Wikileaks and the Long Haul « Clay Shirky

My personal view is that there is too much secrecy in the current system, and that a corrective towards transparency is a good idea. I don’t, however, believe in total transparency, and even more importantly, I don’t think that independent actors who are subject to no checks or balances is a good idea in the long haul.

If the long haul were all there was, Wikileaks would be an obviously bad thing. The practical history of politics, however, suggests that the periodic appearance of such unconstrained actors in the short haul is essential to increased democratization, not just of politics but of thought.

This is pretty much my view as well – while releasing diplomatic cables doesn’t achieve the kind of net good that, say, releasing evidence of war crimes does; in the face of an increasingly secretive and high-handed State it is a useful corrective, a reminder to politicians and power-brokers that they are not entirely free of accountability.

I also agree with Clay that when the U.S. goes after Wikileaks and Assange extralegally – by leaning on Amazon and PayPal and the Swedish government – they lose the moral high ground along with their credibility. If Wikileaks is really “antidemocratic” then surely the government does not have to route around democratic institutions like the rule of law in order to combat it.

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