@DS 1 - DS 1's unfavourable views about Assange are poles apart from the majority of replies.
THIS WAS WRITTEN AS A REPLY TO DS 1's COMMENTS BUT HE'S PULLED THE REPLY.
IT SEEMS A SHAME, AS HIS REPLY WAS ONE OF THE FEW GOOD COGENT COMMENTS FROM THOSE WHO OPPOSE WIKILEAKS AND ASSANGE. HAVING IT WOULD HAVE PRESERVED SOME BALANCE.
AS I'VE SAID IN THE TEXT, DS 1 IS A GOOD WRITER AND DESERVES TO BE READ EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE WITH HIM. THUS, I'D URGE HIM TO REPOST IT.
DS 1's unfavourable views about Assange are poles apart from the majority who've replied to this El Reg post. However, his opinions about Assange are very cogently argued* and they encompass many of the core arguments espoused by Assange's main critics. Whether you're for or against Assange, his reply deserves to be read.
I do not intend to comment on the points raised in his reply, rather I want to draw the reader's attention to how diametrically opposed they are to those who favour Assange. In microcosm, these El Reg replies have the same degree of extreme polarisation that we are now seeing across Western democracies in many important issues, the US being the most prominent country although the UK and Australia etc. are not far behind. Thirty or forty years ago, such divergent worldviews only existed between countries and differing political systems--capitalism and communism for instance--now such wide divergences of view are commonplace within democracies. In fact, we have to go back to the 1930s before we see anything comparable.
Whether it's health care, education, taxes, abortion, creation science, climate change, immigration, pharmaceutical patents, ACTA, WIPO--intellectual property and copyright, or whether we go to war or not, or whether governments should share secrets with other governments yet exclude their own citizenry, a common consensus is unlikely to exist nowadays. Instead, polarisation over many issues has hit such heights that democracy is becoming unworkable: elections are no longer arbiters as losers simply refuse to accept policies decided upon by the majority and they deliberately set about to publicly undermine and subvert them by every means possible (the US Tea Party's antics for example).
I won't speculate why this extreme divergence of opinion has taken place, but with the lack of consensus across so many fronts, facts indicate that the US is now essentially ungovernable and other countries are moving this way. For example, the vehement opposition to Obama on just about everything has made him a lame duck president: sure, he was popularly elected but a common widespread consensus on policy did not follow, in fact, opponents have actively undermined his agenda.
Democracy, more than any other political system, requires people of good will to cooperate for it to work. Once, minor abuses to the democratic process such as an official's abuse of power or trust, would have little bearing on the general will of the citizenry, but with the ongoing and widespread erosion of consensus on so many fronts there's ample evidence that democracy is beginning to crack at the seams. (Inevitable compromises leave too many citizens unsatisfied--as the saying goes, try to please all and you'll please none).
Combine that lack of a widespread consensus with the increasing complexities (and often questionably undemocratic workings) of modern governments such as increasing government secrecy, carefully managed spin and propaganda from politicians and government officials, politicians found rorting the kitty, governments in secret deals with corporations, the starting of questionable wars etc., thus it's not surprising that citizens in Western democracies have developed an almost universal disrespect for and distrust of their political leaders.
Into this existing mess came 911, and tragically, the terrorists won much more out of it than Western leaders would ever admit although probably not in ways they expected. The terrorists might not have achieved their stated aims but by enlarging existing cracks in democracy, we citizens have lost much. We've lost freedoms that were already tenuous, we're subject to extra surveillance and monitoring, air travel is almost unbearable and so on. In response, our democracies have not behaved well. Those in power, usually under the cover of secrecy, have had no compunction in deviating from the Jeffersonian democratic model. Take Abu Ghraib as just one instance. All up, things are considerably worse now in Western democracies than they were before 911.
Thus, it's hardly surprising that all this is fertile ground for the formation of organizations such as WikiLeaks. Moreover, had it not been for 911 then WikiLeaks would never have gained access to these US diplomatic documents.
In reality, WikiLeaks is not the cause of the trouble; rather it's a combination by-product of this democratic malaise and a new Internet way of doing politics. Blaming WikiLeaks totally when it's at the end of events is simply hypocrisy and or false logic. However, it is by no means neutral, it's a political player as any other, which is what anyone would expect. The fact that it fortuitously came across a goldmine of information through the incompetence of others then published it is exactly what any number of newsagencies would have and have done (witness the NYT et al).
Criticism from governments of WikiLeaks and Assange is exactly what we would expect. Moreover, it will be relentless but seemingly reasonable propaganda that will 'manufacture consent' in the eyes of the citizenry to legitimise the government's future actions as well as to neutralise the damage of its monumental incompetence. As they regroup, expect to see governments use every trick imaginable from the classic propaganda textbook, http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/goeb54.htm, and then some. It will be very dirty and unethical.
Probably at no other time in history has the democratic service--this 'undemocratic' part of democracy--been exposed so comprehensively. It, along with the often-secret process of negotiating international treaties, is out of bounds to ordinary citizens. Moreover, the process ratifying treaties through parliaments is a sham, as parliamentary members are rarely a part of the negotiating process, thus in practice they've little option but to vote to ratify. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, once signed, treaties are forever locked out of the political process, changing them is essentially impossible.
Although the contents of some of WikiLeaks documents will be of interest, what's absolutely relevant is proof positive of how the diplomatic systems actually work. Although common knowledge before the leak, insight was gained only through insinuation and innuendo, thus always plausibly deniable by the diplomatic protagonists, now its operational methodology is undeniable. Thus, it's possible the diplomatic process could be forced to account for itself in the political domain which is open and public. Essentially, the leaks have changed the paradigm, in future diplomats may have to explain their actions in public, secrecy may no longer be the order of the day.
What's at stake here is nothing less than the power and authority of the elites who actually run the world. The fact these leaks have become known to popular culture means that the game play-out will be as dirty as it gets. People who have power usually fight to keep it.
It's just possible that what we are witnessing here with WikiLeaks, the protests and retaliation through the denial of service attacks, and the threat of the Pirate Bay co-founder to start a P2P-based DNS to take on (bypass) ICANN might just be the beginnings of a new political process. If that ever eventuates, then Assange will end up as either a martyr or political hero.
Maybe we've been cursed to live in interesting times.
* As are DS 1's other posts (this writer always presents well-reasoned arguments in El Reg).