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Wikileaks and the Red Coats

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Remember learning in school about how American revolutionaries changed ground warfare? For centuries soldiers from opposing armies marched in straight lines towards each other engaging in face to face battle. America's out-manned and out-armed  citizen soldiers introduced the British Red Coats to what we now call "asymmetric warfare,"-- and much to the disgust of the British. They considered hiding in the bushes and shooting down the neatly lined up Red Coats something considerately less than cricket.
 
I only mention this because I've been watching the fresh pissing match that has broken out over Wikileaks. This time it's not just embarrassed governments and public officials condemning Wikileaks, but the media as well.
 
Because, you see, in the minds of those who have, for the past century or so, acted as unchallenged gatekeepers of information, suddenly they seem to have lost control. Stuff gets out before they get to see it, filter it, change it or decide for us we don't need to know it.
 
I can fully understand why governments and government officials, past and present, hate Wikileaks. But the press? What's that all about?
 
Well, it's about that whole "emperor's clothes" business. Wikileaks has left the world's media standing stark naked for all to see.
 
How mortifying to have everyone learn - thanks to Wikileaks - that the W. Bush administration was sending suspected terrorist suspects to Libya so Gaddafi's forces could work them over for us. Yeah, THAT Gaddafi, the guy who killed a hundred Americans when he bombed that Pan Am flight over Scotland. We didn't learn that bit of news from the New York Times or Washington Post, now did we.
 
No. We learned that little gem when Wikileaks dumped all it's secret US cables at once a week ago --  without first letting favored media outlets see them first.  
 
"Many media outlets, including The Associated Press, previously had access to all or part of the uncensored tome. But Wikileaks' decision to post the 251,287 cables on its website makes potentially sensitive diplomatic sources available to anyone, anywhere at the stroke of a key. American officials have warned that the disclosures could jeopardize vulnerable people such as opposition figures or human rights campaigner" Full Story
 
As long as they got to see these things first and remove stuff from them, these mainstream media outlets, while hardly delighted that Wikileaks was revealing stuff they'd missed -or ignored - at least Wikileaks was still showing the mainstream media "respect" - as the term is used by crime bosses and cartel operators.
 
But last week that all ended when Wikileaks cut the mainstream media entirely out of the loop and just, well, leaked - like a fire hose.
 
And there they were, one super-hot scoop after another that none of us ever saw in print or heard about on CNN. Nope. It was all, apparently, news to them when Wikileaks leaked;

 * That American troops executed an entire Iraqi family, kids and all, then higher ups ordered airstrikes on the house to cover up the crime.
* That Microsoft aided the recently deposed Tunisian dictator
* That Indian Gov. Mayawati sent an empty jet to Mumbai to purchase a pair of shoes
*That, during the early days of the US banking crisis in 2008, China offered to invest in US Banks
*A cable that reveals how the Israeli Army planned to abuse peaceful civilian protesters.

And more, lots more. For the most part we hadn't read a word of it in the press, until last week. And then only because the cats had been let out of the bag by Wikileaks forcing, not only embarrassed governments and officials to sputter and spit, but the mainstream media as well.
 
The conservative American Standard headline read: "Wikileaks Now Foe of Free Speech"
 
A joint statement published on the Guardian's website said that the British publication and its international counterparts - The New York Times, France's Le Monde, Spanish daily El Pais and German newspaper Der Spiegel - "deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted State Department cables, which may put sources at risk."
 
In their statement, the Guardian's international partners lined up to slam the 40-year-old former computer hacker.
 
"We cannot defend the needless publication of the complete data - indeed, we are united in condemning it," the statement read, before adding: "The decision to publish by Julian Assange was his, and his alone."
 
Ah yes, and isn't that so NOT cricket... failing to run it all by the masters of media first, the very same folks who either failed to uncover these stories themselves or, for whatever reasons, ignored them.
 
Isn't this a rare convergence of outrage; governments,public officials and the press, all on the same side. Not that it hasn't happened before:
 
Former UK PM,Tony Blair, Godfather To Rupert Murdoch's Daughter  
 
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not being mindlessly cavalier about the potential dangers of leaking some secrets. But it's got to be balance and right now we're terribly out of balance. Governments and those who control them use secrecy to hide genuinely important national security information. 
 
That's true. But they have abused the practice. Much as pot farmers in the midwest plant corn just to hide the pot growing between the rows. Governments and government officials and corporations in cahoots with both, use national security to hide the very kind of core information needed for a democracy to run as a democracy.
 
Maybe the guy who runs Wikileaks, Julian Assange - a flawed figure himself - put it best last week. In responding to the hailstorm of attacks from around the world over the recent data dump Assange bluntly replied;
 
"If governments don't like people knowing this kind of stuff, they should stop acting like pigs in the first place."
 
Amen to that. And to the press I add, - I think the lady protesteth too much. Tell your new corporate paymasters you're in the news business, not the public relations business or a protection service for public officials. Start funding I-teams again and relearn the art of what the CIA calls "HUMIT" or "human intelligence." You remember human intelligence, don't you? Back in the day we used to call them "sources," and we tended them like a gardener tends their garden. And, they bore fruit, more often than not.
 
But, until then, we will have to rely on the Wikileaks and hackers of our time to tell us what we need to know, even when others think we shouldn't know.
 
So, Wikileakers and hackers like Anonymous might be thought of as the revolutionaries of our age - refusing to play by the rules of the rulers. Breaking the rules of engagement for a higher good.
 
And the Red Coats hate it.

 

Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a (more...)
 
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When we first heard of Wikileaks I wrote:   ... by Phil Linehan on Monday, Sep 5, 2011 at 6:51:31 PM
Well, if you ask yourself who the so called "press... by Sister Begonia on Wednesday, Sep 7, 2011 at 11:05:26 AM

 

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