poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

December 10, 2010


Filed under: Politics: Global — poemless @ 6:19 PM
Tags: ,

Revenge of the Nerd: No diplomat, politician, bank or hairstyle is safe!

I had been patiently waiting for all of the cables to be released so that I might go through them with a fine tooth comb, reflect, synthesize, and then come up with something brilliant and sensible to say about them, with authority, and wisdom. Spouting off hysterically is not really my style… Then someone told me that less than 1% of the cables had even been released.

Gah! Hysterical spouting, commence!

A lot of people seem to think this fellow who just by coincidence happens to look like a villain in Hollywood movie and who just by coincidence happens to work out of a Bond movie type bunker, is some kind of … freedom fighter. A hero. I find this attitude a bit infantile. I am all about freedom of speech, and freedom of information. Freedom to speak one’s own mind publicly if one so chooses, without fear of retribution, freedom to access what has been spoken publicly by others. Freedom to air what individuals who are not me have said in confidence to one another? Er? What’s next, you have the right to publish my diary on the internet, so long as you can prove someone else stole it from my bedside table? I’m sure I’ve said things that make the US government look like idiots. It could be damaging to our national security if published. … Mind you, I love the Wikileaks! Mmm, mmm – they ARE delicious! I cannot get enough Batman and Robin and voluptuous Ukrainian nurses! But if information is power, my friends, this is not much in the way of information. This is gossip. And the only people who think gossiping and divulging secrets=power are middle school girls and the host of TMZ. … Now, does this mean I think it Wikileaks should be illegal? Look, I not only think TMZ should be on the air, I think an entire station should be devoted to it. But just because something is legal doesn’t make it necessary. Wikileaks is like porn but for policy wonks. Am I against porn? Not on principle. But the way it gets made always weighs on my conscience. And while it might be relatively harmless, it doesn’t actually solve problems. Unless your problem is not having an excuse to avoid having to solve your problems.

Yes, I think this whole cable dump, leak or whatever other euphemism for animal waste evacuation you want to use, is a huge diversion. Any monkey, hell, even the NSA, can collect raw communications by the boatload. But it takes sentient beings to actually make sense of it all, separate the wheat from the chaff, to turn a barn full of data into useful information. And this is not even raw data. All of the cables I have read are simply hearsay, gossip, conjecture, secondhand information or flat out storytelling. What useful information have the Wikileaks honestly added to your understanding of foreign policy? That it is conducted by narrowminded, incompetent, spoiled twits with self-serving agendas? I don’t know anyone who thought our diplomatic corps were competent, and frankly, NO ONE needed a leak of classified information to see that outdated stereotypes, questionable sources and plain old pettiness plagues our foreign policy. Shame on you if you actually had to learn that from Julian Assange. Maybe you think Assange is like the child in the fairytale who proclaims the Emperor has no clothes? But we don’t need someone to tell us the Emperor has no clothes, we’ve seen America wagging its cock in the face of the human race for decades. What we need is someone to demand the Emperor put on some pants!

Citizens, experts and the journalism establishment have collectively failed to demand the US government adhere to the same standards of professional conduct and competency that are generally expected of the average homo sapien. I don’t see why we should then turn to one smarmy individual with positively no interest in discretion or responsibility, who has tricked the whole world into looking at the exposed, underdeveloped member of the US diplomatic corps, to be a champion of humility and restraint. This man is not our knight in shining armour. We have a good laugh, we gasp in embarrassment, we watch as the most powerful individuals and governments on the planet scramble to rescue their dignity, scattered in pieces over the pages of newspapers and websites like a barrel of marbles upturned in a skating rink. It’s quite a spectacle, and I would not be surprised if a pistol-toting cat walking on its two hind legs were spied accompanying the hero of our story. It’s a great story. Substance-wise, impact on the caliber of foreign policy-wise: I Just. Don’t. Care.

Assange seems to appeal, from my observations, to 3 groups of people: 1) Male computer nerds who make up for what they lack in the interpersonal skills department with fantasies of power and chicks and Bond villain lairs. Assange is essentially a poster boy for these social outcasts. “Look at me. If I can do it, so can you.” What were witnessing here is a real life version of Revenge of the Nerds. 2) Activists who feel politically emasculated after marching in the streets (shock!) failed to prevent the invasion of Iraq, etc. They’ve been screaming from the mountaintops that our leaders are evil, conspiratorial, irresponsible, deceitful and otherwise loathsome creatures, but, alas, no one would listen. Now there are official documents vindicating them! But still, no one is listening. Why should they? 3) Vladimir Putin. And who can blame him, really?

No, I don’t think Julian Assange is a hero (though I arguably fall into camp #2). However, I do think various governments around the world are doing everything in their power -and outside of that power- to turn him into one. And it appears they will succeed. Heads up, Mumia, your reign is about to end! But if being made an example of by a fragile empire willing to take extraordinary measures and flout the law to curb your influence and teach you a lesson about who is boss makes you a bona fide hero, I’m hitching a ride on the Misha K bandwagon. Why not? Because the ends justify the means? Because Misha K was in it for himself while Assange is doing all this for you? Pah-Leeze. The man is an egomaniac. “I believe geopolitics will be separated into pre and post cablegate phases.” So, he is not modest. Hell, he may even be right. Well, Hitler might also make this claim. Wreaking havoc doesn’t make you a hero. Improving lives does. And how has, or will, the Wikileaks actually improve our lives? And don’t give me the “information is power” spiel. Information is only empowering when combined with critical thinking skills and the motivation to get off your ass and act on said information. Not much improvement on that front, Wikileaks or no. Unless Assange is breaking condoms in order to bring a whole breed of fiercely analytical, empathetic and courageous beings into the world who will posses some magical immunity to the perverse and destructive system of reward and punishment that defines 21st century global culture … I just don’t see how a post-Wikileaks world is any significant improvement. Lack of information is not the problem. Americans have perhaps the freest press in the world – even allowing for the arrest of Assange, almost ubiquitous Internet access and a free and sprawling public library system. Classified government communications and the maniacal jottings of schizophrenic hermits are about the only thing we don’t have access to, and while such documents may confirm the worst fears of conspiracy theorists and give us insight into the minds of madness, fortunately, we need not rely on them to see what is right in front of our faces.

Do I think he should have been arrested? Only if he broke the law. And if there are laws against making America look stupid or being flippant about a one night stand involving a condom mishap, well, we better get to work constructing more jails, or just change our name to “The Prison Industrial Complex of America,” make everyone wear jumpsuits, give everyone free access to healthcare and call it a day. I am sure the same could be done in other countries.

OTOH, I really am not convinced that every conversation had by everyone in the world is my business. It’s not so much the hacking that concerns me, but the arrogance.

Which may be the real arena of competition between the authors of the cables and their publishers.


  1. We do not need an Assange to face how dirty are the people we elected in the same way we didn’t need Bush and Blair killing hundreds of thousands hidden behind a lie . But in the same way they came, they will go away forgotten . What they done though, will stay and for long time .
    They told us that Wiki would put in danger the life of many, but no one died so far . Of course those who revealed al Qaddafi inner secrets aren’t feeling comfortable by now but was Assange who put them in danger ? I have my doubts on this .
    American press the freest in the world : a fairy tale we’ve stopped to believe in since long now .
    Just because journalists are not behind bars like in Iran, that doesn’t mean they are free . They are just slaves of power .
    How many reports per day are they writing about war in Yemen, how many articles about women in Saudi arabia who get a degree and work in high positions, how many breaking news about Brasil and Argentina recognition of the Palestinian state ?
    Zero .
    They are free but dishonest, a shame for journalism .

    Comment by Balqis — December 11, 2010 @ 4:18 AM | Reply

    • Er, it really is rather free, legally speaking. That’s no fairytale. However, you can endow an instutution with freedom, but that doesn’t immunize against incompetence, greed and pervasive apathy.


      Da, nyet. I’ve seen these things and more covered in the news. Besides the MSM, we also have local independent papers, PBS, the magical interwebs… Ignorance can’t be blamed on lack of reporting. Lack of caring is the more likely culprit.

      Comment by poemless — December 13, 2010 @ 3:02 PM | Reply

      • I was not speaking about genuine ignorance, but I am sure you understood that

        Comment by Balqis — December 13, 2010 @ 3:11 PM | Reply

  2. Assange doesn’t operate out of a James Bond villain type bunker; that’s where his hosting company is at. The dude himself leads a nomadic existence by all accounts, flitting between Australia, the UK, Sweden, Iceland, Switzerland, etc.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — December 11, 2010 @ 7:32 AM | Reply

    • Ok, he is chief ideologist, editor in chief and official spokesperson of an organization that operates out of a James Bond villain bunker. (As is James Bond villians were not jetsetters!)

      Comment by poemless — December 13, 2010 @ 2:57 PM | Reply

  3. Poemless, what do you think about the “foreclosure crisis” in the U.S.? Not that I have any intention to blame the U.S. (we have a lot of problems in Russia to deal with), or divert the conversation. Just, put cynically (if we forget that there are the real people suffering), it’s one of the most interesting news coming from the U.S. now.

    There was that Matt Taibbi’s article from the Rolling Stones about the “rocket dockets”, then just recently, an article from USA Today about innocent victims of foreclosures.. I’m not tracking that topic specifically — just the stuff I spotted.

    Looks like an Average Joe is safe so far?

    Comment by Evgeny — December 11, 2010 @ 2:51 PM | Reply

    • Yevz, dahling, the foreclosure crisis is so 2008! (And yes, Taibbi has been a genius covering the economic collapse.)

      I mean, if only that were our problem. The whole economy is in shambles. Yesterday I saw a news item that people in accidents where the fire department is required to assist will be charged hundreds of dollars! Accidents! I thought we paid taxes to pay for the fire department! WFT? We’re basically in full blown denial about the repercussions of our economic system right now. Still too full of pride about the American Dream and winning the Cold War to admit we have a problem. The reality middle class people losing homes and jobs and health coverage while the bankers rake in stunning profits, bankers bailed out by the middle class! is too much. Makes you want to vomit. So better to turn on the TV and watch a sitcom and pretend this isn’t happening. It’s really a nightmare though.

      Just learned my co-worker’s son (Russian, immigrant, raised in America) is dropping out of college here and moving back to Siberia. Fed up with the US.

      Comment by poemless — December 13, 2010 @ 3:11 PM | Reply

      • Ignorance is just ignorance. I really know and understand only a little about the United States. Now I understand how hard must it be for Russia watchers like you to keep up with the local news.

        I’m not pleased with the scale of your problems… Yet, it looks like the basic macroeconomics… must not be a problem for a country with the largest number of economic Nobel awards…

        Comment by Evgeny — December 13, 2010 @ 4:54 PM | Reply

  4. @Poemless — “… one … individual [Assange] with … no interest in discretion or responsibility …”.

    Actually, before Assange began publishing the cables, he contacted the U.S. Ambassador in London to allow the U.S. gov’t to redact each cable before it was published. The Ambassador refused to work with Assange, and so Assange left it to the four newspapers to whom he released the cables to redact the cables on their own or to work with the U.S. gov’t as they saw fit (the NY Times not only worked with the U.S. gov’t but acted as liaison between the U.S. gov’t and Assange in redacting the cables). So, so far, Assange has not been completely without discretion or responsibility.

    Other than that, I agree with your assessment. I speculate that Assange will be extradited to the U.S. from the U.K. as soon as the Justice Dept. finishes writing up its charges, since, under the U.K. Extradition Act 2003, the U.S. does not have to make a prima facie case to the British Home Secretary that Assange actually violated U.S. law, in order for the Home Secretary to give the U.S. extradition request precedence over the Swedish request.

    Excellent post.

    Comment by Poeschl — December 11, 2010 @ 3:40 PM | Reply

    • Thanks.

      I think Assange is wreckless, I do, but I am not sure he is a criminal. As I understand it, Assange himself was not the hacker, just the storer and publisher, right? Wrong?

      Comment by poemless — December 13, 2010 @ 2:52 PM | Reply

      • “Assange … was not the hacker, just the storer and publisher …”

        Exactly — that’s Assange’s claim, in any event.

        The question of criminality, at least as I see it, revolves around the extent of WikiLeaks’ own initiative in obtaining classified documents.

        So far, Assange implicitly argues that WikiLeaks, although it advertised itself as a willing recipient of leaked documents, took no unlawful initiative and is otherwise a passive recipient of anonymous document dumps, comparable (per Assange) to the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case in which the NYT was exonerated.

        But I think the U.S. gov’t plans to show that WikiLeaks, by its deliberately advertising itself as a willing recipient SPECIFICALLY of leaked documents, took sufficient initiative to make WikiLeaks an accessory to unauthorized release of documents in violation of the 1917 Espionage Act, especially if the U.S. can show that, say, Pfc. Bradley Manning was motivated to leak documents by WikiLeaks’ advertising.

        So I think the U.S. will seek extradition in order to question Assange and possibly try him as an accessory rather than as a hacker or leaker himself.

        It would be similar to a hypothetical case where, if I advertised online that I would safekeep ANY vehicles with NO questions asked, I could be charged as an accessory to auto theft if it was shown that I was safekeeping stolen vehicles, because I had reason to know that advertising absolutely unconditional safekeeping supported auto theft.

        The U.S. gov’t presumably also wants to find out whether WikiLeaks’ initiative went beyond mere advertising, e.g., whether WikiLeaks knowingly participated with middlemen in soliciting or otherwise inspiring unauthorized releases of documents.

        Sorry for this overlong response. I just wanted to hash out Assange’s possible criminal liability.

        Comment by Poeschl — December 13, 2010 @ 5:33 PM | Reply

        • No apology necessary. That is how I understood it too. I mean, I would not be surprised if turned out they were more, uhm, proactive about getting the cables.

          Comment by poemless — December 13, 2010 @ 5:49 PM | Reply

          • As a follow-up note: The prosecutorial strategy I described in my above comment on 13 Dec may now be playing out. U.S. prosecutors are leaning on Pfc. Bradley Manning with a plea bargain that Manning name Assange as co-conspirator, and WikiLeaks has changed its website to delete the invitation to forward specifically “classified” documents to its site — per the U.K. “Independent” on 17 Dec 2010 in an article entitled “Freed on bail — But US steps up efforts to charge Assange with conspiracy,” by Kim Sengupta and David Usborne, at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/freed-on-bail-ndash-but-US-steps-up-efforts.

            I just wanted to report this for everyone’s info.

            Comment by Poeschl — December 17, 2010 @ 2:31 PM | Reply

  5. I’m so glad you weighed in on this…because I didn’t know which camp I was in re: Assange. He does fail the “si la photo est bonne” test. I get a negative vibe too…but, it has been so much fun to wake-up to new raw tid-bits. Guilty pleasure, I may regret the indulgence once it leads to the next phase of openness or clampdown…whatever that may be. I’ve been listening to the book Yalta – about Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Roosevelt particularly was holding his cards tight to the chest; how would history be better or worse if they couldn’t do that. I feel for the young soldier in jail accused of doing the actual downloading…do you have a picture of him?

    Comment by tess — December 13, 2010 @ 3:19 AM | Reply

    • He does fail the “si la photo est bonne” test.

      And isn’t that the most important thing? LOL. As my friend Izzy put it, he’s creepy, but not in a good, “Jeremy Irons creepy” kind of way.

      Honestly, unless a criminal investigation is underway, I really don’t support the idea that the public is entitled to know the contents of every government communication. I assume most of us have jobs that do not directly affect national security, and yet imagine having everything you say and do in your job observed by the public, open to public commentary, etc. At some point people have to be able to trust in a certain amount of confidentiality in order to have honest, productive discussions. Now, these cables do not strike me as terribly productive, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, right?

      Comment by poemless — December 13, 2010 @ 2:46 PM | Reply

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