When Julian Assange revealed the collateral murder video in Washington DC, I was so incredibly glad that someone had finally brought light to the horrors of war. After learning the effect that such reporting could have from the Vietnam war, the US government has essentially taken complete control of war reporting. I was less impressed with Cablegate, which raised a lot of questions for me. Was the publishing of this information simply a manifestation of Assange’s anti-American bent? Was it possible to even view these cables in the proper context? At this point in time, I still sided with Assange and felt that Bradley Manning’s good intentions and idealistic desire for transparency would make for a better world.
WikiLeaks was marginalized and then demonized in a way that shocked me deeply. I was inspired by the response from Anonymous, and quickly shocked by the pure extremism which climaxed with the FBI’s AntiSec sting operation. Likewise, the publishing of Stratfor’s internal e-mails, which were stolen simply out of opportunism and malice, was absolutely horrifying.
WikiLeaks has become a tabloid, cheerleading for Anonymous and publishing snippets of e-mails from Stratfor which are taken wildly out of context. One infamous quotation of George Friedman, CEO of Stratfor, has been misrepresented in a deeply crass and disgusting way. As is the rule for tabloids, outrageous headlines obscure the true story.
The link, of course, leads a tiny minority of readers to a silly e-mail about lunches being stolen from the fridge at Stratfor headquarters. The vast majority of people read the quote and go on to the next tweet, automatically assuming that Stratfor is a bunch of conniving liars. The notion that Stratfor is a “Shadow-CIA” has also spread to all corners of the Internet, although it is a gross misrepresentation at best. Really, Stratfor isn’t nearly as sinister as it might sound.
Supporters of WikiLeaks repeatedly state that Stratfor is a legitimate target for this campaign of forced transparency simply because its business overlaps with the military industrial complex. While I fully agree with the sentiment that the military industrial complex is basically an overgrown monster, is it okay to attack Campbell’s soup for feeding the troops? This simple bad guy/good guy paradigm is obviously not realistic, and the situation is much more complicated. Stratfor provides their services to many corporations, individuals, and government entities both in and outside the United States. Many of these subscribers have been targeted by Anonymous and literally robbed, seemingly for no reason at all. The suggestion that there are important confidential e-mails dripping with scandal and crime has so far proven totally false.
What the Stratfor leaks have revealed, essentially, is that there are a bunch of analysts doing their best to figure out world events and speculating about practically every major happening. Some of these analysts don’t really like Julian Assange, and some of them even make racist statements in private e-mails. On the surface, the Global Intelligence Files appear to be an astounding list of revelations which will keep conspiracy theorists abuzz and WikiLeaks in the public spotlight. At their heart, it’s a sad failure for truth where context has been cut out to push an obvious anti-American agenda.
Right now, you might be thinking, “Hey, but all these tabloids are trying to take down WikiLeaks and smear Assange,” and you’d be totally right. But Assange has fired back, making equally outrageous claims about his detractors. The reductio ad absurdum of Assange’s stance is summarized in the following tweet:
I have considered Assange a genuine agent for positive change and much needed transparency in the past, but this is the tweet that made me realize what WikiLeaks has become: A stupid tabloid with a penchant for the absurd. Look at the web site around you. This is absolutely the Internet’s fastest growing tabloid, featuring intelligent and biting satire. I know what a tabloid does. WikiLeaks has become a tabloid.
I challenge Assange to officially recognize the importance of context. Assange should pony up the $50,000 because I pointed out where he literally destroyed veracity by placing a quotation wildly out of context. And what is truth, if the framework of meaning behind it has been omitted?
A tabloid we may be, but at least we aren’t perniciously cramming a single-minded agenda down your throat by twisting the context of stolen material. Well, I guess we are, but at least our agenda is just all about the laughs. Kinda.