Clem Sunter

Wicked Leaks? Not really

2010-12-17 09:00

When my mother died last year in England, she left some letters from her mother to her. I could not help reading some of them and they offered deliciously accurate portraits of some of my relations.

I feel the same way reading the leaked WikiLeak cables about rulers that were sent from various American diplomats. They offer a humorous and frank picture – with nice little titbits – of all these people whom we normally only see talking pompously into a thicket of microphones about some easily forgettable global issue.

The only big thing to have come out was the fact that a certain Middle Eastern country was requesting America to conduct a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, which America has so far refused to do. I guess also the list of installations around the world that America considers key to its survival can be considered as a dangerous revelation, if that information is ever used by terrorists.

On the whole, though, I don’t think America has been seriously embarrassed by the leaks and life is going on pretty much as usual. However, it is the way America handles the situation now that is important. If they pursue Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, have him extradited to America, put him on trial and send him to jail, that would seriously dent their image as the superpower which espouses freedom and democracy around the world.

The internet is a truly democratic affair. That is why people jumped up and down when Google’s liberty was being infringed in China. Power has shifted to the ordinary man and woman in the street and for the first time they have a medium through which they can express themselves and gather information that knows no borders. The role of politicians has been diminished by this development and they should just accept it.

The fact that Mark Zuckerberg who put Facebook on the map has been chosen as Time’s Person of the Year indicates the tectonic shift in the plates of the socio-political universe. The global village is getting on fine without the village elders butting into the conversation and interfering with its direction. Social networks now count as much as political and business networks.

The last thing America should be doing is using heavy-handed tactics to capture Assange. He is already an internet hero with a band of ‘hactivists’ who want to wreak havoc on any website perceived to be complicit in making life difficult for him. He should be left to handle his own legal problems over the case that has been brought against him in Sweden by the two women. Let justice take its course.

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