I dedicate this blogpost to @utenjm because, of all the debates I've had regarding WikiLeaks, I think the one I've had with him has been the most insightful. If you're on twitter, check him out and give him a follow.
Now, onto the post....
WikiLeaks is sort of a big deal... why? because it provides what all governments fear- unregulated information. Now, most persons would argue that information in any form should not be regulated and base said argument in the universal right of the "Right to Know" which translates to the right of Access to Information.
Worldwide, this right has been a battle for numerous years. (For those interested, I wrote a thesis on this paper and the legal framework of it in Jamaica and other nations with similar Constitutional structure. Shout me and Ill email it to you). The motivation forming the question of how much information can you give to someone without causing them harm?
This has been the basis of many arguments supporting strict confidentiality of government secrets and diplomatic discussions. And this has been the reason why so many dealings of our leaders world wide have been behind closed doors, even in democracies-for our 'own good'.
WikiLeaks spits in the face of these efforts, exposing to every and anyone with enough savvy to know what the internet is all of this 'underground information'. Now though this may seem harmless, it is wreaking havoc. Regulating information in this form is virtually impossible as mentioned by @utenjm in his post . The only seemingly succesful avenue to shut this down is to take legal action against WikiLeaks.
How can they even do this? It's simple- follow the line of reasoning. Our governments are comprised of a small number of individuals essentially ruling a larger number of individuals. To do this, they have access to a wealth of information associated with their power and control, which they yield in negotiations of sorts with other diplomats or persons of wealth to get things done. This is immense power, because not only do they have that information but they have the resources to wield it in a powerful way. Any decision they make will be with the knowledge of all the information they are privvy to. In other words, they will always see a bigger picture than you and I.
WikiLeaks publishes information meant to be kept secret from the public because to be frank, it doesnt make our leaders look good. But think about it, we are getting a little peephole into the mass of information available to them, we are only getting a random piece of the puzzle. But how is this dangerous?
The government is charged with taking care of the entire nation, not special interest groups, not individuals, not a percentage of it. If something is leaked to the public, for example something regarding the government's decision to shut down a particular industry causing thousands of persons to lose their jobs, this will undoubtedly anger the public and cause mass demonstrations, damage to public property and even loss of lives. If WikiLeaks publishes said information 'just so' the public is likely to think that the government has no reason to do what it is doing. When what we may discover later on, is that that industry needed to be shut down because of the long term effects it was having on the environment, or the economy or that it needed to be shut down so that it could be restructured to handle more employees and serve greater benefit to the nation. We would not have known.
Now, because of the nature of how information is garnered and released on WikiLeaks, such a catastrophe could be caused. And we all know that this is not far-fetched. After all, we live in Jamaica where once a rumour starts it is set ablaze and tempers flare easily- and with that comes rash judgment.
Thus, if you are responsible for harming the public interest then you can be taken to court. They have a convincing argument.
The 'we're keeping it a secret for your own good' rationale has a point. Unregulated information that is spewed out to the public in an untimely fashion can have serious consequences, not for the public image of the government but for the same people who are demanding that information.
Yes, we have a right to know and yes we have a right to access information however we need to realize that rights cannot safely and seamlessly operate in a vacuum. They must operate within appropriate seams. We need to weigh the harm against the benefits. We need to look at the bigger picture.
An across the board shut down of WikiLeaks may not be necessary, but we do need to examine what the possible consequences of publishing certain information would be. The government has that responsibility to us, WikiLeaks does not....
I am not against the freedom of the press, I am not against the right to know or the right of access to information. I am simply an advocate of the greater good, whatever it may be. Ask yourselves, is WikiLeaks operating more like a scandal reporter or are they giving us information on the bigger picture that will responsibly and practically allow us to hold our leaders accountable?
That's all folks....