07 December 2010

The tree of knowledge of good and evil

Glenn Greenwald has as usual been doing a bang-up job on the war on Wikileaks. It's essential to read all of it, but I have only a couple things to add.

1) Visa, MasterCard, Paypal, Amazon; all private companies, all have joined the government's war on Wikileaks without any formal orders from said government. The tremendous power wielded by these corporations has made it more difficult for Wikileaks to receive funding despite the fact that the organization has never been charged or convicted of any crime. What they are doing is strictly vigilante justice, and it ought to worry anyone--regardless of their personal feelings about Wikileaks--who worries about excessive power of the government and the small private elite to unofficially prosecute class enemies.

Then there is the contradiction that seems to underlie much of the liberal tut-tutting about Wikileaks; which is that a) nothing in the leaks tells us anything we don't already know and b) it's dangerous and jeopardizes diplomacy somehow despite everything already being known. Justin of Americana has an interesting theory which is as good as anything I've heard to explain this (lots of other great posts there as well).
What wikileaks is debunking in its 'non-disclosure' disclosures, as the above esteemed members of the media call them, is the faith in the government's massive reservoir of complete information and wisdom. The leaks are revealing the belief that 'the authorities must know something we don't' is an absurd fantasy. In a perverse way, if the leaks truly contained bombshells of information that have were complete surprises and recast previously held opinions about government actions around the globe in a different light, then that would be less of an attack on the government's credibility. It turns out that government officials know about as much as the rest of us, often even less owing to the inherently blinding effects of power, and their pathological behavior is no more than it seems.
Indeed. The surprising thing is how much we actually know about how the American empire works, and how little it matters because of the networks of pressures that exist to make that knowledge invisible to most of the public. Even Jon Stewart referenced this recently.
I think you're underestimating how cynical Americans are about our government already. We've engineered coups in Chile, Iran, Guatemala, etc. We sold arms to Iran and used the money to fund Central American revolutionaries. We sell weapons to our enemy's enemy, who then somehow becomes our enemy and forces us to defend ourselves from our own weapons. It takes a lot to impress us. You really should read up on the shit we already know about us.
Yet most people probably don't know much about any of these things. Even though the facts aren't really disputed even by foreign policy professionals, the many, many excellent books on these topics from the Unserious are waived away as Trilateral Commission-esque conspiracy mongering in any public forum. It's the American Miracle! Why does the government need to suppress its dirty laundry when everyone knows that if you wish to maintain a good public face you'll ignore it? Are you a young journalist or academic who wants to write about your Unserious conclusions? Then forget about ever being published in the elite media or getting a comfortable think tank sinecure. Worried that donating to Wikileaks might make you a criminal even though the government has nothing but vague threats hanging over your head? Mission accomplished!

As you likely know, Julian Assange has been arrested in what must be a record for the most enthusiasm any international police force has ever displayed over a rape case. I endorse this post by Pink Scare for those who have mixed feelings about this. The charges against Assange are serious if true, though it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility that they are being completely worked. The timing certainly is.