Former senior Wikileaker Daniel Domscheit-Berg
To maintain their momentum, the Assangistas should maintain focus on disarming the Establishment, not disabling it.
The most obvious thing I missed about the emergence of Wikileaks is that it represents the closest we’ve yet come to the online Resistance The Slog has been banging on about for some time. Julian Assange and his often terrifying army are a long, long way from my ideal, but they are at least beginning the process I remain sure is inevitable: that groups of net-based individuals are the only way to chip the gargoyles from their lofty position atop the walls of power.
What we most emphatically don’t need, however, is the loopy-loo tendency making it easy for the powerful to demonise everyone who believes in free speech. Just as ‘tree-hugger’ has become the way to shut up anyone with ecological concerns, so a new word like ‘Wikiwanker’ could have the same effect. So there are, I think, a number of things for Wikileaks and its emulators to bear in mind.
The first is that the American corporate and government mentality doesn’t do either fair or subtle. Its abiding belief is ‘Don’t get mad, get even’. Thus Visa is running ads this morning across the internet, claiming to be ‘the safest way to pay online’. Now there’s a hostage to fortune just waiting for a smack in the mouth if ever there was one: but if I were a Wikileaker today, I’d resist the right-hook temptation in favour of disarming the banking sector rather than disabling it. That is to say, focus on more dirt-dishing – with Bank of America for starters.
Although the Wikileaks support network of online activists yesterday retaliated against Washington bullying by targeting ‘enemy’ firms like Paypal, Mastercard and Visa (the Slog’s prediction came to fruition rather sooner than we thought), further stuff like this could bestow victim status on some of the targets. Sarah Palin’s site was disabled following her placatory remarks about the necessity of ‘hunting down’ Assange like Osama Bin Laden.
I would’ve thought the lady’s site qualified for Special Needs treatment anyway, but Sarah was up and at ’em again last night: “This is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his sick, un-American espionage efforts,” she told ABC News. Remember: 49% of Americans voted for this airhead as their next Vice-President. It’s important to keep them, if not onside, then at least neutral.
As former Wikileaker Daniel Domscheit-Berg wisely told Der Spiegel recently, “Public pressure is part of the endeavour. But this direct confrontation with the USA is not what we intended”. Domscheit-Berg left Wikileaks partly because of Assange’s wacko authoritarian tendencies, and partly because he thinks (as I do) that violent activism is unatractive to most people. “We have concentrated lately only on the big topics and practically all our resources are used for that,” he adds, “due to our increased publicity in the last half year very much new material has been received that needs to be urgently worked on and published. WikiLeaks is very important idea, and I hope that all will work together at something meaningful.”
The US Government has called this one very badly wrong, but a radical shift in direction by Wikileaks now would be a distraction – a parallel, in fact, to Hitler switching in 1940 from bombing British airfields to bombing cities as a retaliation for the RAF’s attack on Berlin. Bizarrely, the best thing the renamed ‘Anonymous’ could do right now is to keep its powder dry: effective revelation of the enemy as a shower of doo-doo is worth a thousand bombing raids – and will be more persuasive among the neutrals.
The likes of Paypal, Amazon, ISPs and domain hosts can shut down as many Wikileaks sites as they like: many times more will keep on sprouting up – a million tall leeks springing leaks until they become a sort of security-secrets version of Heat and Celeb, competing with each other to get the exclusive on why Barack Obama hates Britain so much. This too was proved overnight as Swedish, German, French and Asian sites remained firmly behind the cable-leakers – and notably, Twitter made its active support equally clear. Nothing from Google of course: quelle surprise.
Another question is whether the leaky reservoir of muddy secrets is likely to drown anyone important: like mediaeval witches, they may have the ability to stay afloat no matter how high the Tsunami of duplicity and incompetence revealed.
One such is Gordon Brown, who is to be found giving advice on how to solve the world’s financial problems in the FT this morning. ‘Decline is wholly preventible [sic]’ writes the Greatest Ever Chancellor. All we need is to invest, he suggests. Except that he spent all the Government’s investment money on selling gold, quangos, breeding his own electors through welfare, and bailing out a bunch of banks who had also failed to invest – and who are still broke. So Gordo’s a tad vague on where the money’s coming from. I honestly think there is no leak in the Universe that could faze the Scottish Play.
The old Pink ‘un itself in turn demonstrates the cheek that goes with media/corporate ‘attitude’ these days, telling readers they must quote the source of anything mentioned in its hallowed pages, while still blocking all links back to the site. It’s not just that the Time Lords stick their necks out: they do so in the certainty of their construction from solid brass.
Brass neck is alive and well wherever you look. In a long, long political year, Vince Cable has gone from Uncle Joe Stalin to Mr Hasbeen, and the latest sp is that the silly old beggar will today abstain on the passage of his own student policy. Despite the obvious moral problem he’s ignoring (resign or back it) Mr Livewire still manages to stick to the agonised face he’s been wearing ever since the Cleggerons were formed. Here too, were cable-leaks to become Cable-leaks, it’s hard to imagine anything that might embarrass Vince.
All these examples represent a major problem faced by Ned Assange and his incontinent followers: the bigwigs have no shame. But there is a final possibility they need to weigh up: that the only long-term danger from Wikileaks is big business and government clamping down even harder on the truth. That’s no reason to stop, but it is all the more reason why a nuclear level of genuinely mind-boggling revelation might be required – and soon – rather than nihilistic sabotage attempts.
I’ve already noted that some of the leaked classified data are less than surprising. From here on, the Assangistas need to be a little more discerning. In this morning’s Daily Telegraph, for example, there is a Wikileak describing how everyone lied about Al-Megrahi’s release. This isn’t surprising. But another piece in the same paper shows very clearly the web of corrupt infiltration the Shell company has achieved inside the Nigerian Government. This is extremely damaging for Shell, and can only add to the sense that many political decisions (including Megrahi’ s release) are run by oil companies….with the full knowledge of Washington hypocrites busy denouncing such policies.
There’s an amusing column in the FT this morning by Robert Shrimsley, in which he depicts Assange as a killjoy sitting in the front row of The Mousetrap night after night shouting “The detective did it”. More seriously, if Wikileaks is to take a knife to the necks of these horrid people, it’s going to need a very sharp can-opener – and the commando skills to effect instant death before any cry is heard. Bombing institutions will cause irritation among potential supporters,and result only in escalation.