Culture Guides

The Wikileaks Cables Help Us Understand the World

Is the Net the last sovereign territory left?

Sometimes we wish we were real journalists.

When the story of the year – if not the century so far (at least that’s how historians may come to see it) – is in full swing with fresh revelations hitting the press every day, it feels a bit dull tame to publish travel anecdotes. Luckily, we also write about world culture which covers… well, just about anything we feel like reporting on.

We’re talking of course about the Wikileaks Crisis.

For those of you who live in a cave, Wikileaks is a site that publishes any interesting document sent to them if they can be sure of its authenticity. And as they’re real journalists they’re credible, unlike say, Pakistani newspapers – but we’ll get to that in a bit. And we do at least know enough about journalism to use the word ‘allegedly’ a lot.

Wikileaks made it into world consciousness in the last fortnight as they published a whole cache of secret US diplomatic cables that spilled the beans on all kinds of things going on around the world. In fact, there was so much information contained in the cables that newspapers like the Guardian are coming up with fresh stories every day based on the new evidence. Stories like:

– That China is ready to accept unification of North and South Korea, abandoning its support of its ‘spoiled child’.

Shell Oil allegedly infiltrated the Nigerian government to such an extent that they had influence over political decisions made.

– That Nato had secret plans to defend the Baltic states should Russia ever decide to invade.

Since the cables were published, the US government has arguably shown contempt for its own constitution by allegedly attacking Wikileaks on several fronts – Visa, Mastercard, Amazon, Paypal and Twitter were all allegedly advised in no uncertain terms to cut all involvement with Wikileaks, cutting the site off from financial support and media outreach. The companies hosting Wikileaks also ‘spontaneously’ decided to no longer serve the site, their Swiss bank terminated their account based on a technicality and a warrant for the arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was placed in Sweden for sexual assault.

It was Robbie Robertson who sang: ‘It’s freedom of speech as long as you don’t say too much.’

So onto the cultural analysis that we do so flippantly:

Russia, though initially irritated at the cables that characterised it as a brutal and corrupt regime (did anyone need Wikileaks to know that?), outdid itself in diplomatic irony today by suggesting that Julian Assange be nominated for a Nobel Prize.

Anyone who thought allegations against the ruthlessness of Big Pharma were exaggerated will be surprised to learn that Pfizer, after testing questionable antibiotics on kids in Nigeria (killing several), go the lawsuit against it dropped by allegedly digging up dirt on the Nigerian attorney general.

And best of all, taking advantage of the current media shitstorm, Pakistani newspapers published articles citing the Wikileaks cables as characterising India as a state allied with Hindu fundamentalists with genocidal generals… The only problem being that, as far as the Guardian could tell at least, there were no such references in the cables. Still, you have to give them points for imagination and timing.

Hmmm, that gives us an idea….

And lastly, the reason this really is a war of information, is that people are standing up for net neutrality by creating multiple mirror sites of Wikileaks and a team of bold hackers even managed to take down, and are engaged in attacks against the other sites that played ball with the US government. ‘The Net is a sovereign territory’, the hackers of Anonymous declared in Operation Payback.

Hell, for sure, and it’s the only one where no one needs a visa to get in…

Here’s Julian Assange being honoured for Wikileaks at a TED conference by some of the most intelligent and thoughtful people in the world.

We’re still waiting for our invite.