WikiLeaks Watch 12/14/2010

According to Politico, Glenn Greenwald has resigned from the progressive watchdog “Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington” over a recent opinion piece by the group’s chief counsel, Anne Weismann, published in the Huffington Post.

Writes Greenwald in his resignation letter:

The recent condemnation of WikiLeaks by Anne Weismann, purporting to speak on behalf of CREW, is both baffling and unacceptable to me. It is baffling because I cannot fathom how a group purportedly devoted to greater transparency in government could condemn an entity that has brought more transparency to governments and corporations around the world than any single other organization by far. And it is unacceptable to me because I believe defense of WikiLeaks has become one of the greatest and most important political causes that exists — certainly one to which I intend to devote myself — and I do not want to be affiliated with any group which works to undermine it.

I took the opportunity to peruse the piece by Weismann, and it’s just a regurgitation of same oft repeated tripe: Daniel Ellsberg is good; WikiLeaks is bad because it is ideologically motivated. I found this wonderful little piece at FireDogeLake which makes use a scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall to drive home an obvious point. In that scene, Allen, while standing in for movie tickets, humorously breaks out of the camera subjective narrative mode to produce Marshall McLuhan from behind a movie poster to shut up a “Marshall McLuhan know-it-all bloviator” in the movie line that was irritating Allen. After McLuhan denounced the man as an idiot and fool who knew nothing of his work, Allen sighs to the camera: “Boy, if life were only like this.” But as the author of the FireDogLake piece points out, in this case, real life is like this. Daniel Ellsberg is all over the place making it clearly and passionately known that he considers WikiLeaks to be in the same vein as the Pentagon Papers. So rather than Weismann on Ellsberg, how about Ellsberg on Ellsberg…

This talking point of “ideological motivations” is silly. Most journalistic organizations mix opinion journalism with investigative journalism. They all have their editorial pages. The last time I checked, the New York Times had one, too.


Forbes has interesting piece that discusses the “WikiLeaks’ Copycats” that are now springing up. In an older piece, I argued that if the WikiLeaks’ political hack proved resilient, there would be competing firms who would soon enter this space.

From Forbes:

If even a fraction of the leaking sites that are beginning to surface prove credible and secure, then WikiLeaks may end up having an even larger impact than the government- and business-shaking leaks it’s already revealed; It may have planted the seeds for an entire new generation of secret-spilling sites.

I’m reminded of the shilling of Establishment media that the internet had effectively rendered “news” a “public good” that thusly necessitated a “public subsidy.” It was a bad idea when this talking point started making the rounds, and, if anything, WikiLeaks serves to reinforce just how bad this idea is(making a mockery of the “reassurance” that “subsidy” won’t compromise the independence of reporting, opinion and investigative). But an underlying concept that people perhaps will begin to pick up on, a concept that I discussed in this post, WikiLeaks: The Revolutionary as Entrepreneur, is that document-sourced journalism is an entrepreneurial space. WikiLeaks destroys the argument that the internet has made “news” a “public good” that therefore requires it to be government subsidized if we are going to have a “public service” of investigative reporting. Nonsense. WikiLeaks is the “free-market” solution that resolves this supposed “dilemma.” A fully populated entrepreneurial space of document-sourced journalism will open up plenty of new entrepreneurial avenues for traditional journalistic organizations as well and keep them plenty busy.

In this sense, this goes back to the question of old-school French Laissez-Faire with regard to political economy: the Bureaucrat vs the Entrepreneur. The bureaucrat or the entrepreneur serving the role as effective regulator. The “bureaucratic solution” is to strengthen espionage laws against free speech, pass new “transparency legislation,” and subsidize news organizations. The Entrepreneurial solution is an “unfettered free market” in document-sourced journalism.

Which do you think is the better solution?


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