Julian Assange – hero or villain?

By January 25, 2011Uncategorized

Whatever  your view of WikiLeaks, online whistleblowing is here to stay.

By opening to public scrutiny matters that previously would never have entered the public domain, WikiLeaks is open to accusations of at best gratuitous gossip-mongering and, at worst, endangering national security.

The media has a key role to play in publishing material that can make people in power feel uncomfortable. But, in a way that appears uncontrollable, WikiLeaks has taken that a step further. In a remarkably short period of time it has become a powerful and influential phenomenon. 

Calling Assange a “high-tech terrorist”, as US vice-president Joe Biden did, does nothing to address the reality of the situation: the culture of online leaking is virtually unstoppable. 

It means that businesses and nation states must adapt to a world in which no secret is safe.

And individuals, particularly those politicians who have been stung by revelations of inconvenient and embarrassing truths, will have to do likewise.

The big question is where to draw the line? For people in public life, should their past views be held against them if revealed? Should personal circumstances come out into the open if they don’t affect the individual’s ability to do their job? How much do we want or need to know? 

One up side might be that the constant possibility of being WikiLeaked will encourage a recognition that secrecy in public life can actually be more dangerous than transparency and honesty.

Somehow, though, I can’t see it happening.  WikiLeaks exists because of secrecy and adapting to the burgeoning leak culture is going to involve a pretty steep learning curve. WikiLeaks will have plenty material on which to thrive for years to come.

Tom Davison is an account manager at Indigo. A former award-winning weekly newspaper editor, he’s into music, mountains, marathons and, for some reason, maps.