The tens of thousands of military intelligence documents
pertaining to the Afghan war released by Wikileaks have inspired
over the meaning of the leaks and the status of the
struggling, nearly ten-year war. But the leaks are also inspiring an interesting debate on the nature of the media today. What role are WikiLeaks and the more traditional media playing?
- Big Revelations vs. Small Reveals Wired's Spencer Ackerman writes,
"Adds a former intelligence contractor who used to produce intelligence
summaries, 'There will be a lot of interesting tidbits but nothing
earthshaking.' And it’s those 'interesting tidbits' that makes the
WikiLeaks trove significant. There’s a bias in journalism toward
believing that what’s secret is inherently a hive of hidden truth. That
operating principle animates reporters’ practice of breaking down
governmental secrecy. But it can also create a misleading expectation
that leaks represent huge new revelations. And when those revelations
don’t manifest, it creates an expectation that the trove is neither
useful nor significant. In this case, that would be a mistake."
- WikiLeaks, Filling Media Vacuum, Endangers Lives Central Asia analyst Joshua Foust tweets that many officials
and aid workers, because they are named in the leaks reports as
cooperating with the U.S., may now be facing mortal danger from the
Taliban. Blogger Sean Paul Kelley reacts,
"It is simply unconscionable that these names were not redacted. There
is no excuse for it. I'm appalled, actually. These people are very, very
much at risk of death now. ... Look, on balance, I like what Assange is
doing, but let's not fool ourselves in thinking that everything
Wikileaks, or Assange does is an unadulterated public good. It's not.
And it's a shame that we have to rely on a brazen self-promoter like
Assange to fill the vacuum the Versailles media has created."
- Disconnect Between Officials and Public National security blogger Michael Cohen acknowledges
that many analysts are unsurprised by such reports as the rogue
Pakistani support for the Taliban, which has been well reported for
years. But this is precisely the problem, as U.S. officials have refused
to publicly address such issues. "The disconnect between these words
and the reality in Afghanistan has been well-known among many in the
foreign policy establishment for some time. ... But what it tells us
about the incomplete information being fed to the American people about
the war being fought in their name - and the arrogance of official
Washington in pooh-poohing these revelations - well that's something
- Beginning of Open-Source Journalism The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal writes,
"While the impact of the documents and newspaper reportage on the war
in Afghanistan will take a while to suss out, the publication of these
documents will be seen as a milestone in the new news ecosystem. ... In
the new asymmetrical journalism, it's not clear who is on what side or
what the rules of engagement actually are. But the reason Wikileaks may
have just changed the media is that we found out that it doesn't really
matter. Their data is good, and that's what counts."
Leaks Have Always Driven Journalism Media critic Jay Rosen explains,
"Few people realize how important leaking has been to the rise of the
political press since the mid-18th century. Leaks were actually 'present
at the creation' of political reporting. ... internal struggles for
power remain to this day a major trigger for
leaks. Conscience, of course, is a different trigger. Whistleblowers can
be of either type: calculating advantage-seekers, or men and women with
a troubled conscience. We don’t know which type provided the logs to
Wikileaks. What we do know is that a centuries-old dynamic is now
empowering new media, just as it once empowered the ink-on-paper press."
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