Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wikileaks and the Flat World

I read Tom Friedman so you don't have to: he's waxing wroth on the alternatives to a strong America, notably a China less than embracing human rights. He includes, amongst those who might enter the power vacuum a weakened America would create, empowered individuals such as the Wikileaks folk:

As for the superempowered individuals — some are constructive, some are destructive. I read many WikiLeaks and learned some useful things. But their release also raises some troubling questions. I don’t want to live in a country where they throw whistle-blowers in jail. That’s China. But I also don’t want to live in a country where any individual feels entitled to just dump out all the internal communications of a government or a bank in a way that undermines the ability to have private, confidential communications that are vital to the functioning of any society. That’s anarchy.

--A casual equation of Wikileaks to an economic superpower whose population is roughly a fourth of humanity. Now, that's breathtaking, mind-bogglingly stupid. And, too, not 'zackly consistent with what most of us would call journalism, though entirely consistent with, say, Tim Russert's assurance to sources that they're off the record in default.

Aside from which, it's hardly clear that private conversations which reflect a divergence between public assertions of decency at some odds with actual beliefs and practices should at all be privileged and private. There's little, if any, popular interest in private documents which only reinforce a public appearance of decency. If the only alternative to maintaining the privacy of conduct which, if viewed in the light of day, would appall the general citizenry is anarchy, that's an extraordinary indictment of the governments and business entities for which it's true. Friedman goes on to extol America's 'core values' as essential to America's role in the world. The revelation of a wide divergence between public and private values, on the other hand, is, we're told, as much a threat to governance as an essential check on wrongdoers.


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