Me & media on Wikileaks

Here are some appearances I’ve been making regarding Wikileaks, transparency, and press freedom.

On CNN with John King Thursday night talking about the hacking of MasterCard et al, quoting this Guardian editorial arguing that the attacks are a form of civil (cyber) disobedience in defense of a free internet:

Here’s a link to BBC audio, on the same subject, discussing the shift from power-to-power to peer-to-peer architecture.

The Berliner Zeitung BZ asked for a brief op-ed. Here’s the English text:

Should Wikileaks be stopped? The question is somewhat irrelevant. The movement it exemplifies – transparency – cannot be stopped.

I’m not saying that secrecy is dead. We still need secrets – about security, crime, privacy, diplomacy. But we have far too many secrets in government. One thing that Wikileaks reveals is the abuse of government secrecy.

But now governments will have to learn how to operate under the assumption that anything they do can be seen on the front page of this newspaper. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. I say that government must become transparent by default, secret by necessity.

Transparency breeds trust. Whether for government or journalism or business, operating in the open enables the opportunity to collaborate with constituents.

We in journalism must recognize that Wikileaks is an element of a new ecosystem of news. It is a new form of the press. So we must defend its rights as media. If we do not, we could find our own rights curtailed. Asking whether Wikileaks should be stopped is exactly like asking whether this newspaper should be stopped when it reveals what
government does not want the public to know. We have been there before; let us never return.

  • Eric Gauvin

    Perhaps it was your poor choice of words, but I don’t think “transparency breeds trust.” If anything something like privacy breeds trust. Seems like what you meant was transparency leads to accountability.

    Also, I don’t think you can draw lessons about transparency after peeking through a keyhole.

  • Brenden

    “… the world has not fallen apart…” Indeed… But the politicians have been embarrassed and that’s clearly a no no… … suck it up!

    Bring on the movement to transparency and thanks for being a front line supporter of it Mr. Jarvis.

  • Hans Suter

    The former spokesperson for Pope John Paul II has this to say:

    (Google translated excerpt)”The phenomenon WikiLeaks, after all, is not a violent disorder in the world of communication, but the inability of the old policy to be adapted to a reality where anything can be circulated, everything can be proved, everything can be posted in the virtual. The only remedy which remains to the authorities to resist the global personal gossip is to practice the authority and responsible exercise of power. Because in the future will be impossible to be perverted and appear to be pure or warmongers and pacifists appear. The Internet was no longer a discount to anyone.”

    Il fenomeno WikiLeaks, in fin dei conti, non è una violenta patologia del mondo della comunicazione, ma l’impossibilità della vecchia politica di essere adeguata ad una realtà in cui tutto può essere fatto circolare, tutto può essere rivelato, ogni cosa può essere affissa nel virtuale. L’unico rimedio che resta alle autorità per resistere al global gossip è praticare l’autorevolezza personale e responsabile nell’esercizio del potere. Perché in futuro sarà impossibile essere pervertiti e apparire puri o essere guerrafondai e apparire pacifisti. L’era di Internet non fa più sconti a nessuno.

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  • Chris

    “I say that government must become transparent by default, secret by necessity.”

    Very well said, Jeff. Despite my criticism of your previous, short post on the Visa/MC thing, I find much to agree with in this post, and in this quoted sentence in particular.


  • Leo

    Just a tiny side note: There’s a difference between the B.Z. and the Berliner Zeitung. These two are not the same… ;)

  • John

    To quote Jeff:
    “We still need secrets – about security, crime, privacy, diplomacy. But we have far too many secrets in government. One thing that Wikileaks reveals is the abuse of government secrecy.”
    Which I agree with completely.
    But he hasn’t answered the question of who should decide what is kept secret and what is public. I don’t feel comfortable with Wikileaks being left to make that decision.

  • Chris

    I saw today that OpenLeaks might be going live… a bunch of people who were at WikiLeaks, but didn’t care for the way Julian runs things…. they plan to be a “repository” of sorts, allowing others to make the judgment call to print the leaks found in docs that make their way to OpenLeaks.

    Sounds like it has potential.

  • Poeschl

    @Jeff Jarvis

    It is understandable that American readers of WikiLeaks would prefer to believe that the leaked cables will lead to more transparency or more accountability (as commenter Eric Gauvin put it).

    But in fact, the U.S. gov’t, in response to WikiLeaks, will likely reduce transparency by fortifying the secrecy protecting U.S. gov’t communications.
    Otherwise the U.S. would lose diplomatic leverage with foreign gov’ts if they can’t rely on the confidentiality of diplomatic conversations with the U.S. That confidentiality can be guaranteed only if the U.S. gov’t alone, rather than nonstate hackers, decides who can have access to confidential cables.

    @ Eric Gauvin & John (on 12/10 at 5:22 p.m.)

    Exactly true, on both posts.

  • When America was founded the free press was almost like the “fourth branch” of government. Only since the rise of the corporatocracy has the press become merely a branch of P.R.

    An opaque government *should* to be afraid of an unflinching, indiscriminately free press.

    P.S. Great job on Stern, Jeff! :)

  • Agrinsoni

    I agree with your quote: “I say that government must become transparent by default, secret by necessity.” We need that transparency in order to trust, respect, and lead this country. But I differ from you when you speak “as we”. You cannot compromise the entire journalist population just to recognize that “Wikileaks is an element of a new ecosystem of news.” Your personal opinion should not interfered with the main topic.

    It is clear that Wikileaks is “trying to bring transparency”, but there is a huge gap in between inform the people with the truth and free press. By releasing these information, Wikileaks is attempting against hundred of lives, innocents lives. We as journalists, always need to pre-visualize the impact of our news, the impact that will cause to the people. That is what Wikileaks lacks; sense of impact. That element discard totally Wikileaks from being an element of news.

    A. Agrinsoni

  • Dennis in the UK

    If you don’t think transparency is needed then watch this

    John Pilger exposes the US and its secret wars:
    The War You Don’t See

    Then have a rethink

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