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Sunday, December 12, 2010

"He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future." -- George Orwell

It's never easy crossing into conspiracy theorist territory, but I think in the case of Julian Assange and Wikileaks I'm willing to suspend my usual cynicism and disbelief that evil forces are at work trying to destroy the forces of good. Whatever you think of this whole debacle I would suggest that it is not cause for hanging traitors, hunting down tattle-tales or preparing for Armageddon.
This is like when a magician reveals the secrets of the illusion. There is always a group of magicians that whine and bitch about the integrity of the art being irrevocably altered. This first group is like the bunch of thieving rats in Washington that are bemoaning the "attack" by "terrorist hackers". The second group of magician accepts that the cat is out of the bag and move on to design bigger and more bad ass tricks, like Chris Angel does. These magicians are similar to the second group of politicians that are standing up for Assange and calling for a re-evaluation of our foreign policy, like Ron Paul. Okay, I just praised Chris Angel and Ron Paul in the same paragraph, something is seriously amiss.
Accusing Assange or PFC Bradley Manning, the real hero/traitor/pain-in-the-ass in all of this, is pointless. Pandora's box is now open for business and in fact, no one should be surprised that diplomacy is a slippery slope filled with preening ambassadors, two-faced backstabbing on a global scale and suitcases filled with millions of dollars. We can't do anything about what's in these cables except apologize for having our ambassadors and such make honest assessments about the world we live in. What excites me, however, as what we have the potential to learn about the process of negotiating with foreign countries. Not the give and take of it all. Something far more valuable for the future of democracy.
This is a treasure trove of information that we would never have access to any other way. No FOI request would ever reveal half of what we are getting from these cables. There are no black redaction lines on the paper, no filters, no court battles; this is how it's supposed to be! Security experts have for years warned the U.S. of the folly of trying to hide all of it's secrets in the information age. We have allowed the government to create within itself an environment where the individuals in charge of looking out for the public trust, insulate themselves and let their guard down. This is a recipe for disaster and we should probably be thankful that we haven't seen anything worse than AhMADdinejad calling us conspirators (seriously, dude, you need to come up with fresh material).
The real reason, I believe, for the uproar is that future generations will use this information when writing the historical narrative of the United States. These cables go back to 1966. That means that 50, 75 or 100 years from now when all the nearly 400k cables have been analyzed, put into proper context and weighed for their importance by scholars and compared and contrasted to what other information is available to the world about the times that we live in, what we believe about our country today will probably make us the laughing stock of future generations of Americans. The narrative is no longer under the control of elites, it has been open-sourced, the curtain pulled back and the old lies are no longer convenient to anyone.
This, in my humble opinion, is a good thing. No one likes it when we, as a country, suck. Personally, I hate it. The truth is we do a lot of shady things throughout the world to keep the lights on at home. But at least now maybe, just maybe, we can teach future generations something about democracy that no other civilization before us was able to convey; that democracy must be transparent, otherwise it's nothing but a bad magic trick. I just wonder when the "Free Julian" shirts are going to hit the market, because I'll be the first in line.

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