Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Opinion: Kenya: Wikileaks Reveals Hypocrisies of Those in Power

Esther Dyson    15 December 2010

If institutions are not fully accountable, it is useful to have an unaccountable countervailing institution to reveal their secrets.

In fact, the Wikileaks model is fairly sensible: it solicits documents from anyone, assesses whether they are real, and posts them with alerts to the establishment press, which operates as de facto gatekeeper to the masses.

After all, how many people actually visit the Wikileaks originals?
Few, compared to the millions who see them interpreted in the mass media.
Release 1.0's Esther Dyson. This photograph wa...
Esther Dyson
What about the possibility of endangering lives?  What about real secrets about terrorists and delicate negotiations?  By all accounts, that point has not been reached. If it is, I would support throttling Wikileaks' revelations...and most media would not republish its content.  The irony is that little has been revealed that we didn't know already.  What we're getting is the details - the personal comments, the texture of diplomats' lives and those of the people they watch, the horrible toll of war and its daily indignities, the hypocrisies and lies of those in power.  Will all this make us more cynical rather than more demanding?  Will it make governments more opaque rather than more transparent?  Are we headed for an era of more paranoia about secrets, including less sharing of useful information?

Foster transparency

If the cure is to be worse than the disease, to quote Personal Democracy Forum co-founder Andrew Rasiej, let's find a better cure: let's make the proper distinction between what should be secret and what everyone knows.

Let's foster more transparency about the institutions that have power over us so that a Wikileaks is no longer necessary or justifiable.  So far, little damage has been done - and little positive change accomplished.
The US reaction has been over the top. It called on Amazon to cancel its contract with Wikileaks, while PayPal shut off Wikileaks' account - apparently without even being asked.  Why is it that the call for transparency seems to apply only to countries that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits, rather than to the one that she represents?  I recently talked with an establishment stalwart who told me how much more difficult these leaks will make it for the US diplomatic corps to accomplish its putatively worthy goals.
But is diplomatic convenience really so important?

In the long run, Wikileaks matters for two reasons. The first is that we need a better balance of power between people and power.  Second, we do want to trust our governments and institutions.
Dyson is chairman of EDventure Holdings.

View the original article here
Source:  Business Daily (Nairobi)

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