Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mainstream Media, Wikileaks, Reputation and Reality

If you've tried submitting something to Wikileaks, you know what's happened.

If you've given Wikileaks money recently, you may not.

From yesterday's Threat Level (Wired):
"With World Watching, Wikileaks Falls Into Disrepair"
Threat Level, Wired (June 30, 2010)

"...Despite a surge in mostly laudatory media portraying Wikileaks as a fearless, unstoppable outlet for documents that embarrass corporations and overbearing governments, the site has published only 12 documents since the beginning of the year, the last one four months ago. And on June 12, Wikileaks' secure submission page stopped working after the site failed to renew its SSL certificate, a basic web protection that costs less than $30 a year and takes only hours to set up.

"Wikileaks still prominently displays a link on its homepage to a secure submission form for whistleblowers to upload documents. But the page doesn't load. The site's donation page remains reliably available. Wikileaks' head Julian Assange declined to comment...."

Whistle-Blowers, (Traditional) Media, Gatekeepers, and the War on Terror

Conventional wisdom is that plucky girl reporters, idealistic investigative reporters, and determined editors defend the Masses against Big Oil and other oppressor corporations.

Sometimes it works that way. Or worked that way, anyway. Some of those plucky girl reporters have retired by now.

I'm not surprised at the "surge in mostly laudatory media portraying Wikileaks as a fearless, unstoppable outlet for documents that embarrass corporations and overbearing governments."
Credit Where Credit is Due
My hat's off, actually, to the traditional information gatekeepers who looked up from their Underwoods and noticed that the Internet wasn't just a fad.
Whistle-Blowers: Image and Function
Old-school reporters and their editorial counterparts would recognize whistle-blowers as a close analog to the workers who organized in defiance of moneyed interests.

On the whole, I rather approve of whistle-blowers, myself.

Ideally, governments would have a thorough system of checks and balances to prevent one branch from becoming too powerful - and providing a means to correct waste and mismanagement.

Also ideally, businesses would pay attention to what their employees do, so that we wouldn't have disaster plans for the Gulf of Mexico that included caring for indigenous walruses.

Since this is the real world, those ideals aren't always met: which is where whistle-blowers come in.
Wikileaks: I'll Take Your Money, But Not Your Submissions
Wikileaks sounds like a good idea: particularly if it had the sort of verification system that Wikipedia is developing.

Like I said, it sounds like a good idea.

Too bad that whoever's running it decided to let a 30-buck SSL certificate lapse. And isn't fixing the problem.
Wikileaks, Clueless Media, and the War on Terror
The rise and fall of Wikileaks ties in with the War on Terror in a few ways.

First, it's an example of how old-school media just doesn't get it.

This isn't the 20th century any more.

Things happen fast

And, the Masses aren't - in America anyway - the Masses any more. Many - most - of us have Internet connections, know where to get one, or know someone who does.

The Internet is a wonderfully fast, powerful tool for digging up information. Some of the information isn't accurate, some of it's simply wrong, but it's possible to sort through what's there and get a pretty good idea about what's really happening.

Back in the 'good old days,' a few major metropolitan newspapers and the three broadcast networks agreed on what they thought was happening - and that's what just about everybody else would read and hear. It might take weeks, months, before folks who weren't part of the in crowd caught on that reality didn't match what was in the news.

That was then, this is now. These days, the odds are that someone online will pick up information and discuss it before traditional media starts its wheels rolling.

Second, the folks who run "media" are human beings.

Like anybody else, they've got their assumptions.

Folks who don't grow up living inside a power structure whose beliefs they share have many opportunities to learn about 'diversity of opinion' up close and personal.

I think that "media" leaders have not had as many opportunities to learn that every place isn't just like lower Manhattan, the better parts of Los Angeles, or wherever they live.

Which, I think, is why it took so long for traditional news media to wrap their minds around the idea that today's terrorists aren't uneducated, poor folks lashing out against oppressor classes. (July 8, 2007, July 3, 2007)

Human beings make mistakes. Particularly when they've gotten out of the habit of checking on whether or not their assumptions match what's really happening.

Let's remember that "media" was praising Wikileaks - while that service was taking people's money and giving nothing in return.

The same folks are reporting on what they think is happening in the war on terror. I think it's a good idea to take what they say with a grain of salt - and do their fact-checking for them.

Related posts:


Brigid said...

Doubling up on articles: "I'm not surprised a the"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


Missing letter, actually. Thanks!

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.