Pay attention to Wikileaks?
Sam recently wrote about the ethical complexities that arise from the unsanctioned and rather unruly behavior of Wikileaks, a site that has gotten a lot of attention recently for its mass release of documents relating to the war effort in Afghanistan.
He cautioned that Wikileaks, as a non-traditional rogue outfit, should not expect the same standards of treatment in the U.S. that would be accorded to journalistic efforts that go through all the proper channels.
An article in the Wall Street Journal raises similar concerns about the legitimacy of Wikileaks. It portrays Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as “frustrated” that a large percentage of Wikileaks disclosures have been largely ignored by the public, and the latest leak (and accompanying media attention) as an attempt to reignite popular interest.
Setting aside questions about the sensitivity of Wikileaks content and its lack of traditional journalistic methodology, it’s perhaps more troubling to think of this latest leak as a publicity stunt. While the leak itself has generated tons of news, its contents have doubtlessly remained largely unexplored by the individuals Wikileaks purports to serve. Its revelations (the war isn’t going as well as we thought?) are far too banal to justify a media craze about their release.
Wikileaks’ intention in leaking this information is just as important as the information itself. If they did it largely to draw attention to themselves, their actions are both unprincipled and dishonest. Before they continue to blow the whistle on the U.S. government, Wikileaks should take a look at its own practices.
Wikileaks would have a far easier time convincing the public of its fidelity to the principles of open democracy if it acted less carelessly with its information.
Image used under a Creative Commons attribution license from Flickr user jenny8lee.