Wikileaking the obvious

Posted on: 03 December 2010 by Alexander Hay

The Wikileaks revelations may well be shocking, but are they really that surprising?

Like a leaking tap, what's coming out of Wikileaks is actually quite predictable

It may be cold comfort for Wikileaks supremo Julian Assange that even though he is being pursued by Interpol for a rape charge in Sweden, his web site's revelations will still be wreaking havoc long after he takes residence in a cell. This is, of course, an understatement. You know you've done something right when Sarah Palin and Fox News is demanding you're hunted down like a terrorist, your alleged main source is facing 52 years in choky (compare and contrast with the army medic given a nine month sentence for shooting at Afghan civilians) and the USA wants to prosecute you on espionage charges

That's not to say that Assange should be seen as a hero. His achievements are fundamentally opportunistic - he gets a leak then publishes it and that's just about as sophisticated as it gets. His world-view is lopsided, as the sins of the USA seems to drive him on in a way the collective murk of Iran, China and Venezuela don't. And his world-view is also fundamentally naive: Being open with information shouldn't be confused with being incontinent about it. Even the most open and transparent people keep their PIN numbers secret after all.

But the real reason why Assange is in trouble is because he reminds us too much of our real natures. We all sort of know that governments lie to us and that international relations and skullduggery go hand in hand. We all know, deep down, that all sorts of nasty, immoral things take place too. Yet we are a fundamentally perfidious species - we all know what the right thing to do is, but we also know that doing that thing is often a mug's game. We act accordingly. So along comes a vast info dump of the brutal truth open to everyone with access to the Web - of course people are going to get upset. Assange spoiled the illusion : He won't be forgiven.

In fact, many of the Wikileak revelations are pretty obvious. Take Russia. Would it be truly revelatory to say that Vladimir Putin's government has a - err- 'problem' with organised crime? Or that the assassination of ex-Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko might, just possibly, have had some link to his former employers?

Is it any surprise, really, that many Arab states are deathly afraid of Iran and its nuclear ambitions? The fact that Sunni Saudi Arabia was lobbying the United States to attack Shi'ite Iran is hardly an earth shattering surprise to anyone who has a reasonable knowledge of the area. The same goes with the cover-up of torture by Coalition forces in Iraq - are we really that naive?

Nor does it take much insight to imagine that China might, JUST MIGHT, be about to ditch North Korea. That the People's Republic is broke, starving, hell-bent on nuclear weapons and could start a war with its southern neighbour and the United States might lead one to conclude that the Chinese wouldn't be too keen to support their allies in Pynonyang. Nor does it dazzle one to find out that American diplomats don't have a very high opinion of the French or that Berlusconi's party lifestyle is playing havoc with his health.

And as British citizens, do we really need to gasp at the apparently occult revelation that Prince Andrew is a tad thick, rude and loud? That Bank of England head Mervyn King thought that David Cameron and George Osborne were career politicians and not economists? Even reports that Osborne needed voice training to correct his high pitched delivery aren't exactly going to change his public image. He has, after all, been in the public eye (and squeaking a lot) since his appointment to the post of what was then the shadow cabinet back in 2004.

The truth of the matter is that Wikileaks may be telling us things we didn't know, but it tells us nothing we didn't expect. Hypocrisy, double talk and two-faced backstabbing go on all the time. You may well have been a victim of them, or a perpetrator. In any case, it is all around. Ultimately, and beyond whatever legal issues he might face, Assange is guilty only of two things - being blinkered by his smug sanctimony and showing us our own true faces. No wonder he's so hated.

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Alexander Hay

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