Posts Tagged ‘julian assange’

h1

Who is Private Bradley Manning? Mainstream Media Focuses on Wrong Subject in WikiLeaks Scandal

12.21.10

With people on one side calling Julian Assange a hero and others calling him a terrorist for his organization WikiLeaks publishing classified government documents online, it’s hard to determine where I stand.  Am I for his anarchistic, reveal the secrets, power to the people ideology?  Or are his actions putting lives in danger and a detriment to the free world?

Guest blogger Sean Brown wrote his take on this fiasco yesterday and you can read it here.

Considering the fact that we were misled into the war in Iraq under the guise of WMD which were never found and that the embarrassing revelation at Abu Ghraib informed us that America was torturing its war prisoners, it’s hard to trust the government these days — if it ever was trustworthy to begin with.  Assange’s goals with leaking these confidential documents is to bring transparency to governments, which will create justice.

A noble goal, indeed.

But at the same time, I don’t know that what he’s doing is all that productive.  In the short term, at least, he’s reinforcing the tight security measures and potentially liberty-busting new laws like the SHIELD Act. While the unauthorized release of classified information is already illegal, lawmakers are taking aim directly at publishers now with this new legislation, which could have some serious ramifications on the freedom of the press — all in the name of national security (pretty much the official conversation ender these days, regardless of party affiliation).

What’s interesting is how much face time Assange has gotten for all of this, when the reality is that someone else is leaking this information to him to publish.  Who is on the inside sending them the documents?  And why aren’t they the ones being scrutinized all over the mainstream media?  It seems that we’ve forgotten that old adage: don’t shoot the messenger.

Perhaps its even shadier than that.

It turns out that the accused culprit behind a leak was Pfc. Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old Army Private, who has been held in solitary confinement for over seven months with no trail date even set. You won’t see his face on the main page of CNN or Yahoo or Fox News.  You’ll for sure see something about WikiLeaks or Assange’s rape charges (which, if legitimate, are serious crimes and nothing to be brushed aside) on them all, though, without having to look much beyond the top headlines.  MSNBC and CBS News have run stories about Manning, but they’ve not gotten the nationwide attention as the other two heavy hitters.  Not by a long shot.

How ridiculous that the mass media continues to fail miserably at exposing the injustices being done by our own government, whose own questionable actions are a direct result of Assange’s methods of exposing the injustices being done by governments. And instead of focusing on the real story that should be investigated — Private Manning — the media takes aim at WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, neither of whom are the real issues here.

There will always be another WikiLeaks.  Another rebel looking to spread secrets and gain notoriety.  Another insider looking to break the code of conduct.  Similar to the futile effort by the music industry to end piracy by demonizing Napster, the government’s knee-jerk reaction against WikiLeaks and Assange is a hollow attack all for show, focusing on his salacious rape charges instead of the stories that truly affect Americans.

Like why an American not yet convicted of a single crime is being held in a Supermax-like captivity with no trial in sight.

Image courtesy of Steve Rhodes’ Flickr Photostream.

h1

Why Americans Shouldn’t Fear Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

12.20.10

Before the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” saga took over the headlines this past week, the whole WikiLeaks and Julian Assange drama dominated the news streams, with some labeling him a hero and others branding him a terrorist.  I have yet to write on this complex situation, but I will be shortly.

Until then, though, I have the honor of introducing friend, writer, blogger, human extraordinaire Sean Brown as the first guest blogger on Agree to Disagree; I couldn’t be more proud.  I could also gush on about his talents but, instead, I’ll let his words speak for themselves.

Take it away, Sean:

______________________________________________________________________________________

Somewhere along the line we lost track of reality, of the ideals make us a truly great country. While there are many tangible things to point to as success, it is a shared belief, a common intangible faith in our system that sets us apart. Somewhere along the line we, as a nation, and more specifically as those interested and engaged in public policy, got caught up in a wave of hysteria. It didn’t start with the terrorist attacks in New York City, but that was the event that blew the top off the mountain and exposed not only the fear of the unknown too common in the American people, but the exploitation that so often accompanies such fear in America.

Julian Assange is not a terrorist. WikiLeaks is not a terrorist organization. More to the point, WikiLeaks is not the enemy. Wikileaks is a reality in the modern world, and Julian Assange is merely the messenger, introducing to the mainstream this new way of life. WikiLeaks is upsetting the established order, the balance between government’s right to secrecy and a thriving investigative media’s responsibility to inform the citizenry. For good, but more likely for ill, after 9/11 and the resulting Patriot Act (which should be pointed out, was heavily endorsed by both parties) the government has grown increasingly more bold in their intrusion into private citizen’s affairs under the guise of National Security.

Enter Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and WikiLeaks. The United States government got sloppy in its control of delicate communications. If the reports are true, Bradley Manning, for one reason or another, stole a massive amount of these communications and gave them to Julian Assange, and WikiLeaks, for publication. Though the publication of the latest batch of documents has proven to be mildly embarrassing rather than detrimental to national security, Bradley Manning (again, if the allegations are proven true) abused his position with the US Government and the US Army when he stole those communications and passed them on for publication. If the allegations are proven factual, he should receive a punishment fit for his crimes against the state.

But then there is the problem of Julian Assange, and WikiLeaks. Neither being US citizens, nor entities. Merely recipients, and at the very worst solicitors, of secrets from nations and corporations, around the world. Seeking to expose the truth, to poke holes in the propaganda fed to us by governments and corporations alike. When the vast majority of media outlets are owned by only a handful of corporations and individuals, the special relationships between players must be examined. This is not the reality in the United State’s media today. Too often do those who report the news seek to influence opinion, rather than allowing an individual to form his or her own opinion based solely on the facts. Often times does the media trade favorable coverage in exchange for access, and this is a detriment to an informed citizenry. One must question whether the true goal of the mainstream media in today’s America is to inform or persuade. Whether to educate or influence. And to whose advantage.

WikiLeaks, among other independent information organizations, seeks to inform only. To offer firsthand sources of information and to allow those accessing the information to form opinions based on fact, rather than the carefully crafted message that is often presented in its place. This is something that we, as Americans, should celebrate. More information is better. Transparency is a good thing. We lose sight of the fact that We Are The Government, that they work for us. If we blindly accept everything they tell us, we allow ourselves to be manipulated toward desires advantageous to their positions and to not our own. I am happy that WikiLeaks and other independent news organizations have the potential to keep not only the government, but other media outlets honest. We must not blindly accept that WikiLeaks is evil, that their work is detrimental to our state, lest we give up more of the freedoms that make us Americans.

The harm will come not from the secrets exposed, but from the complacent erosion of constitutionally guaranteed rights that follows in the aftermath.

By Sean Brown.
You can read more by Sean Brown at his blog, The Anarchist Project
.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

h1

Think for Yourself: Political Affiliation Not Determined Solely By Pundits and Extremists

12.16.10

With our polarized political climate comes the inevitable cases where specific groups lay claim to being the “true” party, leaving others as being “in name only.”  Not only is this annoying and arrogant in principle, it also leaves a wide swath of people in political no-man’s land wondering: what party do I belong to?

Boiling complex issues down into a strictly “Democratic” or “Republican” viewpoint losing much of the nuance that is required when dealing with real-life scenarios.  And unless you’re just a blind follower who agrees with everything that your chosen party tells you to believe, you’re going to disagree with some aspects of their policies.

Let’s say you’re fiscally conservative but socially liberal — you want low taxes on the rich and low spending all around but are all for gays getting married and gays serving openly in the military.  You’re going to find yourself finding it tough to vote for a representative that shares those views, who would be willing to truly implement policies to those ends.  (Then again, finding anyone to actually lower spending is quite a feat these days.)

Everyone claims to be the “right” version of something.  It’s like middle school all over again and I take no part in it.  Who am I to say that you’re not “really” a Republican or not “really” a Democrat, as if I am the Definer of All Things Political? Who does get to determine?  Rush Limbaugh?  Glenn Beck?  Olympia Snowe?  Ben Nelson?  Keith Olbermann?  NPR?  Fox News?

Suffice to say if anyone tells you what you are or aren’t based simply on themselves as the defining characteristics of a group, they’re not worth listening to. People like that are the geocentrists of political theory, thinking that whatever they’re version of being a Republican/Democrat/Centrist/Libertarian is the right one — and only one. It’s closed-minded, exclusionary, and based on fear. Fear of being wrong and not being able to handle the reality that life and thoughts exist on a spectrum.

It’s why I prefer to voice my stances on issues, not on broad strokes. I do consider myself a Democrat because that is how I tend to vote and usually with whom I relate the most in terms of both fiscal and social issues. But it doesn’t mean that I agree with everything the Democratic President says or the Democratic Congress does.  It also doesn’t mean that I can never agree with anything a Republican says or wants to do politically, either.

Same for most people who choose to think about the issues and not just listen to what’s being told to them to believe.

Another thing: it’s okay to not be sure quite where you stand. In fact, I find it extremely refreshing when people say, “I don’t know about _____” because it means they’re thinking about it, and not just regurgitating what they think they’re supposed to say.  I haven’t yet written about WikiLeaks and the whole Julian Assange saga for this very reason: I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, trying to figure out quite where I stand.  It’s not easy.  It’s not cut-and-dried. There are valid points to all sides — except for the ones who call for his execution without so much as a trial.

It’s okay to have wavering ideas. It’s okay to change your mind on things.  It’s okay to be skeptical of those who so clearly think they know what’s right or what’s wrong.

Don’t let someone tell you that you’re not something just because they don’t think you’re up to par. In fact, I’d say defend your stance and say that is your party and that you can be one yet also agree with ______ or ______.  Too much of our society right now has lost all sense of nuance in favor of straight-line ideology.

The more people who bring the reality back into it, the better we will all be for it.

h1

Hump Day Catch-All: From Congressional Idealists to WikiLeaks Hackers to Westboro Protests

12.09.10

With so many items in the news of blog-worthiness, sometimes it helps to just offer a few tidbits of info for each.  Today is one of those days: I’ll be tackling tax cuts, DADT, Westboro Baptist Church and Elizabeth Edwards, and WikiLeaks.

Tax Cuts and DADT

For all the talk of bipartisanship and compromise, it seems that neither party is quite ready to give in on some topics to which they hold dear.  The Republicans in the Senate have blocked passage of a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” just missing out on the filibuster-proof 60 vote majority by only three yeas.  And across the hall in the other chamber of Congress, the House Democrats rejected the compromise tax plan unless certain changes were made — although, it’s unclear exactly what would have to be amended to get the necessary vote.

Dems: pass the compromise tax cut bill and swallow your pride — be grateful for the extended unemployment benefits and other stimulus that comprises much of the $900 billion in spending and reap the benefits of the expected economic recovery that comes with the tax cuts continuing.

Repubs: just side with equality for once and pass the DADT repeal — it’s going to happen eventually, anyway, and getting the tax cut for the rich should bolster support from your base even if they’re leery about letting gays serve open in the military.

All Things WikiLeaks

Wow. If you haven’t been following this story, it has huge implications and ramifications on privacy, government power, and freedom of the press.

It’s gotten to be like a total movie.  Assange has been arrested without bail and is currently incarcerated in England; meanwhile, hacker supporters of WikiLeaks have literally taken down – at least partially – the websites of Visa and MasterCard and PayPal for their actions — which was caving to government pressure to stop supporting donations to WikiLeaks.  I’m finding this whole thing fascinating and can’t wait to read up more on it.  Conspiracy theorists must be having a field day with this.

Wild to see how this man’s crusade against government secrecy will probably, in the short-term at least, end up causing even less transparency and possibly even more restrictions of freedoms in America.  Will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.

Fiscal Austerity

Britain’s moved much more quickly on making the harsh decisions required to balance their budget that America keeps putting off: cutting spending.  People love the idea of cutting spending so long as it’s not the programs that they like or from which they reap benefits.

Students rioted in London today in response to the government’s decision to raise tuition fees threefold. I can’t say that I support their methods whatsoever — violence isn’t the answer — but, as a former student who is still paying off my thousands and thousands in loans, I can understand the frustration and anger.  Especially if I were against the policies that had been part of the reason why my country was in such fiscal disarray, I’d find it downright unacceptable to bear the brunt of the burden of paying it off.

It’s not like not going to college is much of an option these days. Taking a look at the current unemployment rates here in the States, the less-educated are the ones who are mainly out of work, not college graduates.  So by raising tuition, it’s basically saying that it costs that much more to be an active, productive member of society.  They have the right to be angry, even if their tuition rates are still relatively affordable compared to those here in America.  It’s not like the cost of living ever truly goes down.  And it’s not like wages really go up in concert with those costs.  Hence: rioting.

Westboro Baptist Church

The lovely folks down in Florida have decided to protest the late Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral with their traditional fare of “Thank God for Breast Cancer” and “God Hates Fags” posters and chants.  To understand this mentality is to be mentally ill.  There’s truly no other explanation for the kind of misguided hate that these people ooze consistently, aiming their extreme judgment on people in their time of deepest sorrow.  I pity them because they must be some of the most damaged souls out there, battling such horrific demons of their own that they need to project that darkness onto those they’ve never even met in most cases.

The free speech battle will continue, I’m sure.  I’ve said before my thoughts on it.  If we can restrict when and how people can shout the word “FIRE!” then it doesn’t seem to me a stretch to disallow protests at anyone’s funeral.  Although, perhaps I’m being overly protective on this one.  Maybe it’s a necessary evil to protect all of our free speech and right to assembly.

Conclusion

Doing these bite-sized views of multiple stories in one blog is not nearly as time-saving as I imagined it would be.  I just end up riffing too long on each subject that it gets to be rather lengthy accidentally.  For those of you still reading this, thanks for sticking around.