Monday, December 27, 2010

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks - Before the Current Hoohah

There's been a lot of global attention on WikiLeaks these days. Various authorities are positioning Julian Assange as a villain and a threat to national interests. I am not sure that this is a complete assessment of the man and what he has done.

Let me state clearly that at this point I am neither for nor against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. I'm just an observer who believes that every story has two sides, and I for one would like to hear both sides so that I can make up my own mind.

Here's a series of videoclips from a Security conference held in KL in 2009 ... way before the Dec 2010 revelation of US diplomatic cables. I believe this talk gives us a better sense of the man and his thinking.  Take a look and judge for yourself ...

Videoclip 1 or 8

Videoclip 2 of 8

Videoclip 3 of 8

Videoclip 4 of 8

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Videoclip 6 of 8

Videoclip 7 of 8

Videoclip 8 of 8

I hope you made it through some if not all of those videos. These and more like them are readily available on YouTube.  I certainly learnt a lot from watching them. I feel it helps me to think through what the whole controversy is about. Is what Wikileaks did right or wrong? Is it legal or illegal? Why did Julian Assange do it? What are the implications on political reform and public sector reform? What are the implications for Asian governments?


Anonymous said...

thanks for pulling this together. informative talk.

Ken said...

WikiLeaks started with the right intent, to inform the public of undisclosed information of things that governments do that are not in the interest of the general public and probably should not be allowed.

In his own words, people in democratic western governments will leak documents if they see something is not right. I believe (perhaps naively) that democraticly elected governments have within them honest people that are willing to expose the wrong. But I also believe, just as there are honest public servants, there are those that will release political sensitive documents for less altruistic reasons.

Being of a Scientific background, Assange should be well aware that the evidence must present the facts, that hypothesis must be tested before it can be fact.

When you believe something to be absolutely true, you will see evidence or manipulate evidence to fit your hypothesis and you ignore all evidence to the contrary. That is how all conspiracy theories start.

WikiLeaks publishes the information thus has taking on a role that the general mass media should be doing.

More recently, it seems to me WikiLeaks has simply publish documents it had possession of for the sake of it rather than because it has significant information of government corruption.

Perhaps Assange is a publicity junky, what ever the reason, WikiLeaks seems to be under some pressure to have the next government corruption sensation.
Lacking that he's released confidential diplomatic communiqu├ęs which proves no government corruption, but rather shows that political assessments made in confidence are honest opinions not political correctness, as it should be. Diplomacy is about be able to present a friendly front so world leaders still could talk to each other. Diplomacy is about preventing war, which Julian Assange seems to want. Diplomacy achieves it by not revealing everything -ie. keep things secret (shock! horror!). Honest and accurate political assessments also allow governments to make decisions like advising against travel to, or evacuate its citizens from potentially hostile situations.
For WikiLeaks to undermine this process, I believe risks more than it reveals.

Like the media, WikiLeaks, under pressure to release "news" has now become a trashy tabloid, publishing anything it can get its hands on that people are willing to read. In that one stroke, in my opinion, it has ceased to be relevant.

James Yong said...

Thanks Ken. Very good insights. Agree with many of your points, although I'm not as certain that WikiLeaks has ceased to be relevant. May be too early to pronounce judgement. Just my opinion.