WikiLeaks Paywall?

A javascript donation widget that has been inserted into Wikileaks documentation file pages has created a bit of a stir. First, the technicalities. It is an IFrame widget that relies on javascript to create a DOM modal window that features a YouTube “Campaign Video.” Below the video are buttons for donation, facebook share and Twitter tweet. Clicking on any of the buttons will write to a browser cookie that will(although not instantaneously) de-activate the overlay on a timeout. Of course, the client-side javascript “protection scheme” can easily be bypassed by disabling javascript in the browser(which is what I did on the “internet blackout day” because all the blackout sites relied on simple client-side protection schemes).

My criticism of the scheme is that it is bad UI code. The implementation is not a paywall but the code is written in a way that assumes the payment option. The de-activation works on a timeout which is consistent with the time it would take to complete a payment transaction in a form submission. By the time you complete a transaction, the overlay will be “de-activated” vis a vis the cookie query. However, if you select the “share options,” the overlay doesn’t destroy right away which makes it appear you are being fucked with. Very cheesy…

However, the video provides a fine wine with your cheese. It is pure libertarian class analysis. Voting is meaningless. Ostensible political reformers of the system will be captured and betray their claims. The only worthwhile collective action is alternative mechanisms. Right on, brother…

The criticism of Assange turning Wikileaks into a one-man show is a bit hollow. It is indeed a disappointment that there has not been a proliferation of WikiLeaks-like organizations. Document-sourced journalism has stalled. But there are reasons for this–reasons that I have discussed in previous posts. For one, not too many people ar eager to meet Assange’s fate of being an Enemy of the State. Unfortunately, anonymous platform crowd-sourcing has proven to be neither an attractor of leaks nor a disseminator of leaks into the public consciousness. No one who risks their liberty and life by leaking damning information is going to submit to an anonymous platform that keeps the identity of the entity behind it a secret. And crowd-sourcing document dumps has proven hitherto not to be a particularly fruitful model.

In short, “crypto-anarchism” has to play a “media game.” And it requires a degree of expertise and reputation to bring the secrets to light. It requires a type of political entrepreneurship. Julian Assange figured that out. His reward for being a revolutionary is not only the designation of “Enemy of the State,” for which he pays a heavy price, but to be also subjected to a barrage of whiny moral foundations of revolutionary politics.


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