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Mixed on Wikileaks

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I think Wikileaks and equivalents are here to stay. We have to deal with a panopticon future in which privacy is less and less possible, particularly for western governments. The future holds leaks based on cheap high-tech spy equipment everywhere. I can easily imagine watching a president have sex on top of he oval office desk someday or watching a politician make some incriminating statement.

And few people are as aware as I am that western journalists today across the political spectrum are a joke when it comes to global events, and that includes Anderson-Cooper, although he isn't as heinous as most. I know first hand that most overseas "journalism" is the equivalent of a Chinese-only speaker wandering the streets of New York for a day to determine the state of USA politics by interviewing street people. It is either that, or it consists of repeating lies from official spokesmen from the White House to Tbilisi. It's appalling and it is only getting worse. In that respect, Julian has made the current generation of astonishingly lazy journalists unable to continue business as usual. I don't use the word lazy lightly. The laziness is not just a matter of being unable to afford travel. The laziness is deeply ingrained careerist intellectual rot.

But I think that Julian and most folks in the Western world (including Greenwald) are going to get quite a wake-up call. At least 1/3 of the world has extremely different fundamental values from the typical reader of Op-Ed News. At least 1/3 doesn't mind the idea of slavery, believes one-man religious dictatorship is ordained by god, wants to keep women as voiceless childbearing units, and would be very happy if everyone in the first world died a horrible death. We only see this in our sphere as people who are in the wack-job fringe. We don't experience it as the fundamental context of our lives. Their values being different, what they will create will be rather different than liberal ideals.

People look at what is going on in Egypt and Tunisia and it is all very exciting and wonderful. How fine and photogenic it is to see twenty-something's demanding this and that. But few notice that these two nations have been the least autocratic, they have had governance closest to what people like Greenwald would want to live in. Yes, they were effectively dictatorships and they didn't do things our way exactly, but overall, governance was the best in the region and that is why their regimes fell. What will they create in the next ten years? That is anyone's guess. But I am not sanguine. I am hopeful, but I doubt my hopes will be realized.

Now we have Libya, and events there are providing cover from the PR war in big media for other, less unpleasant autocrats that have dropped off the media's radar. Some in Libya are educated and some are definitely not in any sense we recognize. I've met boys in the region who make the hicks from "Deliverance" seem like cultured college professors and some of them are rather photogenic too. Give them a gun and a knife and they will happily pose with their foot on your chest holding your severed head up with a grin for the camera.

Don't get me wrong, Gadhafi is one of he most evil men to survive the 20th century. Foday Sankoh, the monster who had his revolutionaries cut off hands and feet to terrorize Sierra Leone was a graduate of Gadhafi's school for revolutionaries. Gadhafi has been behind a great deal of the genocidal work in Sudan. I cannot help but hope he and everyone around him dies as horribly as those they slaughtered. But I am not so naive as to think that what replaces him will necessarily be better.

History shows that evolution moves along toward better lives. Revolution usually does not. Revolution is exciting and makes great copy, but it is rare that it succeeds in doing anything but handing a new jackal a harsh grip on power. Sometimes those new dictator types aren't too bad, as in Cuba, Egypt, Bolivia or Tunisia. Sometimes the society can evolve into something better with peaceful transitions as in Chile or Bolivia. The society they create can have some excellent aspects and we are remiss not to acknowledge those things. Castro did good things, so did the wealthy family that ran Tunisia, and so did Mubarak. But they didn't do them with entirely clean hands. Usually, what revolutions create must wait long past the new jackal's death for evolution to kick in and move the society into a better place. Look at Mao and China, or Lenin and Stalin in the USSR.

Revolutions tend to be fed by youthful demographics. The youngest have the most confidence, and they want to fight. It's exciting when young to go out on the streets and be free of adult supervision, doing wild and crazy things. I have heard adults reminisce fondly over adolescent hi-jinks during civil war. Young people want to go out and do grand things and at that age, death is something to laugh at.

In Farsi there is a word for these times we see in he middle east, "Harj-O-Marj."   It means society turning upside down. The middle east has known this for millennia, it is an ancient pattern dating back to the god-kings of Persia. We liberal democrats of the west are a very new thing in the world. We are the outgrowth of the protestant reformation and the renaissance. And most of us liberal democrats are quite provincial, firmly ensconced in our absolute belief that most people share our values at a deep level. We just cannot conceive that huge swaths of people really don't share basic values. But seriously, they don't. So I am very mixed. We shall see where things go, and that is about all I can say with confidence.

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John Toradze is the pen name of a scientist who ran an office in Tbilisi, Georgia for 5 years and traveled widely in Russia the former USSR nations and nearby. I have authored chapters for books published by the West Point terrorism center on (more...)
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