When the press trades truth for access, it is WikiLeaks that acts like the little boy. "Power," wrote Jenkins, "loathes truth revealed. When the public interest is undermined by the lies and paranoia of power, it is disclosure that takes sanity by the scruff of its neck and sets it back on its feet."
A final aspect of the story is Julian Assange himself. Is he a visionary? Is he an anarchist? Is he a jerk? This is fun speculation, but why does it have an impact on the value of the WikiLeaks revelations?
Of course, it's not terribly surprising that those who are made uncomfortable by the discrepancy between what the leaked cables show and what our government claims would rather make this all about the psychological makeup of Assange. But doing so is a virtual admission that they have nothing tangible with which to counter the reality exposed by WikiLeaks.
Maybe Assange "often acts without completely thinking through every repercussion of his actions,"writes Slate's Jack Shafer. "But if you want to dismiss him just because he's a seething jerk, there are about 2,000 journalists I'd like you to meet."
Whether Assange is a world-class jerk or not, this is bigger than Assange -- and will continue whether or not he continues to be a central player in it. In fact, there is already an offshoot site soon to be launched, called Openleaks, which will be run by veterans of WikiLeaks.
And I doubt this will be the only offshoot. So as interesting as the Assange saga is, and I'm sure there will be books and movies recounting Assange's personal tale, this is not about one man. Nor is it about one site, though the precedent of allowing the government to shut it down is very important.
It is about our future. For our democracy to survive, citizens have to be able to know what our government is really doing. We can't change course if we don't have accurate information about where we really are. Whether this comes from a website or a newspaper or both doesn't matter.
But if our government is successful in its efforts to shut down this new avenue of accountability, it will have done our country far more damage than what it claims is being done by WikiLeaks.