What Your Wikileaks Instinct Reveals About You

An emotional litmus test.

Posted Dec 01, 2010

The Cold War ended, and two decades later, the Secrecy War ended. With the Wikileaks website set up for business, mirrored around the world, we are another step closer to a real global village where we know each others' business. And now, emotions that evolved to serve us in the village are causing the usual groupthink, group affiliation and side-taking.

Some, like GOP Representative Peter T. King have branded the Wikileaks perpetrators terrorists, and Fox News host Bill O'Reilly wants them executed. That's some strong emotion. But as painful as it might be for otherwise well-meaning government personnel to be exposed, why are we, the tax-paying public, to be shielded from the actions of those driving policy that is putatively "public"?

Most of the Wikileaks information is damning only in that some government officials are embarrassed, and personal agendas are exposed within government. Governmental malfeasance should be exposed, but individuals, including our troops, should not be put at risk. If leaked information is redacted to protect innocents then who is harmed?

What is your immediate reaction on finding out that 250,000 documents classified by G-men as "secret" were posted online? Is your impulse to say yeah, "expose the elites," or was it instead to think, no, "protect our secrets"? Many of our passions can swing wildly depending on the questions we pose to ourselves. Some of those answers might be implicit. In fact, it might be a good idea to question your own assumptions whatever your impulse. That's because our passions can drive us to great heights, or in some cases, when it becomes outrage, off the deep end. Passion is good, outrage, in general is not.

The leaks are an emotionally explosive topic, because it is easy to run to the "us" vs. "them" camp. But what of our implicit assumptions about who constitutes us and who constituted them? For example, if I assume ‘us' refers to the US government then I'll be outraged. However, if I assume that ‘us' constitutes people who will be affected by governmental policies, then I want the right to know what goes on in the name of Americans. After all, if you or I travel to India we would not be protected by an armada of military operatives. We're American, but we're not subjects of the US government.

How would you feel about a WallStreetWikileaks? A FedReserveLeaks? [Ron Holland has a strong opinion.]

We already have sites that leak music albums, movies, Apple innovations, etc. Sure, no one dies when these secrets are revealed, but there's no evidence that anyone's safety is compromised by embarrassing a few politicians. Even so, private enterprises may lose billions of dollars and their recourse is minimal.

Wherever you stand on this issue, the info dam is cracking, secrets will be revealed for those who care. The effect? Perhaps governments will crack down and really execute downloaders, or we may get more transparency and honesty from government personnel in the future. Then again, governments may get better at hiding secrets.