By now, it would be safe to say that there is not a certain individual in our world who has not heard at least something about the controversies surrounding Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks. Depicted as “an international online self-described not-for-profit organization that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and whistleblowers,” the site intends “to bring important news and information to the public” by stating, “One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth…”
Their journalistic approach, however, has sparked utter madness within the media, the government, and society in general. The leaking of the United States cables, for instance, showed that “nearly a decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the dark shadow of terrorism still dominates the United States’ relations with the world” (Shane & Lehren, 56). By itself, WikiLeaks triumphs in its ability to offer remarkable details, and has already changed the rules of journalism by creating a situation where competitive news organizations “cooperate to share a scoop.”
Still, the debates over its “political, ethical, legal and technological ramifications” (402) continue to circulate—For some, it has an ability to expose “the machinations of American realpolitik, [while to others], it’s a dangerous security breach that paradoxically may aid those devoted to a hawkish foreign policy” (Harshaw, 408). In addition to stirring up major political turmoil, WikiLeaks has succeeded in creating a rift within the journalistic community itself. Far too many, mainstream media especially, have criticized the site’s ultimate objective of pure transparency by arguing that although “mainstream media may spend a lot of time trying to ferret information out of official hands,” they usually operate with “the belief that the state is legitimate and entitled to at least some of its secrets” (Carr, 235). As the site’s founder, Assange assumed that the activities of WikiLeaks could carry society through a mess of politically distorted language, and into a position of true clarity. It was rather interesting to note that he thought that by exposing secrets, the site could “ultimately impede the production of future secrets.” Twisted and mind-boggling as it may seem, it seems that Assange’s development of WikiLeaks was “simply to make WikiLeaks unnecessary.”
Naturally, WikiLeaks inevitably raises many questions regarding limits to the freedom of speech. One of the organization’s additional goals was to ensure that journalists and so-called “whistleblowers” were not jailed for sharing sensitive or classified documents. With its initial drop, the project has drawn comparisons to the 1971 leaking of the Pentagon Papers and has gathered numerous amounts of mixed feelings among government officials. Hillary Clinton, for example, claimed that the leaks “put people’s lives in danger” and “[threatened] national security.” Furthermore, the introduction of our reading, Open Secrets, also detailed the remarkably contrasting reactions of the Bush administration versus Obama’s more “sober and professional” response that I found quite intriguing.
With all this said, it is important to remember that WikiLeaks was and basically still is a pure product of the Internet. As emphasized within the readings, the internet had transformed the landscape of journalism long before the birth of WikiLeaks by “creating a wide-open and global market with easier access to audiences and sources, a quicker metabolism, a new infrastructure for sharing and vetting information, and a diminished respect for notions of privacy and secrecy” (Keller, 21). It can be suggested that even with all the ethical controversies the site has ignited, the Internet had already eliminated a number of the space restrictions journalism initially had, and thus, produced this unavoidable tension between the media’s responsibility to inform and the government’s responsibility to protect. Simply said, the uneasiness and uncertainty produced by the questionable morale of these publications seems to have been rather imminent…