November 29, 2010

On WikiLeaks: You Force Me to Repeat Myself

I interrupt my work on a new article about WikiLeaks to address this, and especially the concluding paragraph (see links in the original):
Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is an even worse enemy. Anyway, with all respect to Arthur on this*, count me instead with Anglachel as describing this as a giant rat-fucking operation, designed to promote more war. If someone can find any evidence whatsoever that this actually damages the expansion of American imperialism, rather than enhances it, please wake me.

*Who I love and support (and you should too) even when we disagree.
I was going to be extremely pissed off about this, but that very nice note at the end makes it difficult. Drat. :>))

But I remain very annoyed -- because I've already addressed this exact argument in detail. It made up a significant part of my series of articles on WikiLeaks last summer.

Since people obviously don't follow links (and I increasingly doubt whether more than 10 or 20 people read any of my posts when they first appear), I'll repeat part of what I wrote in Part IV of that series:
Many examples make up the lesson, and the trail of murder and suffering crosses the globe, from the Philippines, to Southeast Asia, to Africa, to Central and South America, to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan today, to Iran tomorrow. The United States seeks global hegemony. To justify its quest, the United States invents a series of terrifying threats, all of which, in one way or another, are alleged to be "existential" threats to our very survival. With almost no exceptions at all, the leaders of the American Empire concoct these threats out of nothing.


Consider the fact with great care. With this momentous and endlessly horrifying fact in the forefront of your consciousness, ask yourself: What does it signify that those who seek still further war and conquest will use the Wikileaks material to provide more supposed justification for their murderous actions? To ask the question, to ask it with the nature and history of American Empire in mind, is to see how completely irrelevant it is when evaluating Wikileaks and its work.

Of course they'll use the Wikileaks material to justify their policies. That's what they do. They do it with everything -- and they do it with absolutely nothing. I repeat: That is what they do.

If you want to avoid their using the Wikileaks material, or anything else, to justify their policies, there is one course you can follow, and only one. Henceforth, you can say nothing whatsoever. But if you choose to resist the profound evil committed by the U.S. government, evil which it continues to commit today and will commit again tomorrow, you must reject that course.

To drive the point home, let me express it another way. As demonstrated repeatedly by the historical record and by events today, the leaders of American Empire use everything and even nothing to justify their actions and policies. In this sense, the leaders of American Empire are profoundly irrational and endlessly, murderously destructive. Their arguments are self-contradictory, massively inconsistent, and frequently incoherent. Yet today's leaders of American Empire also possess the most frighteningly powerful weaponry and military in all of history. From this perspective, the Empire has all the power.

In comparative terms (and even in absolute terms), Wikileaks has no capabilities or powers at all -- except for one. And that is the ability to make information available to everyone, information which the otherwise all-powerful leaders of Empire seek to keep secret from those they rule, and from those they seek to subjugate in the future. In this context, and especially when we keep in mind the gaping abyss between the powers of Empire and the single power of Wikileaks, to blame Wikileaks (or anyone similarly situated) for the improper use of the material they release is to blame Wikileaks for someone else's irrationality and immense destructiveness. It is to blame Wikileaks for actions over which Wikileaks has no control whatsoever.

Does that make any sense at all? No, it doesn't.

Beyond this, it is critical to appreciate the further implication. In effect, Forte and others who make the same criticism seek a mediating authority: that is, they seek some means to ensure that leaked material is used only for purposes they view as "good." But this represents a failure to understand the nature of the work to which Wikileaks is devoted, just as it represents a failure to escape the reliance on authority itself. Forte (and others) want authority to serve a purpose that is very different from that of the Empire -- but they still want an authority to make their desired outcome more likely.

But the very purpose of Wikileaks is to challenge any and every authority of this kind. For Wikileaks, the only authority that matters -- the only person who is ultimately entitled to all available information and who properly should judge it -- is you. In this sense, which I submit is the highest and best sense of the term, Wikileaks is a genuine "leveller." It seeks to make each and every individual the ultimate judge of the truth, just as it seeks to empower all people to make the determination as to what course of action is indicated, if any. This, dear reader, is what a real revolution looks like.
I developed these points still more in a subsequent essay.

As for the statement, "If someone can find any evidence whatsoever that this actually damages the expansion of American imperialism..." -- well, Christ, try the whole series (all the entries are linked at the conclusion of that essay). (Oh, links. Never mind.)

As I've been writing this entry, I was struck by one critical issue still another time. The return of this argument -- and, of singular importance, the implied continuing reliance on authority (and again, see this for further discussion on that point) -- demonstrates to me again the extent to which virtually all of us are trained to rely on authority and to obey. The hardest battle most of us will ever fight is to escape the effects of this training.

That, too, was a central theme in my WikiLeaks articles. WikiLeaks' primary purpose is to make information available to everyone. Each one of us can make our own judgments as to what should be done with that information, if anything, and what course of action might be indicated or not. But the kind of complaint conveyed by this Corrente post is precisely the issue I previously addressed: the complaint is that providing vast amounts of information freely to everyone isn't a good idea and might even be a very bad idea -- unless a particular outcome can be assured.

Despite the poster's kind comments about me personally, I will state the conclusion plainly: this completely misses what is most fundamental about WikiLeaks and why its work challenges established authority so profoundly. This particular Corrente poster may want authority to prevent rather than enable further war -- but he still wants some authority to guarantee the result he prefers.

But the WikiLeaks revolution goes far beyond that, and much deeper. The precision of its aim is revealed by the great discomfort experienced even by many of those one might have expected to be sympathetic to WikiLeaks' efforts. A closely related aspect of our training to rely on authority and obey is that we are taught to value control. The idea of losing control is deeply unnerving to many of us, which is why that became the title of a separate essay in the WikiLeaks series (and that's my personal favorite among those articles, for whatever that may be worth).

Still on the issue of how WikiLeaks' work "actually damages the expansion of American imperialism": in addition to much of the earlier series (and all of it, in a general sense), that is also a major subject of the new essay I'm working on. So I should get back to that...