence team. Does anyone know if this is true?

    Pfc Manning did something wrong, and there are consequences to that. This is what I find interesting about the reaction to Assange’s case. Assange and Wikileaks did something they knew was wrong (release stolen information that would possibly harm other people and a foreign government’s interests). That was the whole point of what Assange did. Of course there will be consequences. This has to be expected. I am surprised by the reaction of many that assume there should be no consequences for Assange and Wikiweaks, as there are hard consequences for Pfc Manning. Does anyone expect that the US Government will do nothing to try to protect itself from a criminal act or from espionage?

    If you are going to do the crime, be prepared to serve the time.

    • smelter rat says:

      Really? And every newspaper that did exactly what Mr. Assange did should be prosecuted too?

      • orval says:

        No. Newspapers are printing leaks all the time. They should print all the news and should not be intimidated into not publishing except where there is an injunction or publication ban issued by a court of law. They should fearlessly all print the cables as they all should print all the Danish cartoons.

  11. Brammer says:

    “Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders.”

    – Ronald Reagan

  12. Vicki says:

    Orval, what is the difference between Wikileaks and a newspaper? Only the medium – Wikileaks doesn’t print on paper, newspapers do.

    • The Doctor says:

      That is, as they say, a very interesting question — and it goes right to the heart of what’s historically important about what’s going on right now. I agree that WikiLeaks and conventional newspapers have a lot of similarities and perform similar functions. But having said that, there are differences, and I think the differences may be as important as the similarities. Like a lot of other people, I’m still learning stuff about WikiLeaks (including from some of the fine, intelligent posters on this site). But to cite just one thing — Assange’s threat to essentially detonate a data bomb if certain entities caused “harm” to WikiLeaks — I don’t ever recall a newspaper or other mainstream media outlet ever doing or threatening such a thing. A lot of people characterized that as a form of extortion.

      I note that in the story that was published in the Globe & Mail today re: the WikiLeaks dissidents who were setting up their own OpenLeaks site, part of what these dissidents were objecting to was Assange’s rather confrontational and openly ideological style. Which brings us back to the newspaper comparison — most newspapers see their primary job as more or less objectively reporting the news, and they also provide opinion, commentary, etc. But WikiLeaks is obviously qualitiatively different, at least as far as Assange is concerned, since he clearly sees advocacy and actually being a direct agent of social change as WikiLeaks’ raison d’etre.

      • Namesake says:

        Come on, where’s that much-vaunted “historical perspective” you were flaunting earlier? Media barons like Hearst, Black, Murdoch, Peladeau, and even wee Leonard Asper have been notoriously mercurial, egomaniacs with axes to grind, whose employees couldn’t wait to get out from under (but were often let go first).

        • Namesake says:

          P.s., re: “the threat to essentially detonate a data bomb if certain entities caused ?harm? to WikiLeaks ? I don?t ever recall a newspaper or other mainstream media outlet ever doing or threatening such a thing.”

          Well, bear in mind that this was said & done in the context of actual death threats against him, and was intended as an insurance policy against a CIA-sanctioned assassination.

          Fortunately, we in Canada are pretty shielded from that sort of thing. But I can think of at least one recent case which comes close to what’s being talked about here, where there was a premeditated data bomb of sorts released after the assassination of a Sri Lankan editor critical of the gov’t & esp. its leader (& his one-time frined):

          http://srilankareports.wordpress.com/2009/01/11/historical-editorial-by-a-killed-man-sunday-leader-lasantha/

          http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/13/wickrematunga-final-editorial-final-editorial

          (altho’ admittedly some dispute it was really written by him:

          http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items09/070509-7.html

        • The Doctor says:

          I absolutely agree with you that people like Hearst, Black and Murdoch clearly have had ideological axes to grind and have pursued ideological agendas through their papers. But there’s still a qualitative and content-based difference in the product they produce(d) and WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks doesn’t have a sports section. Or an obits section. Or movie reviews. And so on. Yes, most people know that different newspapers have different ideological slants, but at the end of the day they all PURPORT to report all the news, all the time. WikiLeaks’ mission is much more focused and limited than that. You could argue, I suppose, that Assange is being much more “pure” and “up front” about his ideological mission than a Black or Murdoch.

          But this all goes to why I think the WikiLeaks/Newspapers comparison is very far from exact or an equivalency. Another way of putting it is that Assange is doing a certain kind of niche, advocacy journalism which is made much more possible and powerful because of the internet. But because what he is doing has pushed the envelope so far, it has raised understandable questions about whether there ought to be limits on this sort of thing. Like a lot of people, I’m still struggling with this and trying to keep an open mind.

          BTW I take issue with what you say about employees of Black. There are a number of people, who are hardly right wing (e.g., Paul Wells) who say very nice things about working for Black in a journalistic context. Many of the original National Post people look back very fondly on the original days under Black. Black has tons of flaws, obviously, but he’s actually a big fan of the craft of journalism.

          • Namesake says:

            ok, fair enough: I had no basis to lump them altogether as fearsome Scrooge-like employers, so I apologize to His Royal Blackness for the aspersion.

            And sure, no q., Wiki-leaks isn’t a newspaper. But the point is, it’s most likely _enough_ of a journalistic organization to qualify for protection from prosecution of at least some types of US charges, under the 1st Amendment.

    • Namesake says:

      “Wikileaks doesn’t print on paper, newspapers do.” Good ‘un: reflect the ol’ NRA slogan back at them… that’ll awake their inner Charlton & make ’em unsure of who they’re supposed to shoot, now.

      There’s the makings of a stand-up routine in that q.:

      What’s the difference between Wikileaks & newspapers?

      – You don’t get ink-stained hands reading wikileaks.

      – You don’t have to put the Wikileaks out in the bluebox each week; or pile them up in the office; or clip them & file them away; you can leave them up there in the clouds.

      – You can’t do puppy training with the wiki… the laptops or monitors won’t roll up; their wet noses wreck the Blackberries; and reading the cables out only makes them piddle more.

      – You don’t have to tip the wiki-boy every Christmas… just sleep with him… twice.

  13. Mikel says:

    Here’s an idea ? Warren payed mind-cash for a faulty opinion. The Wikileaks phenomenon is not about young vs. old or rich vs. poor or any other tired comparison. It is about the freedom we now have to express our wants and needs in confrontation with others who would suppress them. It is about a new ability to see and perceive the age-old restraint on our instincts for justice. This is a prelude to disorder and sorrow ahead as our species makes war over tissue-thin claims of right over need and privilege over justice. Today’s turmoil is harbinger. Beware tomorrow.

    🙂

  14. smelter rat says:

    A subject that you are clearly familiar with, based on previous posts here.

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