Wikileaks is one of those topics that I really should stay the hell away from. This isn’t like a movie critic making ignorant judgments outside of his area of expertise or a game coming under fire for sexism because people don’t get its jokes. The Wikileaks debacle is potentially the first data based civil war. People are always talking about the Internet revolution. Well, this might be it. I’d love to ignore it and hope it goes away, but it is something of an elephant in the room. As a resident of both real life and the Internet, I feel compelled to at least distill the issue down for you to the state that exists in my head. You see, Wikileaks is a kick in the balls.
I sense some confusion. Let me explain. Imagine that the government is a single dad, and the general public are his kids. Now, ostensibly, Papa is in charge, but anyone who has ever even seen a parent and a kid together knows that it’s the kid who calls the shots. Everything you do as a parent is in some way centered around making your kid happy, or at the very least making them shut up for two minutes. That puts all of the power squarely in their hands. Nevertheless, there are certain things that Dad can do that the rugrats can’t, so the illusion of power is maintained, and it gives him the ability to inflict his will when necessary. But… let’s face it, not every Dad is a stand up guy. Some of them have unsavory ideas. Fortunately, Mother Nature has us covered, because she gave the kids feet and she gave Dad balls. One quick shot and the message is delivered. The problem comes when sonny boy realizes that he can whip out the ball shot whenever he feels like it. That’s the Wikileaks situation. Julian Assange put the boot in one too many times, and now Papa’s pissed, but like all stories, this one has two sides.
First, we’ll look at Papa government. You can’t blame him* for being a little sore about it. Not only is it definitively a cheap shot, but if you do it too often, there is the risk of severe, permanent damage. It is a distinct possibility that some of the information leaked could endanger lives. Not only that, but it simply isn’t reasonable to be expected to excel, or even move forward, when you are constantly in terror of being poked in the ‘nads. It is very hard to walk with your legs crossed. These information leaks are hobbling the government. That said, a two-year-old could have told you what would have happened when the government decided to come down upon a freedom and transparency figurehead like Julian Assange with the hammer of justice. The internet is ubiquitous, information is fluid, and you can’t limit people’s access to either without a major backlash. It isn’t reasonable or practical to take away or even limit a child’s ball kicking potential. You’d have to hog tie them. All you get for trying to discourage it too harshly is a frenzy of nut cracking at their first opportunity. And hilariously, the only thing guaranteed to get a band of brats to work together is an authority figure tugging on the leash a little too hard… not to mix metaphors.
On the other hand, there’s the kids. There are far too many examples in the world today that illustrate the dangers of information control to honestly suggest that transparency isn’t a valid expectation of your government. The human rights records of places like North Korea and China speak pretty loudly in favor of keeping an eye on what Papa is up to. And the time to start kicking isn’t when they’ve been at their shenanigans for a while, but right when they first commence shenanigan-izing. It doesn’t matter how bad your Dad/government is, though, there are certain situations when you absolutely do NOT go for the groin. You wouldn’t grab-twist-and-pull the bus driver as he was sailing along at highway speeds, would you? The world is on the brink of an economic collapse. Perhaps it isn’t the best time to introduce a destabilizing influence. And don’t act shocked if you take a swing at the old man and he swings back. Leaking info is all about showing big brother that there are consequences for his actions. It would be hypocritical not to take your medicine when it’s your turn.
In the end, the only reasonable expectation here is a stalemate. The only way that the governments of the world can expect to be completely safe from this sort of attack is to impose a complete police state, which is exactly what these people are trying to prevent. Meanwhile, the governments of the world can’t realistically be expected to conduct all of their business out in the open. That would require every world leader to be a reasonable, rational person. One kooky yahoo with a biological weapon and a leaked report about the unlocked back door at the local reservoir and there is a peerless tragedy. Both sides have merit, here. Yes, you can’t win a football game if someone is telling the other team all of your plays, but if you are being told all of their plays, the field is level again. And yes, you can’t let the government play with its cards too close to its chest, but everyone ought to have the reasonable expectation of privacy. Hopefully, this will all boil back down to a simmer. The hackers will lose interest and start poking at Sony, or the governments will tighten up security enough to stop the bleeding, and we are all back to where we started. Or, just to tie this all back to the original metaphor, either Papa will tone down the creepy stuff and start wearing a cup, or sonny boy will learn to behave or run away from home.
*I apologize for the gender bias in this article, but balls are unisex. If government is a Mom, the analogy falls apart.**
** It also falls apart if you realize that technically the children would be paying the parents the allowance in this configuration… But, you know. Balls are funny.