While Julian Assange answers his critics and a contemptible senior American politician calls for his execution for daring to shine light on corners the authoritarians think they have a right to keep hidden (frankly, any commentator or politician who calls for the murder of people with whom they disagree should be excoriated and then shunned), Mark Pesce explores how crippling Wikileaks now (and it’s interesting how they’ve done it) will make what comes after it stronger:
The failure of Napster was the blueprint for Gnutella.
In exactly the same way – note for note – the failures of Wikileaks provide the blueprint for the systems which will follow it, and which will permanently leave the state and its actors neutered. Assange must know this – a teenage hacker would understand the lesson of Napster. Assange knows that someone had to get out in front and fail, before others could come along and succeed. We’re learning now, and to learn means to try and fail and try again.
This failure comes with a high cost. It’s likely that the Americans will eventually get their hands on Assange – a compliant Australian government has already made it clear that it will do nothing to thwart or even slow that request – and he’ll be charged with espionage, likely convicted, and sent to a US Federal Prison for many, many years. Assange gets to be the scapegoat, the pinup boy for a new kind of anarchism. But what he’s done can not be undone; this tear in the body politic will never truly heal.
WikiLeaks is flawed. There are no safeguards. Dangerous lies can be published as easily as necessary truths. The worst state actors get away scot-free, and gain power at the expense of their less-sinister competitors.
But when compared with the previous status quo, in which the powerful act in our names, with our resources, with our protection but by keeping us utterly in the dark – WikiLeaks is clearly the lesser of the two evils. By a long way.
We need it, or something like it. And we should look with extreme concern at those self-interested politicians working so hard to make it go away.
ELSEWHERE: My Friday post on efforts to shut it down.
UPDATE: Oh, suddenly the Liberals quite like the WikiLeaks thing:
Coalition turns up pressure over Kevin Rudd’s plan to contain ‘paranoid’ China
We’d like it both ways, thanks:
The Opposition has also warned the Government not to rush to condemn WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange until it can confirm Australian law has been breached in the leaking of a cable reporting the conversations.
If there’s something in there about the last time we were in Government, though…
UPDATE #2: The Washington Times publishes a call for Assange’s murder and is not immediately denounced by all.
UPDATE #3: Are security services really stalking Assange’s lawyers? The UK security services, in the midst of an economic crisis? What a spectacular waste of public money.
UPDATE #4: The Swiss banks, long a haven for dictators and tyrants, from the Nazis through to Mugabe and the Kims, finally draw the line – on Julian Assange.
Meanwhile, Twitter denies censoring the #WikiLeaks hashtag.
UPDATE #5: And John Birmingham asks why our officials are at best ignoring and at worst inciting calls to murder an Australian citizen.
UPDATE #6: Even Ron Paul, wacky libertarian candidate in the US, makes a decent point (hidden amongst some thoroughly disagreeable ones) – the story on WikiLeaks should be on WHAT THE LEAKS REVEAL! Not who’s bloody revealed them. Good work, media, for demanding answers from officials about what they’re going to do to Assange, rather than why do they think they can do whatever they like?
And it’s about time writers stopped misleadingly using the word “rape” to describe what Sweden wants to question Assange about: it’s about allegedly not wearing a condom during consensual sex, not “rape”. (I don’t really care to explore the allegations about his accuser’s alleged links with the CIA.)
UPDATE #7: There’s video of Huckabee calling for the source’s execution. I’m yet to see the evidence that he called for Assange’s – the link in the post claims it, but hasn’t yet backed it up.
UPDATE #8: Excellent open letter to the PM from prominent Australians, calling on her to reaffirm her commitment to standing up for Australian citizens. Unfortunately the comments don’t seem to be working, so I can’t add my name in support. But I do support it, most vigorously.
UPDATE #9: Assange has been arrested on those highly dubious charges.
They’ve refused him bail as a “flight risk”, which makes no sense since he’s known of this pending warrant for ages and hasn’t fled before now – in fact, he’s made sure the police know where he is.
The ABC story seems to suggest that it might be easier to extradite him to the US from Sweden, but that doesn’t make sense. The UK would hand him over to the US even more willingly than the Swedes, based on recent form.
Did you know you are subject to US law, enacted by politicians against whom you do not get to vote? You didn’t? Welcome to the modern world.