As our readers know, Sott.net doesn’t always take the easy path, but we do try to take the right path and we don’t like to get egg on our faces. If we think we are right in the face of all opposition, we’ll stick to our guns. By the same token, if we discover we have made an error, we admit and correct it. We don’t like to have to admit and correct errors and so, we try to avoid making them.
There’s an old saying: ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater’ and never was that saying more à propos than the current Wikileaks/Julian Assange situation. This saying is particularly relevant in respect of those who deride Wikileaks and Assange, and point out the many problems that this situation presents to the careful thinker and researcher. And here, we include ourselves at Sott.net to some extent. We have had to sit down and discuss and think about this issue long and hard and the following is the outcome of that reflection.
First of all, Sott.net has friends who have taken positions on both sides of the issue — friends whose opinions we respect and, more than that, we understand them. We have questioned the Assange supporters closely and even they admit that the content of the leaks is certainly not what one would wish. One of them pointed out that diplomatic cables are not likely to contain any real dirty secrets other than the standard duplicity of diplomacy since what diplomats think or know is only what is fed to them by intelligence agencies. All you can learn from diplomatic cables is how they are going about advancing the agendas of their governments — agendas that are operative but cannot be openly declared. In short, noticing that the agenda is to set up Iran for attack, or Pakistan, from diplomatic cables is just what one would expect. As one pundit wrote disparagingly:
“Meanwhile, the organization has certainly discovered the art of over-promising, the latest Cablegate docs being a prime example. If there’s anything scandalous in them, it’s that the US government isn’t evil enough. There’s no talk of toppling foreign governments. No examples of breaking international law. No assassination talk. Nothing. Of course if you didn’t bother to read any details, you’d think there had been some massive breach of America’s dirtiest secrets that ripped the veil off the cloak and dagger world of the US diplomatic corps (of course, US politicians calling Wikileaks a “terrorist” organization only help to blow the docs out of proportion).”
All you are seeing in these cables is naked pathology in action: you can get a good idea about how this works from reading Wikleaks and Imperial Mobilization – The CIA’s “Mighty Wurlitzer”. But, as one of our researchers has pointed out, since we are developing pretty good ideas about how the PTB (Powers That Be) operate through the intelligence community, we would postulate that even the CIA doesn’t know what their own agency does or knows. Compartmentalization is the name of the game. A recent two year study by the Washington Post found that the American national security apparatus is “so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no-one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it, or exactly how many agencies do the same work”. Therefore, it is highly likely that both the diplomatic corps and most of the CIA have no idea to what extent they are used as pawns in a bigger game.
Then, of course, there is what the MSM (mainstream media) is doing with the leaks. Well, are we surprised? This is the same MSM that sold us the lies that led to the Iraq invasion and is owned by the Zionists just as the CIA is owned by the Zionists. (Keep in mind that Zionists do not necessarily represent Jews but certainly do find friendly bedfellows with the Nazi secret services imported into the U.S. under Project Paperclip and whose ideologies — and personalities – became the driving forces for American Secret State policies.)
State Department or diplomatic corps communication leaks are probably not the best place to find much damaging information. Diplomats are used and duped more often than not when the ‘Secret Team’ involves them in their fun and games.
So we can pretty much dismiss the leaked documents themselves and how they are being handled by the MSM as mostly disinformation and propaganda and spin. We can even speculate that no leak ever happens without an agenda behind it, and this batch of leaks is no different. But that doesn’t mean it always has to be that way, and this is where we come to Julian Assange and his vision. At this point, we want to share with you a little bit of the struggles we went through to come to the ideas we’re going to express here. We need to think first about Truth. Allow us to quote a bit from Ernest Gellner’s Anthropology and Politics:
Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos (No Way Out) is an account of a triangular situation in which three characters are so related to each other that each one of them can both thwart another and yet is also doomed to be thwarted. A kind of three-pronged stalemate is the consequence. Not one of the participants can break out of the situation, but none is allowed even to attain the peace of resignation. They are doomed to torment and be tormented. It is in this kind of context that Sartre comes to make the celebrated observation that hell is other people.
When it comes to the modern attitude to truth, it does seem that the contemporary situation is triangular, somewhat in this manner.
There are three principal contestants, roughly equidistant from each other. No single one is able to secure a really convincing ascendancy over the others, and liberate himself from the self-image-corroding taunts of at least one other member of the triad. It is all a little like the children’s game of scissors, paper, stone: scissors cut paper, paper covers stone, stone blunts scissors.
Gellner goes on to describe his three way stalemate as occurring between Relativists, Fundamentalists, and “Enlightenment Puritans”. In his book, Postmodernism, Reason and Religion he describes the latter as Enlightened Rationalist Fundamentalists which we will refer to as ERFs.
The Relativists reject the very idea of Truth since everything is relative to the observer, so to say. They actually believe in “belief” itself, devoid of content. They are against the idea of revealed truth that is singular and all-encompassing, but rather advocate the validity of all “truths” and points of view. The pursuit of any transcending truth is damned in their eyes. Anyone who disputes them is in peril of being damned for a colonialist, patriarchalist, or imperialist. Unfortunately, they become very “fundamentalist” about this — their Relativism is the Truth – which leads us, of course, to the Fundamentalists.
The Fundamentalists promote the Truth, but it is revealed truth from their god and, since they come in different flavors, there are different gods and different revealed truths, each adhered to by the given Fundamentalist with a death grip that can mean death for many others who do not subscribe to their particular beliefs.
The thing is, the Fundamentalists have a point against the Relativists: the Relativists position is not serious or consistent, nor is it capable of endowing anyone with genuine moral convictions. Our world is, indeed, a plural one, but it is based on the uniqueness of Truth as a value, something to be sought, not something to be claimed as “owned.” This brings us to the Enlightenment/Rationalist Fundamentalists.
The Enlightened Rationalist Fundamentalist (ERF) is one who thinks that Science (selecting that option with the highest probability based on observation and experiment as opposed to considering all options as equally valid via belief) is the cognitive path toward Truth and, at the same time, is convinced by the path of reason that Truth — with a capital T — does exist even if we aren’t there yet. The Enlightened Rationalist is convinced that Truth, as the ideal, can be unique and is definitely important which is the Fundamentalist view. However, the ERF is more careful and fastidious in identifying the truth that deserves respect (i.e. selecting the probability).
The ERF is not interested or tempted by the solipsistic relativistic position though he appreciates the tolerance that it recommends (at least in theory) because that tolerance is at the basis of making many observations and experiments before arriving at a conclusion about probabilities. The ERF, while sharing with the Fundamentalist the idea that the ideal of Truth is real and to be striven for, rejects the idea that he possesses it or that he even can possess it. He only knows that there are procedures for investigating the world that have positive and beneficial results: all ideas, data, inquirers are equal at the beginning and all cognitive claims must collect and analyze data on terms of equality, and no circular, self-confirming visions are allowed, but in the end, there is a conclusion that, at least until new data contradicts it, trumps all other visions. You could say that the ERF has a religious nature divorced from blind belief and that this inspires him or her to orderly conduct for its own sake.
Unfortunately, the ERF lives in a world that is too abstract to appeal to the average person — to the masses — and it is definitely not a cognitive style that sustains one emotionally in crisis. The idea that even-handed handling of evidence, careful collection of data and even more careful analysis, leads to a correct understanding of the world around us while admitting that it is only a process and our understanding today may change with the addition of new data, isn’t much to warm the heart of those ruled by passion, nor does it provide clear rules for behaving with dignity in difficult or tragic situations. Most people can’t live in a state of ambiguity.
In short: “The Fundamentalist and the [ERF] share a sense of and respect for the uniqueness of truth; the [ERF] and the Relativist share a penchant for tolerance; and the Relativist and the Fundamentalist share a reasonably well furnished, habitable world, as opposed to the arid emptiness of the ambiguous world of the ERF. The Relativist even has access to a whole set of exotic worlds which are at the same time discreetly connected to all modern conveniences.” (Gellner)
So, if you take the above discussion about different, fundamental ways to view Truth and the pursuit of same, and add in psychopathology, well, you can see how difficult this situation with Wikileaks and Julian Assange can be for different people. Any one of the three main positions can be degraded by pathological cognition.
So, taking all the data and observations into consideration, what comes out as the most likely probability? (By the very fact that we are analyzing this problem this way reveals our own position as very close to that of the ERF crowd.)
Okay, let’s deal with the fact that Julian Assange doesn’t seem to be the brightest light bulb in the pack when it comes to analyzing raw data. As one highly respected and well-known 9-11 researcher of the ERF ilk wrote to us yesterday:
Just the fact Assange refers to 9/11 truth as “nonsense” says it all, I think. The guy simply is too smart not to have figured it out soon after it happened. His “leaks” are carefully crafted to a) keep the public focus away from the growing awareness of the 9/11 coverup, and b) to work on the sheeple, subliminally, with the logic, “If there were anything at all to 9/11, these guys would have surely blown the lid.”
Let’s face it: 9/11 Truth would be the ultimate leak. Ergo, people are being led to believe that if “hundreds of thousands of documents” contain not a shred of evidence of 9/11 being an inside job, all truthers must be nutters.
9/11 is everything. In the grand scheme of things, nothing else really matters. Expose 9/11, and the whole house of cards instantly crumbles.
While we agree that the Truth about 9-11 (not manipulated diplomatic correspondence about it) is everything in terms of the Ultimate Leak, we don’t agree that Assange should be required to be a 9-11 Truther or a data analyst to be an activist for Truth and Transparency in government.
On the one hand, many people are being put in an impossible situation. If you come out in support of Assange, are you supporting the lies in the leaks, the drive to war, etc? That’s how it feels to many people. But on the other hand, if you don’t support him, you are basically acting against the principles of free speech, transparency in government, the “little guy” against the Fascist behemoth, and are supporting the destruction of all our freedoms.
Regarding Assange, personally, knowing what we know about spin, it’s very hard to tell when the MSM is putting words in his mouth or not reporting exactly what he says, or does and the context. On the other hand, with Wikileaks itself, and his “representatives,” he does seem to have ample outlets for getting his thoughts and ideas across in the event the MSM is misrepresenting him. That being said, the result of the play of these elements is that he is not terribly attractive as a spokesperson.
Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that the Swedish prosecution is a cooked up load of harassment and he deserves protection from that nonsense, but on the other hand, Assange does come across as pretty crass and that turns off both the Fundamentalists and the Enlightened Rationalist Fundamentalists! He is, in their eyes, neither morally upright nor fastidious in his handling of data.
The thing is, the idea of Wikileaks is great in principle and that’s what makes this so darned difficult: Assange is the spokesperson for an idea whose time has come, but the leaked material he is representing is not worth dying for. In short, Assange and the propaganda within the leaks are the bathwater, the public right to expose government corruption is the baby.
So the point is this: the principle is worth everything to all of us, here and now. As John Naughton wrote in the Guardian yesterday:
[Wikileaks] represents the first really sustained confrontation between the established order and the culture of the internet. There have been skirmishes before, but this is the real thing. …
What Wikileaks is really exposing is the extent to which the western democratic system has been hollowed out. In the last decade its political elites have been shown to be incompetent (Ireland, the US and UK in not regulating banks); corrupt (all governments in relation to the arms trade); or recklessly militaristic (the US and UK in Iraq). And yet nowhere have they been called to account in any effective way. Instead they have obfuscated, lied or blustered their way through. And when, finally, the veil of secrecy is lifted, their reflex reaction is to kill the messenger.
“Disclosure is messy and tests moral and legal boundaries. It is often irresponsible and usually embarrassing. But it is all that is left when regulation does nothing, politicians are cowed, lawyers fall silent and audit is polluted. Accountability can only default to disclosure.” What we are hearing from the enraged officialdom of our democracies is mostly the petulant screaming of emperors whose clothes have been shredded by the net.
Which brings us back to the larger significance of this controversy. The political elites of western democracies have discovered that the internet can be a thorn not just in the side of authoritarian regimes, but in their sides too. It has been comical watching them and their agencies stomp about the net like maddened, half-blind giants trying to whack a mole. It has been deeply worrying to watch terrified internet companies — with the exception of Twitter, so far — bending to their will.
But politicians now face an agonising dilemma. The old, mole-whacking approach won’t work. Wikileaks does not depend only on web technology. Thousands of copies of those secret cables — and probably of much else besides — are out there, distributed by peer-to-peer technologies like BitTorrent. Our rulers have a choice to make: either they learn to live in a Wikileakable world, with all that implies in terms of their future behaviour; or they shut down the internet.
Yeah, somebody leaked some low-level diplomatic cables full of chaff and the MSM is having a field day, but it is how we respond to the act of leaking and the one who has the courage to stand up to the Fascists that will determine if anyone is going to be courageous enough in the future to leak something that really matters. We don’t have to like or agree with what has been leaked, we don’t have to like or agree with Julian as a person, but we must defend Julian and activists and hacktivists, or we are doomed.
Yes, it’s possible that the whole thing was set up with no single way out for anyone or maybe it just happened that way because different people have different cognitive styles. Either way, we cannot allow it to further divide those who seek truth and Truth. It’s a certainty that no one else has stepped up to the plate and put themselves on the line as Julian Assange has. Maybe he’s mad, and maybe it takes somebody who is a little mad to demonstrate that kind of courage. That doesn’t matter right now. The world is rapidly descending into a different, more dangerous madness and if it takes a Vendetta to start the pendulum swinging in the other direction, so be it.
Because, in the end, it is the principle that the people are entitled to the Truth that matters and that is what is at stake here.