Wednesday, December 8, 2010

War on the Internet

Earlier this year, I wrote an essay (more a press release, really) on the Wikileaks release of documents concerning the Afghanistan war. I was (and am) elated that the leak occurred, as it demonstrates to me the part and parcel purpose of the internet, the free dissemination of information to all those with access. As I'd hoped, Wikileaks has only grown in notoriety since. The timing of the arrest of Wikileak's founder Julian Assange coming shortly after his organization's release of embarrassing diplomatic cables is not a coincidence, especially when the circumstances surrounding his arrest are so suspect. How does it happen that a man who is called to be executed by a former U.S. presidential candidate is arrested mere days after such a release.

How does it come to be that he is charged with sexual assault that may or may not constitute rape by two women who admit that the sex was consensual and in fact bragged about it on Twitter and Facebook? Two women who had not actually accused him of anything, instead following a Swedish procedure of asking for "police advice," which does not constitute an accusation in case the accusation itself is wrongful. Why is he in prison when the actual case against him was charged, then dropped, then charged again be three separate prosecutors. Why is he in an Interpol warrant for this situation, where Swedish authorities only want to question him about the allegations? Why did Swedish authorities refuse to use any of the proposed alternate methods of communication to achieve such questioning? Most importantly, why was he imprisoned and denied bail in Britain despite turning himself in and not being formally charged with a crime? I'm really not claiming there's any sort of conspiracy here. This IS the authority, and this IS what they do. There's no cover-up of motive here, it's bald and plain for anyone to see.

The man is a political target, and he's made enemies with some surprising people. Sarah Palin wants him dead. Despite being a popular media figure and the host of an absurd pseudo-reality TV series about how to backpack with a lot of money and people with you, she's willing to call for this man's blood, in a move that would seem politically expedient for the entire "right" spectrum of politics. This is disregarding the fact that there really is no U.S. law this man is breaking, nor has anyone actually come to harm because of his organization. It is, of course, points in a political game. The right wants to convince people that Obama is incapable of defeating Julian Assange for one reason or another, and that by voting Republican, you can elect someone who can/will. Palin for president; She always gets her man. No one has yet pointed out that this is the same organization that exposed her own corruption through her e-mails.

The scope of this conflict, however, is much larger than the petty partisanship of politics in P'america (Couldn't break the combo). This is truly a war about democracy and what role the people have in shaping their own government. The concept of democracy does not include the concept of the government keeping secrets from its populace, as the populace is indeed the government, as per the intent of the founding fathers. By claiming security interests in keeping secrets, the government has managed to divorce itself from the people and become an entity unto its own. Here at last, the capability of the people to share information with one another instantly and for such little cost demonstrates the ultimate folly of attempting to keep state secrets. What was once a matter of determined investigative reporters is now a matter of simply finding a hole in the system, an inevitable hole because no system comprised of people can truly be completely secure. The government failed to keep these documents secret for the same reason that conspiracies are almost universally unlikely: Humans are the weakest link. Giving anyone the authority to view this information is a risk. What if they disagree with your findings? What if they have a moral change of heart? There will always be leaks, whether or not there's someone there to report them. And here, now, with Wikileaks, not only is there someone to report them, but someone with the capability of disseminating these leaks instantaneously to everyone with access to the web. The same system that has everyone worried about their privacy and well being through outlets like Facebook has also inevitably destroyed the privacy of the U. S. Government.

The problem here is that the government should never have had that privacy in the first place. The word "private" connotes "separate, confidential, personal," adjectives that should have nothing to do with a public institution. If the government is truly made of the people, why don't the people know what the government is doing?

This is the internet at its best. This is ultimately what it was made for, the dissolution of borders and nations and governments. This is an entity that is too large for the nations to simply shut it off. This is an entity without state borders, except its own. This is, at last, an entity who has no political agenda but its own agenda of sharing everything with everyone at all times. It heartens me to see the usually nebulous and poorly aimed Anonymous banding together to defend what is ultimately going to be the first war on the internet through attacks on the corporations that have decided that their allegiance to the systems in place are more important than the services they provide. It heartens me that in response to the shutdown of the main Wikileaks website, not one or two, but hundreds of mirror sites sprang up overnight in defiance. Go internet. I'm right behind them. And if you care at all for our freedom, not as citizens of the United States, but our freedoms as people, so are you.


  1. This post was amazing, and I'm glad to have had the chance to read it. You are quite the talented writer, sir. I'm really impressed. c:

  2. Free dissemination of information over the Internet is the ideal, but it must be done with discrimination. Just as freedom of speech is itself restricted by the notion that "one can't yell 'Fire' in a crowded theater," one must be respectful of the consequences that free expression has for others. One must also be certain that the free information posted is truthful, not relatively truthful, but actually truthful, as truthful as we can be with the abilities and technologies we possess.

    Believe me when I say, I am all for the Free Internet with no restrictions by big business. The Internet should be neutral.