Re: How naïve can you be?


The implication that secrets kept by democratic governments are inherently legitimate is particularly odd since the article seems to focus largely on the Iraq massacre video.

Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-31-10 9:56 PM
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Complete publicity makes it impossible to "govern." All government is rooted in the thought that there are a certain few who have superior insight, who see so much father into the future that they are able to govern. Complete publicity, on the other hand, is rooted in the thought that all should rule.

There are none who understand this better than the gentlemen of the press. No institution has been more anxious to set the seal of secrecy upon its entire domestic economy: the identity of its contributors, the nature of its purposes, etc., all the while insisting that the processes of government ought to be public. And quite consistently. For the underlying idea of the press has been to do away with "government"--in order to secure the powers of government for itself; and for this reason it has attempted to secure to itself the secrecy without which it is impossible to "govern."

Posted by: kierkegaard | Link to this comment | 05-31-10 11:54 PM
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Plus, the strength of WikiLeaks is in part strength against not-quite-legal tactics being used against it: encryption, etc., guard against retaliation by entities affected by its publications by means other than lawsuits. I'm kind of unsure what abuses the author of the article is thinking of that WikiLeaks might perpetrate that, but for the probable financial (and political) consequences, a newspaper mightn't—freedom of the press is a right, after all, and I don't think Khatchadourian is concerned about, say, libel.

(Though I admit I don't know the nature and extent of the legal issues surrounding, e.g., the publication of the Pentagon Papers or what would happen these days (nothing good, I assume) if a paper tried to print classified or whatever documents.)

Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 12:36 AM
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But, you know, best country ever.

Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 7:27 AM
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I like this post, Neb.

I will therefore be oracular in the comments: you all mark my words, what we are seeing now is a global stepping-up of violence against international observers and journalists which is part of a stepping-up of violence against popular and independence movements of all sorts. This has been coming since the shooting of a protester at the Genoa anti-globalization protests in 2001. It is of a piece with the violent repression of the Zapatistas and indigenous movements in Mexico.

The flotilla wasn't attacked by mistake or as a tactical error; it was attacked precisely because it was a flotilla filled with supplies and staffed by international observers, just as an international observer was shot alongside a community organizer in mid-May in Oaxaca. The goal is to scare away the international observers. Similarly, left and independent journalists have been targeted by Western/industrialized powers much more in recent years. (If I were that wikileaks guy, I'd be getting as much physical security as I could, and I'd have a really up-to-date will.)

There are two things going on (from my anarchist standpoint): one is that the financial crisis is getting wider and worse, and the other is that resistance/anti-state movements are gaining traction. As the financial crisis worsens, states worry more about keeping the lid on domestic unrest and become more willing to use violence; states and their corporate allies are also eager to use the crisis to tighten up security and limit media access. The financial crisis has also revealed many of the usual channels as corrupt or ineffective--the Democratic Party, many unions, etc. The very rich in government and at the helms of big corporations are anxious to protect their investments and social position; they are willing to make alliances and use tactics that they wouldn't normally consider.

Because many reform channels no longer work and the crisis is pressing, radical movements and critiques of the state gain traction. Because the state is not responsive, activist rhetoric turns toward 'doing it yourself'--ie, humanitarian caravans, occupations, factory takeovers. Sometimes people hope that these tactics will engage the state--ie, you have a humanitarian aid caravan so that the state will be forced to take a side and will be ashamed to side against you--but the basic result is that activist groups are taking on newer and bigger projects that are a direct challenge to the authority of the state. The Zapatistas were an early example; the autonomous communities that are under violent attack in Mexico are other examples, as are various indigenous movements worldwide.

States do not want non-state actors to be able to break blockades; states do not want other states to use non-state actors as proxies.

The result is real violence used against first world activists on a new scale. I personally expect this to continue and worsen. I expect more police shootings, too, for related reasons.

First it was radical environmental activists, then "terrorists"; now it's the peace brigade. It probably won't be the commentariat personally ever, and it probably won't be me (although as someone who has filmed (less dramatic) police violence, that flotilla footage gives me a hell of a chill). But it will be more people, more visible and respectable people. And I think the temptation will be very great to look away or to minimize what is happening, to say that it's "just" radicals or "just" native people, when really there are quite a few radicals and native people outside the respectable social worlds.

Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 8:15 AM
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What the Times means is really straightforward. Suppressing information is good when we do it, and bad when other people do it. This goes along with all the other important distinctions that prop up American nationalism. Car bombs are terrorism, but aerial bombing and drone attacks are legitimate warfare. Castro is a cruel dictator, but Pinochet was a strategic asset.

Of course, every nation does this. (Or do I mean every state does this?) Sometimes I convinced that the most persistent human moral failing isn't a lack of empathy, but a toleration of hypocrisy.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 8:26 AM
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"freedom of the press is a right, after all, and I don't think Khatchadourian is concerned about, say, libel."

Why not? The BBC was sued for libel by Trafigura over the Cote d'Ivoire incident, on the basis that it was going to publish a report which ended up on WikiLeaks. It's perfectly possible to get sued for publishing something official "as is", if that something is defamatory. In English law there are certain limited exemptions, such as fair and accurate reports of court proceedings, but in general simply passing on someone else's libel is no defence.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 8:44 AM
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who see so much father into the future

So it's all about the daddy issues?

Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 9:03 AM
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So it's all about the daddy issues?

Yes. Big Daddy is watching out for you.

Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 9:10 AM
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English libel law is well known to be insane, though.

the Times

The New Yorker.

Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 9:31 AM
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Indeed it is. It also claims jurisdiction over the New York Times and the New Yorker (and WikiLeaks).

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 11:00 AM
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So are suits brought under English libel laws fair?

Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 11:36 AM
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English libel law is indeed insane, but surely one of the lessons of the craziness of English libel law is that super-relaxed libel laws on the NY Times v. Sullivan model aren't actually that important to democracy or a free press.

Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 11:49 AM
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You gloom me, Frowner.

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 11:59 AM
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So are suits brought under English libel laws fair?

Some yes, some no. The problem is that the unfair suits are a) just as likely to succeed as fair suits, and b) devastatingly expensive to the defendant even if they fail. Well, those aren't the only problems, but they are big problems. English libel law is indeed a deterrent against abuse. It's also a deterrent against aggressive but accurate reporting and, these days, open scientific debate.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 6:24 PM
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English libel law has apparently been invoked against plagiarism-accusers.

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06- 1-10 11:06 PM
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