It’s almost funny – if your sense of humor runs to the dark side – to watch the Washington power elite go bonkers over the WikiLeaks revelations. We have Pentagon officials stamping their feet and demanding that WikiLeaks “return” the “stolen” documents it has posted online, and refrain from posting any more – as if this material, having gone viral worldwide, could possibly be reclaimed and made inaccessible. Here’s Marc Thiessen – neocon flack and advocate of torture – calling for WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange to be kidnapped, detained, and presumably waterboarded. And it’s not just the neocons: Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein have drafted a special amendment to legislation protecting journalistic sources specifically designed to exclude WikiLeaks.
These people have no clue, no concept of the internet: they’re dinosaurs roaring in pain on their way to extinction. They just don’t realize what’s happening, and continue to act as if their power is uncontested – which lends their fulminations a pathetic and, yes, a hilarious note.
The time has long since passed when governments can commit crimes in the dark, run secret wars, and have their passive and narcotized citizens go along with it, fund it, and salute when they’re told. The advance of technology has challenged the State’s information monopoly, and broken the power of the gatekeepers in the “mainstream” media: the internet has empowered any individual with a computer to transcend the physical and political limitations formerly imposed on ordinary persons, and get their information uncensored, raw, and first-hand, without “spin” or interpretation. It has, in short, allowed people to think for themselves, without being coached, coerced, or otherwise blinkered by “expert” opinion.
WikiLeaks must be stopped! That’s the cry being heard in Washington, and all the capitals of Europe (save heroic Iceland!). As any 10-year-old child of the Internet Age could tell them, however, it won’t be stopped because it can’t be stopped. One may as well, like old King Canute, command the tides be stilled, or have Congress pass legislation “repealing” the law of gravity.
Here’s why: Let’s say the neocon contingent in the Obama administration – and don’t look surprised, there is one – convinces the powers that be to go after Assange, and they lock him up. Let’s also say they take down the WikiLeaks web site, and prosecute all known WikiLeaks personnel. What’s to prevent another WikiLeaks from popping up – probably overnight – and serving the same subversive function? The authorities would soon discover the futility of their enforcement efforts, although that wouldn’t stop them from continuing it forever – just like the “war on terrorism” itself.
The genie is out of the bottle, and won’t ever be put back in. Even if President Obama exercises his newly-proposed power to shut down the internet in the United States, this would amount to yet another indication of how little official Washington understands the new technology.
The reason is because the internet exists largely outside the realm of governance, i.e. outside the physical realm. Oh sure, it requires servers and computers and a physical infrastructure to function, but once it was created it transcended its origins and became something altogether new – and deadly dangerous to tyrants and warmongers everywhere.
Discussions of WikiLeaks’ impact often refer to the fact that it is “stateless,” as if it somehow existed above and beyond the power of governments to reach it. And this is absolutely true, because the realm opened up by the internet is the interior space of each and every individual human mind. This is a territory that not even the mighty and all-powerful State of modern times has managed to invade, let alone conquer – although not from lack of trying, to be sure.
The propaganda emitted by States and their enablers, no matter how pervasive, can never succeed in entirely smothering independent thought and action, as the fall of the Soviet empire demonstrated in quite a dramatic way. Our own war propagandists are discovering this, today, especially in the wake of what we learned about how the Bush administration lied us into war.
The War Party has less credibility in this country and abroad than at any time since the end of the First World War, when that noble crusade to “make the world safe for democracy” turned out to have been a war to redivide the spoils, enlarge and protect the British empire, and enrich the merchants of death.
The WikiLeaks’ battle to give the public the real lowdown on what’s happening in Afghanistan comes at a propitious moment – what the mainstream media hacks like to call a “defining moment” – when the development of a new technology intersects with the rise of a new political consciousness.
We have seen this in the decline of the media “mainstream,” whose long overdue funeral was recently held when the formerly mighty Newsweek was sold for exactly one dollar, about twice what it’s worth. The US government can no more reverse this inevitable trend than it can plug the innumerable “leaks” sprung when governments commit war crimes, or otherwise engage in crimes against their own citizens. Word invariably gets out. In the past, it got out by word of mouth, and then in the form of print, but now we have an entirely new conduit for accounts of governmental crimes, and that is a disembodied bulletin board that exists everywhere and nowhere, a kind of skywriting that can be seen worldwide. Against that kind of power, there is no defense – no, not even the State’s ultimate weapon, which is brute force.
Thiessen wants Obama to unleash the awesome power and majesty of the newly-created US “Cyber Command” to take out the WikiLeaks “cyber-terrorists,” kidnap Assange, and put him and his cohorts on trial before a military commission. This is the only possible response of the War Party to the challenge posed by WikiLeaks, and the entire antiwar online community, but Thiessen’s snarling only underscores the complete impotence of the authorities, who are just beginning to realize what they’re up against.
No doubt the WikiLeaks furor will give a big boost to the currently fashionable area of “cyber warfare,” to which billions of our tax dollars are being diverted. As Obama’s right hand man, Rahm Emmaneul, reminded us, every crisis is an opportunity to expand the power and reach of the State. Yet our government’s cyber-wars will no doubt prove even less successful than their current “real world” failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After all, these are the same folks who still don’t have an integrated anti-terrorist database. We are talking about a government whose Byzantine bureaucracy has been saddled with so many conflicting computer systems that one agency is blind to what the other is doing. Given to endless proliferation, these agencies – several of which are invariably assigned to the same task – are notoriously jealous of each other and quite tenacious about guarding their own turf. In the case of conducting “cyber-warfare” against WikiLeaks or anyone else, one can easily see various segments of the growing “cyber-warrior”/government contractor community taking out after each other just as readily as the Afghan National Police and the Afghan Army shoot each other up – which, by the way, is quite a lot, if you read the incident reports labeled “blue on blue” and “green on green” posted on WikiLeaks.
The internet is the most valuable addition to the antiwar arsenal since the invention of ethics: indeed, it is, at least potentially, the disembodied conscience of the world, a realm where the uncensored truth can be found by anyone, if only one knows how and where to look. In this we have a great advantage, which is almost – but not quite – enough to offset the very great and longstanding advantage enjoyed by all States everywhere, and that is the tremendous resources continuously available to them. To say the tyrants and warmongers of this world are well-funded would be an understatement, to be sure.
We, the online antiwar community, on the other hand, have to make every last penny count – and, alas, there comes a day when the pennies run out, and the piggy bank is empty. That’s when we turn to you, our readers and supporters, for the support we need to continue our fight.
We must raise $70,000 in the next two weeks or so in order to continue our work. That work is nothing less than de-legitimizing and finally ending the foreign policy of perpetual war carried out by our rulers since September 11, 2001.
We think we’ve been doing a pretty good job, so far, as least as far as the de-legitimizing aspect of that equation is concerned. Why, I can remember a time when no one knew what a “neocon” was – and when the “mainstream” media was wearing flag lapels as they “reported” the invasion of Afghanistan as being a glorious success. While naturally I don’t give Antiwar.com the sole credit for the big advances made since then, I know we were and continue to be a major factor in the ongoing debunking of the War Party’s narrative.
It would be a terrible irony if, just at the moment when it looks like the tide is turning against the War Party, Antiwar.com should go down and not get up. Yet that is precisely what will happen if we fail to make our fundraising goal. We don’t need a lot to keep going: but we do need that basic minimum to keep the ship afloat. Without it, we are history. The War Party can’t crush the online antiwar community with kidnappings, rendition, or prosecution: our real enemy is public apathy, and the sense of powerlessness that comes with it. We depend on you, our readers, for our very survival: without you, we are lost. It’s as simple as that.
So please – give as much as you can, as soon as you can. Because we can win the future for peace.