Why does it take so long to accept new views even when the evidence is clear? Wittgenstein tells the following anecdote (I presume to show that first impressions about why views change are generally wrong):
Two philosophers meet in the hall. One says to the other, Why do you supposed people believed for such a long time that the sun goes around the earth, rather than that the earth rotates? The other philosopher replies, Obviously because it looks as though the sun is going around the earth. To which the first philosopher replies, But what would it look like if it looked like the earth was rotating?
-- Zenon Pylyshin at http://edge.org/3rd_culture/thaler10/th ... index.html
This is not meant to replace or displace any of the ongoing threads concerning Wikileaks, but to ask a question in light of the certainty with which some declare Wikileaks to be a psychological operation of one kind or another.
If Wikileaks were genuine, what it would look like?
In other words, what would it look like if Wikileaks is an independent group of anti-statist hackers and activists who came together over years in an ad-hoc fashion, who are not working for an undisclosed intelligence operation, who are committed to undermining the rule of secrecy in international politics, who have gotten their hands on caches of classified documents, and who are releasing these to the public?
My answer is that it would look like what we are seeing.
However, if they are not genuine, it would also look like what we are seeing.
Furthermore, if Wikileaks is genuine, you can be certain that stories would circulate to smear the people involved in it, and that among these there would be the accusation that Wikileaks is actually a front for an intelligence agency or for a nefarious hidden agenda.
Therefore judgement should be reserved and should be based on a review of the released material, or actual evidence about the organization or its members. Judgement should not be based on our a priori assumptions or on what we would like to see.
On this site I've read several categories of suspicion about wikileaks:
- They aren't releasing what a given critic would consider important. (Examples I've seen: Wikileaks releases are not exposing 9/11 as an inside job, or they lack evidence of some assumed Israeli crime, therefore Wikileaks is designed to distract from these.)
But if Wikileaks is genuine, then they don't have a free run of all possible secret documents. They have what they can get their hands on. That might be arbitrary. I'd rather see the CIA operations division files dumped online than the State Department cables, but if it's the State Department cables or the Afghan and Iraqi war logs that Wikileaks acquired, then that's what they have and that's what they can release.
- The Times/Spiegel/Guardian are suspect organs who have disseminated disinformation in the past, and cannot be trusted to filter the documents and decide what the important stories are.
But these papers are receiving (and no doubt begging for) first access for the purpose of publicity and to force the US government (in this case) to confirm that the cables are real. If Wikileaks continues with its practice until now, the State Department documents will be made available in searchable and downloadable forms for anyone to evaluate themselves. If NYT spins things in a way designed to protect given interests, that is on NYT, not Wikileaks. It's up to us and a million other people who will be looking at this stuff not to be distracted by unflattering portraits of personalities or other trivialities, and to look instead for whatever meat is present.
- They are serving, perhaps unwittingly, as the conduit for "limited hangouts" and distractions.
Distractions from what? If you think so, make the case with evidence. If they got the material via Bradley Manning, things on the surface would look as they do now. If they got it from an intel agency or from intel agency dissidents (and many might be the culprits), and if Bradley Manning is being used as a cover story, then things on the surface would also look as they do know. Should they not release what they get?
- They are releasing information that will be exploited to drum up support for a war or bad policy.
The first question is whether the cables or dispatches are real or forged. If they're real, you can be certain that everyone's going to try to place their own spin on everything. No one is requiring you to agree with an NYT interpretation of the cables when you can read them yourself.
- We knew that already. Or "It's old news!"
That was the reaction of many to the releases on the Afghan and Iraq wars. I usually find such statements unreasonable, contemptuous of history, and motivated by denial. To know that the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are murderous is not the same as having documentary evidence of specific massacres in detail. In the mainstream, such denial usually comes from those who didn't want to know the wars were wrong in the first place, and who want to dismiss the proof and change the subject.
- They are redacting to protect identities of sources.
A real problem, as this could also be redaction to change or hide significant details. However, you can't a priori assume that to be the case. Again, if you make a claim, you should do the work to support it.
- It's all a set-up to justify war on whistleblowers and repression of the Internet.
This I find ridiculous. We see propaganda campaigns and set-ups to justify repressive policies every day, like the FBI stings involving "terror attacks" orchestrated entirely by FBI informants. The US for one would never choose to release the documents confirming mass murder by US forces and their allies in Afghanistan and Iraq for this purpose. They could make up a security breach about a new attack on America. They could make up a million other stories and use the Mighty Wurlitzer. This isn't to say that the long-running war on whistleblowers and attempts to repress the Internet are not going to be intensified because of Wikileaks, but if so, that still isn't evidence about the intent of Wikileaks.
- I don't trust it because it's getting too much attention from the world.
Now you're blaming them for success. Or assuming that post-reality has completely taken a stranglehold over everything, so that nothing can be a "real" story.
Here's what I know and like so far about the Wikileaks story:
- It is exposing the contradiction between secret policy and claims of democracy.
- It is encouraging others to do the same thing.
- It seems to be distracting the imperialists no end.
What's being covered so far in the new release may not be on the earth-shattering level of "9/11 is an inside job" but it is interesting, plausible, and damaging to bad characters. US conducting electronic spying and harrassment on the UN leadership, the Saudi king lobbying for a US attack on Iran and further confirmation that Israel is doing the same or looking for an excuse to go it alone are not limited hangouts (though they certainly are only partial pictures) and not the sort of information that the State Department or CIA secretly longs to release so as to set in motion some other, nefarious plan.