Dear Bunny, My name is Laurie and this is the first time I've ever written to a program before. I love the Pinky Show a lot. Thank you for making your work because I've learned so much from reading and thinking about things from your different perspective! I'm currently a freshman at [x] High School in Texas, and I do pretty well in school but I'm worried that I'm not getting a well-rounded education. I appreciate especially how you always explain complicated things in such a clear way and not only that but how important it is to be ready to speak the truth even if it may not be the most popular position to take. But I'm embarrassed to admit that the last blog post about Wikileaks you wrote (11/30 entry) left me confused. Sometimes I think I'm not too bright! I read it several times but still don't understand if you think Wikileaks is wrong to do what it did or if actually you think what they're doing is right in some way. I apologize for not getting it! Could you please explain what you meant to me? Also, what do you think about Julian Assange? Do you think he really raped those two women? Thank you, LaurieReply:
Dear Laurie, Thank you for writing. There's no need to be embarrassed whenever you don't immediately understand something. Pinky and I frequently (every day!) come across material that we think is hard to understand. When that happens we usually try to find a bunch of related materials to see if we're missing some background information. Other times something may be hard to understand simply because it's just presented poorly, or maybe it's being presented in an unfamiliar style. Like my last post - I probably shouldn't have written it using cat sarcasm, which I think many people find weird or confusing. So today I'll try to restate my comments from the other day more clearly. Thank you for your patience.
1) This thing called "international diplomacy" is not a wholesome activity. It is, as the released U.S. diplomatic cables illustrate, frequently vicious business, where the fates and lives of millions of ordinary people are traded like currency. We, Pinky Show nobodies, have frequently noted that government representatives who do their work beyond the view of the people they supposedly serve often abuse their positions and privilege. They make deals that benefit the elite classes of their respective nations while ignoring the needs of the majority. Our position is that EVERYONE needs to know what their governmental representatives are saying and doing. Today, however, only the deal-makers and their pals have the 'inside-scoop' on that kind of information. If EVERYONE were to have access to this kind of information, that would be an extremely important first step towards eventually achieving things like a fair or democratic world-society. If governments are not going to be open about their dealings, and the media can't or won't report what's really going on, then things like Wikileaks are necessary. When governmental representatives start speaking honestly about what they are doing and journalists also start doing their jobs, then perhaps Wikileaks will be considered obsolete. Of course all this is hard to achieve but important or valuable things are rarely easy to do.
2) The way the world is currently organized, "International diplomacy" is something that happens between the elite class (governmental, corporate, military, etc.) of one nation with the elite class of another nation. [Side note: Of course, more powerful nations are often able to apply pressure to less powerful nations in order to get what they want. So when I say international diplomacy is a game between international elites, I don't mean that makes anything fair or equal. I just wanted to point out that the interests of ordinary people are usually considered irrelevant when diplomats sit down at the negotiation table.] This is the reason why no one should be surprised that there's currently worldwide criticism of Wikileaks for this latest round of leaked information. It's not just the U.S. leadership that's upset; this time it's also all their counterparts from other countries as well. This is a nice example of how political elites from different countries usually have more in common with each other than they have with ordinary people from their own countries (and they definitely know how to show it, too!). And now they're all mad because the leaks has allowed everyone a peek at how corrupt the whole system is - it illustrates how the entire diplomatic corps, regardless of what country you're actually from, conduct business. It offers insight (if the public is willing to look) into what kind of values dominate nation-to-nation relations. None of these guys want ordinary people to know what they're up to. They know that if more people caught onto their way of doing business they'd be in greater danger of losing credibility or being pushed out of office.
3) World leaders (and their many journalist minions) currently condemning and/or attacking Wikileaks have good reason to do so. Their collective neck is on the line. Ordinary individuals, on the other hand, who are only members of the elite class in their dreams, condemn Wikileaks at the risk of being delusional or stupid. Practically everyone who get all their news and information from the dominant coercive instruments of society (schools, the media, the various governmental bodies such as the State Department, the White House, etc.) have uncritically accepted arguments and logic (a.k.a. propaganda) that's been carefully prepared for their consumption. Which is all very good for the rich and powerful - life's easy when you have a gullible mob to fight your battles for you.
4) Please don't forget to go read the actual cables! There's nothing wrong with reading New York Times/Guardian UK/Al Jazeera/CommonDreams/DemocracyNow!/etc commentary, but it's always good to read 'the thing itself' whenever possible (better hurry - who knows how long Wikileaks will still be around? [search for new links here]). Also, there are thousands of writers and thinkers out there who have spent their whole lives carefully mapping out the larger global political context from a counter-hegemonic perspective: Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, Derrick Jensen, etc. - the usual suspects - are a good place to start. Pinky and I often find that these are the guys who are providing the analyses that have the most explanatory power for the questions we have relating to big, inter-national structural stuff. The leaked cables are themselves only the fragmentary residue from a gigantic system, so it's important to always keep the structure of that system in mind while reading and thinking about the small fragments.
Okay, this is getting way too long so I guess that's enough from me for now.
Oh wait, regarding your final questions about Mr. Assange - I don't know if he did did those sex crimes or not. But here's something to think about: Did you know that out of more than 7500 Red Notices issued by Interpol, not a single person from the USA is wanted for war crimes, genocide, or crimes against humanity? Considering the history of U.S. military interventionism, covert operations, and decades-long campaigns of state violence against indigenous peoples throughout the 20th century, don't you think that's pretty..., um, "astounding"? Kinda makes me wonder what it takes to get on (or be exempted from) these important 'Wanted' lists.
Okay, Laurie, I will end here. Our best wishes for your continued studies.
Hey Bunny, this video is very related to what you're saying and it's really good. It's from Democracy Now, Nov. 30, 2010, Noam Chomsky: "[the cables] reveal a profound hatred for Democracy on the part of our political leadership...")
Posted by Kim.
12/8: Another note from Kim. Okay, every day there are new important Wikileaks developments. Now hackers are fighting back! Here is the link to the page where Democracy Now is keeping their excellent Wikileaks coverage:
Constitutional attorney Glenn Greenwald on the arrest of Mr. Assange and the US war on Wikileaks:
"Whatever you think of WikiLeaks, they have not been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. Yet look what has happened to them. They have been removed from Internet … their funds have been frozen … media figures and politicians have called for their assassination and to be labeled a terrorist organization. What is really going on here is a war over control of the Internet, and whether or not the Internet can actually serve its ultimate purpose—which is to allow citizens to band together and democratize the checks on the world’s most powerful factions."
Also, information-in-general about civil liberties & the internet at the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Excerpt from John Naughton's (London Observer, UK) article The Wikileaks Wake Up Call:
There is a delicious irony in the fact that it is now the so-called 'liberal' democracies that are desperate to shut WikiLeaks down. Consider, for example, how the views of the US administration have changed in just a year. On January 21 last year, Hilary Clinton, US secretary of state, made a landmark speech about Internet freedom in Washington DC which many observers interpreted as a rebuke to China for its alleged cyberattack on Google.
"Information has never been so free", declared Mrs Clinton. "Even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable."
She went on to relate how, during his visit to China in November 2009, Barack Obama had "defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens to hold their governments accountable, generates new ideas, and encourages creativity. The United States' belief in that truth is what brings me here today."
Posted by pinky, 12/8/2010.
I'm not a member of the Founding Fathers Fan Club but those guys sure generated lots of quotes that I can get behind!
“[W]ere it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” - Thomas Jefferson
(I'm assuming he meant to say "a free internet" instead of "newspapers", but then again, it could be this was before the invention of computers.)
Posted by Bunny, 12/8.