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WikiLeaks Quo Vadis?

Updated on February 11, 2011

WikiLeaks has just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. It is true that, as an organization and a collective, they are doing a good and valuable job.

Let's hope, however, that the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee - and WikiLleaks themselves - have the good sence not to mix up the work of WikiLeaks with the private behaviour of Julian Assange and Israel Shamir.

These two have been acting in a very blameworthy way, not to say a stupid one.

Julian Assange has misbehaved sexually. (I won't call his behaviour "rape", as he isn't judged yet. Perhaps he is guilty of rape, perhaps he is not; perhaps he is guilty according to Swedish law but not according to British, or vice versa. Perhaps the ladies who are accusing him are secret agents of the CIA, perhaps they are not. Perhaps the Swedish prosecutor has acted wrongly, perhaps - less likely, I think - she has not.) We should wish him a fair trial - nothing more, nothing less.

Israel Shamir has expressed both his personal antisemitism, and his personal support for the Belarusan dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

WikiLeaks' enemies will, of course, try to confuse the merits of the organization with the private behaviour of people like Assange and Shamir.

A natural defence of WikiLeaks would be to insist on not confusing the two. They could, for example, stress the fact that the accusations against Assange in Sweden have, according to the Swedish prosecutor, nothing to do with WikiLeaks; it is about his sexual behaviour towards two Swedish ladies, and whether he is guilty or not is a question separated from WikiLeaks.

The alleged rape also has nothing to do with the accusations against Assange in the USA, by Hillary Clinton and others. These accusations are not only extremely stupid, they also show a totalitarian tendency that many do not think is characteristic of the USA (but perhaps it is).

WikiLeaks could also stress that they, as an organization, have nothing to do with Shamir's antisemitism or his support for Lukashenko. After all, human history is full of examples of a brilliant genius with a doubtful personal morality.

Unfortunately, WikiLeaks does neither. They ask for support for WikiLeaks, and for support for Julian Assange, and don't make clear that these are two different things, that is it perfectly possible, and perfectly legitimate, to support one but not the other.

I've got a certain impression that WikiLeaks may at present be led by a group of highly specialized people who know a lot within a limited field, but who are less knowledgeable when they are forced to leave that field.

It might also seem as if WikiLeaks is not content to show us the ex-secret documents, but would also like to tell us how these documents should be interpreted. If they do so, they don't understand how serious journalism works. They may also have an exaggerated view of their own competence. I think they are good whistle-blowers, but not very good analysts.

Let's hope that the members of WikiLeaks will be wiser than their leaders, and put them in place. Let's hope that WikiLeaks will transfer responsibility to more responsible persons.

Or, if that turns out to be impossible, that the good work initiated by WikiLeaks will be continued by other organizations with a better judgment. (there are already some WikiLeak clones around.)

Internet was once initiated by Pentagon. The appearance of WikiLeaks showed that Pentagon at the time didn't understand what they were starting.

Perhaps WikiLeaks, too, don't understand what they have started.

Let's hope the process will continue, even if WikiLeaks themselves are not competent to lead it.

And quite regardless whether they do receive the Nobel Prize or (more probably, I'm afraid) not.


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