8 December 2010

Reflections on bitter red pills

The sudden cooperation we see among separate corporate entities, governments, and elite players from around the globe in response to Wikileaks should serve as an important lesson on the true structure of power. While it is always difficult to arrive at an accurate analysis of power--an analysis that sheds light on who is truly calling the shots--there are occasional events that provide a glimpse into the machine's interworkings. We can, at the very least, know that when minor rebellions call forth all the forces of empire, some button must have been pushed; some invisible line in the sand, crossed. The visceral response to some leaked documents and film clips that tell us (surprise, surprise) that troops sometimes kill civilians or that the Russian government is corrupt is, to say the least, a bit baffling. Why all the hooplah?

What's at stake isn't facts--the facts are known already. My guess is that the true threat is the destruction of a narrative: the sort of coherent Fox News narrative (or for that matter, liberal, pro-Obama narrative) that sees government actors and diplomats as motivated by the same themes put forth in our high school civics class. Why anybody still believes such bedtime stories speaks volumes about the effectiveness of our disinformation and diseducational system, but then again, people all over the planet still speak of states as if they were football teams working together to win one for the cheering home crowd. The rightwing practitioners of realpolitik must have quite a few laughs over their $100 shots of single-malt scotch when they turn on the news and see the pseudo-debates about freedom, justice, and protection of the "city on the hill."

The officially sanctioned media has little light to shine on the recent events. Little wonder. If the Wikileaks have done anything, it's to show that the traditional media operations are suffering from a gumption deficit. People who take great pride in living in "democracies" rarely fully confront the implications. If the government's power is solely to work for the people, there should ideally be virtually no secrets. And there should certainly be no instances in which the publically stated policy is, in fact, the reverse of the actual policy.

As Jordan Stancil points out:

The classification rules were supposed to induce openness by requiring cable authors to choose from a list of justifications in the controlling executive order before classifying a document, but in reality, as I saw during my own Foreign Service postings, everybody chooses reasons 1.4(b) and (d)—foreign government information, and foreign activities of the United States. In fact, nearly all officers simply had those justifications pre-pasted into a cable-writing template on their computers. As everyone can now see, almost all the WikiLeaks cables released so far were classified based on reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

There is not a national security reason to keep secret, as a general rule and for an extended period, the interactions between representatives of the US government and representatives of foreign governments. We claim a national security imperative by arguing that foreign politicians would not talk to us if we did not hide what they said from their own constituents and domestic opponents and the governments of third countries. To state this argument is to expose its anti-democratic essence. But this is what Hillary Clinton means when she praises secrecy for permitting what she calls “honest, private dialogue.” She means dialogue among the powerful, safe in the knowledge that they will not be held accountable to their own citizens or legislatures. One readily understands the desire of foreign—or American—public figures to control, as much as they possibly can, the flow of information concerning their activities and their images. It is much less clear that it is in the American national interest to enable this type of information control, and to prosecute people who try to get around it.

2 comments:

Jazzbumpa said...

Karlo -

Here, here!

Or is it -
Hear, hear.

I never can keep that straight.

So - leaving nothing to chance:

Here hear!

And bravo!
JzB

Diana said...

Hear! Hear! :)

(I'm always confused about that too)

Your analysis is spot on Karlo.

The way I picture it is that wikileaks hasn't so much removed the veil of secrecy as it has removed the veil of "plausible deniability.

Those of us paying attention always knew how they operate, how they lie and deceive, but in the absence of "proof" they could always deny it to the public at large, and be believed purely on the authority of their word.

But now that there is proof, their denials are no longer plausible, and this is a huge loss of power for them. That's why they strike out with such vehemence.

Ironically, the more vehemently they respond to these leaks, the more they expose their modus operandi for all to see. While we suspected that corporations and government work in collusion, now they're proving it to us by overreacting to the threat.

Like a classic Greek drama, wikileaks is the catalyst that forces them to react, and every time they do they can't but help reveal their character.

What genius is this? Is it the genius of one man, of many, or of something inherent in the technology itself? All it needed was the right people with the right motives and tech skills to be unleashed.

Is this the true meaning of "letting the genie out of the bottle?"

I think wikileaks is showing us that the implications for the power of this technology are far greater than we ever imagined possible.

I'm loving it.

Happy New Year!!!