Defining last years Wikileaks debacle on the scale of a “diplomatic 9/11” was a pithy news soundbite that nonetheless captured a truth about ‘Cablegate’, that it was one of the first incidents to choke the lungs of the American establishment half as potently as the caustic ashes of the World Trade Centre. And like 9/11, it delineated new themes in international politics. Contrary to facing a goliath act of violence on home territory, the American government faced a small non-profit publishing organisation named Wikileaks, who took on the role of the world’s conscientious superhero, robbing information from the rich and powerful and redistributing it to the poor and uninformed. But the establishment staged a backlash, enacting a series of measures to strip Wikileaks of its superhuman capabilities; who, after all, in this day and age, could, and would even dare to try outsmart and embarass the American Government? With a death for the organisation not off the cards in the words of one UK colleague, could Wikileaks have lost the fight?
As its new wisdom was opened to the world, the entrenched and threatened sages in Washington cut off its lifeline. For upholding the first amendment’s sanctification of freedom of press, Wikileaks was becried as anti-american and dangerous. For advocating the rights and interests of overlooked civilians in Arabic states mired in Western instigated bloodshed, Wikileaks was strangely tarred as “terrorists.” Gaining pariah status, it lost all its established routes for capital inflow, stripped of both its Mastercard and Paypal account. Other organisations were quick to imitate, with the murmurs of Washington falling like heavy weights on their ears. Limiting the options for those wishing to provide financial donations to Wikileaks was the first death knell. Whilst its operations are not confined to possessing large resevoirs of wealth, that certainly helps, and trying to operate simultaenous to funding large legal bills is expensive, a recipe for bankruptcy. How coincidental.
Meanwhile, a crusade intending to assassinate the character of Julian Assange was waged by the traditional press and he now faces incaceration upon spurious allegations of sexual assault in Sweden. Having lost his appeal against extradition, Assange will soon be tried for non-political crimes in a sovereign jurisdiction which will nonetheless feel vulnerable to political pressures from the United states to have him extradited there and tried for a crime they can’t yet put their finger on. It was observed that if Assange was working in China, he’d be celebrated as a dissident and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. With the unfaltering lens of scrutiny turned on America however, it has tried to mute Wikileaks with stunning alacrity, cutting off all channels conducive to its survival and scrupulously seeking loopholes in the law with which to silence them.
At one point, Wikileaks seemed to enjoy the perks of celebrity status, but the kind of patronage provided by the likes of Jemima Khan, which widened its appeal, disappeared as soon as Wikileaks ceased to be front page news. Other champagne socialists, satisfied that they’d fulfilled their quota of support by simpering vaingloriously on television about “freedom and justice” for five minutes, marched back off to Islington, presumably to start establishing more spurious claims to political importance based on quantum efforts as ‘activists’ in between nail sessions and dinner at The Dorchester. The real labourers in the heart of wikileaks meanwhile, continued to further the cause, despite decreasing finances and increasing danger.
So where does the situation stand now?
Power, in a global society entrenched with multilateral communications technologies such as the internet, belongs to the new philosophers trying to change the way people think and behave. Wikileaks ignited a new discourse on press ethics and practice, exposing the complacency of journalism by releasing more new information its brief life than the mainstream press has in its entire history. It also gave impetus to open-source information movements spawning like fireflies in the gloomy mire of tabloid and broadsheet reporting. Furthermore, it sought to avoid either left or right agendas, exposing the foibles of China as readily as those of America. To draw on the question asked at the beginning, ‘has Wikileaks lost the fight?’, that is not yet clear. But one fact remains. Whilst refusing to condone or affiliate themselves to new activist movements, they have nonetheless cultivated a vast and willing group ready to follow their example.