Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Wikileaks and Telling Forbidden Truths

"I like the pretty lies" - Myca, The Crow

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." - George Orwell, My Few Wise Words of Wisdom

In Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged there is a scene early in the book when Dagny Taggart is trying to get the Rio Norte line built against the combined challenges of her looter opponents. To circumvent the difficulties she creates her own company, the John Galt line. The point of that scene is the immense pretense she had to go through to get the looters to leave her alone. Jim Taggart, near the end of the scene said "nobody must know it." Dagny responds with "everyone will know it, Jim. But since nobody will admit it openly, everybody will be satisfied."

In the United States, on so many issues, there are many things which everybody knows but few admit. When people repeat lies that they know are lies, because the lies are what they are supposed to repeat, then speaking the truth is indeed a radical act and condemned as such. And one of the issues it is true of is the military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When someone, in a discussion of the wars, talks of civilian casualties as a criticism of the wars the response is to pooh-pooh it as unsupported, or as being anti-American, or as conspiracy theory. Everyone knew that there were massive civilian casualties, but as long as nobody admitted it then it was considered acceptable to ignore it.

Wikileaks broke the convention by not only saying it, but by giving solid support to what everyone already knew.

Because it is still unpopular to discuss the issues raised by the content of the leaked documents and leaked videos, most people prefer to discuss just how dangerous Wikileaks is to national security and whether or not the owner should be considered a traitor or a terrorist.

The documents are valuable, and not because they reveal anything new. To some extent it could be said that they reveal a depth that was previously unknown, but that isn't new information as much as it is an expanse of information.

Many who support the military activity insist that only government sources or American media sources are to be trusted for information about the wars. That is where the true value of Wikileaks comes in because the video from Iraq and the documents about Afghanistan are from government sources, the most trusted source of war supporters. It is no longer possible to dismiss the information as anti-American propaganda.

That's why supporters of the war don't want to discuss the content of the leaks at all. But it is too late, Wikileaks already "admitted it openly."

1 comment:

Thomas M. Sipos said...

"When people repeat lies that they know are lies, because the lies are what they are supposed to repeat, then speaking the truth is indeed a radical act"

I'm reading 1984 for the fourth time. Your statement reminds me of one of Orwell's many fine observations:

Freedom is the freedom to say two plus two is four. If that is granted, all else will follow.