Having examined the demise of the Catholic Church and of economies based on Jurassic Age fuel deposits, we turn now to the role of information communication technologies (ICT) in exposing government conspiracies and by doing so helping to bring down U.S. Empire. The topic here is Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
Assange and his Wikileaks colleagues are conspiracy theorists and proud of it. For them (as for lawyers everywhere), “conspiracy” describes the secret planning of two or more people to commit a crime and/ or bring harm to a third party. Conspiracy is a legal category. By its definition, Assange contends, multinational corporations and their mainly U.S. political enablers have been and are conspirators worldwide. They are criminals who in the name of justice must be brought to heel.
The undeniable evidence of conspiracy is there for all to see. The vetoing of planet-saving climate change agreements by itself constitutes a crime whose predictable consequences dwarf by orders of magnitude even the Nazi Holocaust. But then there are the other less monumental, but still heinous felonies: the overthrow of foreign governments, the use of torture in general and water-boarding in particular, widespread extra-judicial killings, preemptive wars forbidden by international law, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, a vast U.S. secret prison system, international renditions, the repudiation of habeas corpus, unconstitutional spying on U.S. citizens, death squads, the use of drones in countries with which the United States is not at war, the “unintentional” but predictable killing of innocent civilians, the imprisonment (in horrific conditions) of disproportionate numbers of black people on U.S. soil, and much, much more. All of these are indications of conspiracy and national criminal activity on the part of the United States, a rogue state if ever there was one. Imperialism itself represents a criminal conspiracy – the control of one nation by another for the benefit of the controllers.
On the basis of such evidence, Assange and his group have taken it upon themselves to do what the empire’s journalists are afraid to do – to publish the unvarnished and undeniable truth about the crimes of empire. Their method is to publicize the secret internal communications on which any criminal conspiracy depends. Their sources are whistleblowers who for various reasons desire anonymously to “out” conspiratorial activity in question. The means for doing so are, once again, the informational technologies developed over the last 15 years. Simply put, Wikileaks provides a highly encrypted website depository to insure source anonymity and take full advantage of distributed digital media power which lies essentially in the hands of the people instead of being centrally controlled by the elite.
How does it work? Assange explains it this way: understand for starters how the U.S. itself describes the conspiratorial network at the heart of the War on Terrorism. The conspirators are widely dispersed across many countries. As a result, they depend on secret communications to coordinate their activities. Picture a wooden board with nails driven in at randomly chosen points. That represents a world map with conspirators unpredictably located across its surface. Now take a thread and wind it around the nails connecting one to the other. The thread represents the lines of secret communication necessary for any conspiracy to succeed. It’s the task of counter-terrorism (counter-conspiracy) to cut those threads.
That’s what Assange aspires to do relative to the international conspiracy represented by secret U.S. and E.U. policy. He wants to make it impossible for that form of secret, terrorist conspiratorial communications to take place. In other words, he’s trying to bring empire to its knees.
No wonder the U.S. government is panicking. Media personalities have called for classifying Wikileaks as an international terrorist organization. Senators have called for Assange’s arrest. Some have even suggested his assassination. But understand this: Wikileaks is no more subject to U.S. law than it is to Chinese, Korean or Iranian law. Julian Assange is an Australian. Wikileaks is headquartered in Sweden whose very constitution protects freedom of the press by absolutely protecting journalists from forcibly divulging the sources of their information. Moreover, U.S. officials applauded Wikileaks when it revealed state secrets of its competitors. Hillary Clinton did so in the name of freedom of information. It is unlikely then that Washington would have supported efforts to extradite Assange or his associates for trial before Chinese, Korean, or Iranian courts on charges of illegally divulging state secrets. Contradicting such posturing by demanding Assange’s extradition to the United States is making Washington (once again!) the laughingstock of the world.
Assange couldn’t be happier. All of this is part of the plan – to rescue the traditional role of journalism from its distortion by outlets such as Fox News. Assange notes the irony: Fox can disseminate what everyone knows are outright lies and be protected under invocations of press freedom. It can allege that President Obama is a communist, a Muslim, not American. It can ridicule climate change as a liberal plot to undermine capitalism. No one in authority advocates shutting Fox down for spreading such disinformation. But let whistleblowers expose the undeniable truth about their criminal employers, and “important people” suddenly find their voices and begin calling for arrest and worse.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not Wikileaks’ disclosures will achieve their utterly radical intended goals. Minimally, they will surely make diplomats, politicians, the CIA, FBI, as well as the business concerns that fund those agents and institutions, more circumspect in their secret communications. In other words, the disclosures have made the business of imperial conspiracy vastly more difficult.
Additionally, Wikileaks has already powerfully impacted the news industry. Not only have its revelations provided a welcome and unimpeachable counterpoint to media misinformation and cooption by the very authorities the media should be scrutinizing. Wikileaks disclosures have become as well the focus of bloggers and the new internet news sources. It has forced mainstream media to deal with issues they would not otherwise have addressed. Without Assange and his colleagues, many of the front page stories of the last year would never have seen the light of day. We would not have been sure, for instance, that the U.S. was really behind those assassinations in Yemen. Finally, it will be interesting to see what happens when the torture-related photos and films that President Obama decided to withhold finally hit the fan. Equally fascinating will be responses to future releases of internal communications from within leading financial institutions and multinational corporations. All such information releases threaten the corporatist conspiracies Wikileaks is targeting. In summary, Wikileaks promises to change the news industry, and clearly threatens empire.
It’s easy to become discouraged or depressed by a world falling apart. However the point here has been that the death of the Church, the disintegration of the world economy, and the decline and imminent fall of the “American” Empire by no means constitute entirely bad news. On the contrary, they are all to be welcomed as part of an evolutionary process that finds the new ICT and promising distributed forms of energy at its center. If the process is allowed to reach its promised conclusion before the threatened foreclosure of the human prospect by criminally unaddressed climate change, the process suggests a healthier, saner planet controlled more by people than by corporations and their political servants. Towards that end, dispersed, distributed popular power in information and energy is at least weakening and at most threatening to bring to their knees the pillars of the world as we know it. The church has already been mortally wounded by it. The world’s economy will be profoundly and forever changed by it. Governmental and corporate conspiracies will be crippled and possibly ruined by it.
This is what answers to the prayers of progressives and radicals looks like.