Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Flanagan's Fatwah (and Other Wiki-Crap)

It seems an increasingly common thing for me to wish a pox on both sides of public controversies. Call it maturity. I had watched the continuing massive and unselective dumping of WikiLeaks with a feeling of disdain, especially irked when commentators would equate this to whistle-blowing. The latter practice refers to the courageous, often career-destroying and never self-aggrandizing practice whereby knowledgeable insiders within organizations, publicize the failings and misdeeds of their employers. Part and parcel of real whistle blowing is finding that something is seriously wrong within one's organization, usually trying to have head honchos mend their ways, and, failing that, going public. Famous examples include Karen Silkwood, who exposed the dangerous ambient levels of plutonium in nuclear facilities and Jeffery Wigand, the cigarette company exec who went public about nicotine-doctoring aimed at increasing the addictiveness of smokes. Both of these heroes were immortalized on the big-screen and, no doubt, it won't be all that long before WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is likewise "honoured".

But his plundering and publicizing of communications shows neither the specificity of rationale nor the necessary step of trying to effect change before going public. Assange seemed little more than one of those irksome parasites known as computer hackers whose motivation has nothing to with societal betterment or anything so tangible but instead lies in simply being able to screw things up for someone else. He's just done that, thanks to an equally unselective and unreflective low-ranking informant,Bradley Manning, on a vaster scale than any of the pimple-faced vandals who break into other people's files for the pure fun of it. This is not to say, that all Wiki-leak leaks have always been thus. When the targets were specific and could potentially induce needed change, great! This seemed to be the modus operandi before the current deluge, if one scans the pre-2009 history of the organization and its activities. Now, the targets are innumerable and there are good reasons to expect that far from creating more openness and candour in the conduct of international relations, the result will be a global clamming up, heightened security that will affect efforts to shed needed and well-focused light on wrongdoings in high places.

So Julian was and is no hero of Wigandian stature to my mind, but instead, at least in his and his organization's most recent activity, a thrill-seeking cyber-thug, who doesn't care whose windows get smashed when he hurls his rocks helter-skelter.

But then, just when I'm thinking what a self-aggrandizing vandal he is, along comes Tom Flanagan, a man whom I have despised for decades most especially after his neo-colonial disquisition on indigenous people, a diatribe titled First Nations, Second Thoughts - a strange choice of title for a "scholar" who does not appear to have had a second thought about anything over the course of his decades in Calgary. Yes, the same Flanagan who greased Stephen Harper's trail to the head of the Reform Party and thence to Parliament's East Block (a contribution for which, by itself, he deserves a few days in the stocks). Yes, medieval punishment comes readily to mind for Ayatollah Flanagan who very publicly opined that Assange should be assassinated suggesting that Obama dispatch a drone to do the job -- apparently not reflecting much in this outburst of what he called "feeling very manly" on how that might work for a fugitive hiding out in central London, England.

Well anyone this wing-nut hates can't be entirely worthless and I was later to discover that Fox TV loony Bill O'Reilly likewise is advocating the death penalty for such traitors too. This and the suspiciously timed rape charges that Sweden began to push are enough to sway me a bit towards sympathy for Assange. It may well be true that he is a sex offender but we also can rightly suspect - in no small part thanks to the threads of gold amidst all the WikiLeak dross - that the shadowy figures who linger in the crevices of international relations frequently come up with vicious schemes, far less stupid but of a similar mind-set to motor-mouths like Flanagan and O'Reilly.

No comments: