Tuesday, 14 December 2010

WikiLeaks, the "War On Terror" and personal empowerment

This articlet (The Economist) makes a very interesting point at the end; that, while calling Assange and Wikileaks terrorists is 'deeply counterproductive' the best lessons for dealing with Wikileaks can be gleaned from the decade-long "war on terror":
Deal with the source of the problem, not just its symptoms. Keep the moral high ground. And pick fights you can win.

It got me thinking that the pattern here is really one of personal empowerment. Modern technology provides individuals with incredible augmentation: no X-men genetic mutations required, just a few grams of strategically placed combustibles, or a phone camera, or a website, or all of the above. The capacity for one individual to influence their society has never been greater, and is still increasing exponentially. If mass media put gods and demons among us, then multimedia significantly lowered the qualifying criteria. Julian Assange is no media tycoon, nor even a feted (foetid?) journalist. He's just an outsider with strong principles and powerful media skills. Yet he has captured the world media's attention with an incredibly anarchic act that has angered nation states across the world.

Whether you're for it or against it, Wikileaks, like international terrorism (or 'asymmetric warfare', as the Pentagon liked to call it) is here to stay in whatever incarnation it takes next. It's for society, and our civic structures in particular, to get to grips with these 'people with causes' and address them appropriately. One approach may be that sometimes adopted by the information security industry: offer them a job.
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