Greed vs. Caution

Posted: April 11, 2011 by Alyssa Mosher in #8 Wikileaks


I’ve never really thought a lot about Wikileaks until this semester.

It wasn’t until a few of my classes starting focusing on the “phenomenon” that I finally somewhat caught up. To be honest, I never followed the stories when they were first released a few years back. I had a friend who read every story, but he’s a journalism-nut, so I figured it wasn’t necessarily anything I had to look at. But I think that’s something I regret now.

Now, when everyone talks about the calibre of stories that were produced by Julian Assange and Wikileaks, I still feel like I have to catch-up. I’ve gone to the Wikileaks website and haven’t been able to navigate it very well, so finding one of those great stories hasn’t been easy. It was only a few months ago that I saw “Collateral Murder” for the first time. I couldn’t believe how many people had been keeping up with Wikileaks. Turns out it wasn’t just my journalism-nut of a friend.

I’ve noticed that the discussions have shifted from the stories, themselves, to their content and how Assange collected it and what that means for everyone else living in this world. “The Age of Information” is a funny thing. I heard one argument that said liberal societies understand the need for secrets – as long as they’re kept for their own protection. But I’m not sure it’s like that anymore. I think Assange’s whole idea of incredible transparency is just what everyone wants these days. In the Age of Information, accessibility is key and we think we all deserve it.

Wikileaks is weird though.

I read an article by the editor-in-chief of The New York Times and he explained his relationship with Assange and what Assange expected from The Times. The close relationship makes me uncomfortable because I don’t trust Assange. Who could, really? Even though he is releasing all this information that showcases certain harsh realities in the U.S. and around the world, he also released the social insurance numbers of some American soldiers. How dangerous is this guy?

Assange’s close relationship with journalists mostly scares me because of Assange had a “cause” with all of this. People that work with Assange made it clear that they were not journalists. Instead, they were sort of activists. But Assange calls it all “scientific journalism.” He’s not a journalist by any means, but I think he thinks he is. And I think there’s a lot of people who think journalists can be like Assange. And while demanding information through the Freedom of Information Act is essential to democracy, I’m not sure Wikileaks is.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are certain things (i.e. Collatoral Murder) that Assange put together that I do think were worth the “greed,” shall we say. But I just wonder if this is all “fair game.” I wonder if we, as journalists or activists or whatever, have the right to leak all this information that we’d hope was kept secret for good reason.

So I wonder: In the Age of Information, are we more greedy or simply more cautious?



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