Ever since the Wikileaks diplomatic cable story (i refuse to call it cablegate, and so should you!) broke, i’ve been puzzled by the lack of outrage, and seeming bored acceptance.What the cables seem to tell us is that it is standard operating procedure for governments, neé democracies, around the world to lie to their citizens, and break local and international laws if it is convenient for americans and their corporations.
As i’m writing this i can already hear the tired sighs of the oh so jaded generations, “Yes”, they’ll wearily intone, “we know. It’s always been like this, how could you be so naive as to think that they were trying to do anything but line their own pockets?!” Well, guess what? That’s not the point, of course it has always been obvious that this was going on. The inherent corruption in our corporatist, quasi-democracy, kleptocracies is plainly obvious to anyone who is willing to imagine what is behind current events. What the Wikileaks cables change is that there is no longer any need to imagine! It’s out in the open that, for example:
- governments know that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are lost. That they’ll leave behind large scale corruption, destroyed infrastructure, and a people with no hope.
- the US is actively encouraging European governments to spy on their citizens for the benefit of american corporations.
- the US Secretary of State thinks is fine to collect the biometric and other personal data of UN staff.
- the prior and current UK government are willing to do almost anything to maintain a positive relationship with the US even if it means lying / evading the truth in parliament and public inquiries.
The list goes on and on, despite making a concerted effort to read a few cables every day, the shear volume and scope of the material makes it hard to feel like you are really making a dent in it…
In the last couple of weeks another, and perhaps more worrying, aspect of this story has been the quiet projection of power by the system. All of the people who are find themselves unable to summon the necessary outrage at the revelations in cables perhaps might manage to get a little worked up about how effortlessly the US has worked to isolate Wikileaks from it supporters. The initial attacks on the internets infrastructure (DNS, DDoS, ISP, Cloud hosting services) were pretty crude, but then things got really ugly with the likes of Visa, Mastercard, & PayPal obviously caving into pressure. This attempt to isolate Wikileaks from funding is chilling – not only have they not been convicted of breaking any laws, they are not even charged with so doing!
As this piece in The Atlantic makes clear, we are at a critical point:
During these past weeks, rather than a nerd takeover, I saw the crumbling of the facade of a flat, equal, open Internet and the revelation of an Internet which has corporate power occupying its key crossroads, ever-so-sensitive to any whiff of displeasure by the state. I saw an Internet in danger of becoming merely an interactive version of the television in terms of effective freedom of speech.
If the net is going to stand any chance of avoiding becoming the next co-opted medium used to stuff advertising down the gullets of a placid generation of consumers, this battle is going to have to be fought. As things stand not only has the battle not been joined, the war is as good as lost.
I’ll ask again: where is the outrage?