Not Your Father’s Civil Society
Astounding reactions to Cablegate, summed up by some commentators:
Supreme irony as Russian Newspaper пра̑вда (“pravda” = truth), which during the cold war seen as the mouthpiece of the politburo, lectures the US on the importance of freedom of speech.
Reporters without Borders condemns the attacks on Wikileaks: “This is the first time we have seen an attempt at the international community level to censor a website dedicated to the principle of transparency.“
Local boy Richard Ackland criticises it as well. “What precisely is so damaging if citizens know some of the truth? If they know that there was a secret arrangement between US and British officials to subvert the plan to ban cluster bombs…“
In the US public servants are being warned off reading the cables – ie one part of the executive is telling another part of the executive not to read publicly available (albeit still potentially classified) documents. More bizarrely, university students are also being warned not to read the cablegate leaks for fear of never getting a job in the US bureaucracy. Note to bureaucrats: the reason it is classified is to keep it from foreign [you know, not US] interests, not your own citizens who, all other things being equal, have a right to complete transparency of what their agents (ie you) do on their behalf. Further hint: if you want this memo to be of any value you need to send it to foreign public servants/nationals.
Republican Ron Paul talking sense on calls for special legislation to permit the prosecution of Wikileaks: “In a free society we’re supposed to know the truth,” Paul said. “In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it.”
I think perhaps the most important quote is that from Hamid Dabashi (via CNN):
“When the ideals and aspirations of liberal democracies were conceived by the founding fathers of the Enlightenment — predicated on the American and French revolutions — the lives of ordinary citizens were supposed to be private and the operation of the state apparatus transparent.
Over the centuries, liberal democracies have, in effect, reversed that order. Today, the lives of individual citizens are subject to systematic state surveillance, while the states conduct their business in exceedingly secretive, if not dangerous, language and manners they have code-named “diplomacy.””
We are fast becoming a society in which the end justifies the means, where principles and individual freedoms are being suspended in favour of the interest of some group or other. This ain’t your father’s civil society anymore – действительно, мои товарищи.