Growing up in this day and age it’s obvious to see how much the media affects us. All the way from launching animated birds at pigs on the all new iTouch 2, to conducting business calls face to face across the world via your iPhone. This could be just the Steve Jobization of the world (just wait, that phrase will catch on), or it could purely be the fact that we as a human race need to stay connected. The granddaddy of all these media sources is of course none other than the news media (or watching “Scarlet Takes a Tumble” on YouTube. That’s a close second).
The news media could almost be considered an entity unto itself where Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC are the voices and the slaving journalists are the hamsters that make the wheels spin.
Recently, meaning as of 2006, a new force in news media has come on the scene and packed a powerful hay-maker. If you live in a city where there is any sort of social communication and not in the state of Texas (because they really couldn’t give a damn, let’s be honest), then you’ve probably heard of WikiLeaks. It is considered a self-described “not-for-profit” organization that submits information to the public in a safe and anonymous way. Consider, if you will, it being the Google of dirty laundry (or a newspaper’s perverse fantasy). It’s a project of the Sunshine Press with Julian Assange as its founder and spokesperson.
If you’ve heard of WikiLeaks then you most certainly have heard, or been a part of, the massive controversy that has followed in its wake. Despite the bickering of well-trained officials and probably numerous speeches by Snape – I mean Assange — the two sides of the argument really boil down to this: is WikiLeaks allowed to do that? Before I give my opinion, which I know you are all dying to hear, let’s lay some groundwork first so that all the parties represented get equal share of the lime light.
Let’s begin with the anti-WikiLeakers or as they can be simplified to, all world governments. The reason Assange has been praised and hailed as the Golden Boy of news media for the past five years is he has procured many private, secret or classified media from various government sources. In turn, he has put all of those goodies on the Internet for all to see. Heck, according to EFF the guy has even won Australia’s version of the Pulitzer Prize as well as the Martha Gellhorn journalism award.
Now granted, government secrets and classified information isn’t what WikiLeaks always puts out, but they’re really the only sources that get any attention. In layman terms, the website has obtained through anonymous and secure sources the government’s hidden dirty magazine stash (most likely Hustlers). Now, what the people on the side of the anti-Leaks are claiming is that this “whistle-blowing” website has been “stealing” government property. There are many hurdles to overcome in nailing Assange on this because the U.S. Constitution does protect the re-publication of illegally gained content as long as the publishers themselves did not break any laws in getting them. Of course, those who are against Leaks claim that Assange has been breaking laws because how else would he be able to acquire information on soldiers killing innocent people in Iraq, or files related to Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Those who fall on this side of the fence are not so much trying to cover up what these governments are doing behind closed doors, rather, they’re trying to lock up the curious boy who opened them and stole the candy.
As for those who sing Assange’s praises and view Leaks as a positive to the news media, their case is easy to understand. “Governments should be transparent!” has been the cry of the little guy throughout the decades and even more so now that we see what governments are doing when no one’s watching. As for those who stand with Assange and Leaks, they view his work as a blessing to news media around the world. He has provided a source where journalist can go to in order to receive that next juicy story on who’s president just spent the people’s tax money on a year supply of Dairy Queen ice cream cakes.
Assange has exposed many secrets over the past five years and has caused quite a commotion amongst, well, the world. But, what does this all mean? Is Assange really a journalist or just the Google whipping boy of the news media? I guess this is the part where you are all dying to hear my opinion.
I’ve always stood on the side of governments needing to be honest and transparent with their people. But, at the same time, no one wants to see their old man’s “How to Have Sex Over the Age of 50” book hidden on a shelf either. Along with that, I don’t believe journalism falls under the same definition as “stealing”. The cry of the pro-Leakers right now would be, “But he doesn’t steal the information! It’s brought to him by anonymous sources!” Right, he does that but, do you go around opening up banks for people to “anonymously” drop their money in? Say that one of those banks was to fall under some investigations, do you still stand on the side of, “But they were anonymous, I can’t be held responsible for holding what may be considered stolen money!”
Another point that might be added is the question of, “Why is the website down if it’s a legal and honest source of information?” From here you can really only run with speculations and opinions but hey, while we’re on mine, why don’t I share? If WikiLeaks was the Holy Grail of news sources then shouldn’t it still be in operation instead of making rallying cries for freedom of speech on their front page? You can’t form a case solely based on this but it does make a statement on the condition of WikiLeaks’ authenticity.
There is also something to be said about the future of journalism with this which is probably the most important point to touch on. It’s not hard to see that the art of journalism, and journalists for that matter, have been evolving over the years to the point where a simple cell-phone video is considered “breaking news”. As for what WikiLeaks did, they pioneered the “dumping method” as I like to call it.
WikiLeaks has taken the multitudes of secret information and put them on one (temporarily unavailable) site. It’s hard to say if this is truly journalism at its finest because Assange has really done nothing except provide the URL for the information to be posted on. I don’t believe Assange is a journalist by any means, more of an innovator (and possibly someone’s new inmate). Maybe he deserves a shiny trophy for his advancements it the field but, he is by no means a journalist it its truest sense.
But what of those who use the information from WikiLeaks? Probably journalist, editors, and curious nannies with nothing better to do, is my guess. Those who use the information WikiLeaks offers (or did offer) were merely tapping into the golden nectar of all journalistic sources. The thing that will interesting is what will happen to those who used Leaks if this site is truly in violation of governmental law? For that answer we must turn to what Aristotle once said, “That is another story”.