Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Wikileaks as Language Poetry

with 9 comments

At 3 Quarks Daily. The piece takes a rather more skeptical tack than the much-linked zunzuzungu piece that serves as its starting point:

That Wikileaks will have real-world effects is indisputable; they’ve already begun to show themselves. The real question, now, is whether those effects will look anything like what Assange hoped for them in 2006.

The financial analogy gives us reason to be skeptical. By rights the mortgage meltdown should have wiped out half of Wall Street. And yet two years after the worst of it, the banks that caused the crisis are enjoying record profits while the rest of the economy foots the bill: 10% unemployment, frozen federal pay, broke state governments, etc., etc., ad nauseam. The lesson of the crisis was unequivocal: power doesn’t have to play by rights. The State Department of the United States, we can be sure, is quite aware of this.

There’s a deeper sense, however, in which Assange’s 2006 third-order strategy for Wikileaks has to count as naive. His belief that secrecy is the fundamental source of power is a version of the classic category mistake of the internet age: to imagine that the “world” of information simply is the world, that there is no remainder, nothing left to of the latter to overflow or exceed or resist the former. (The Language poets made a similar mistake in suggesting that a stylistic innovation in poetry was predictably convertible into real-world effects.)

Written by gerrycanavan

December 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm

9 Responses

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  1. 3 Quarks Daily: power doesn’t have to play by rights. The State Department of the United States, we can be sure, is quite aware of this.
    Me: And there’s the rub: you think it’s secrecy that’s justified crime; I think it’s power.

    3QD: His belief that secrecy is the fundamental source of power is a version of the classic category mistake of the internet age: to imagine that the “world” of information simply is the world, that there is no remainder, nothing left to of the latter to overflow or exceed or resist the former.
    Me: He seems to (linguistically) adequate secrecy and injustice. (I would add that this assumption – the more secretive/unjust an organization is, the more paranoid it is – is simply pulpit logic. The unjust suffer in their sleep; we may not know, but God knows. The only difference is that the preachers don’t believe it when they say it. For them, it’s just a shaming device.)

    Alex

    December 7, 2010 at 11:02 am

  2. But no one seems to know this better than Julian Assange: “”I have become the lightening rod. I get undue attacks on every aspect of my life, but then I also get undue credit as some kind of balancing force.”

    Alex

    December 7, 2010 at 11:04 am

  3. Yeah, I thought you’d like this piece better.

    gerrycanavan

    December 7, 2010 at 11:06 am

  4. Have you read the newest op-ed by Assange?

    IN 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide’s The News, wrote: “In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.”

    His observation perhaps reflected his father Keith Murdoch’s expose that Australian troops were being needlessly sacrificed by incompetent British commanders on the shores of Gallipoli. The British tried to shut him up but Keith Murdoch would not be silenced and his efforts led to the termination of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

    Nearly a century later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.

    I grew up in a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully. The dark days of corruption in the Queensland government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth.

    These things have stayed with me. WikiLeaks was created around these core values. The idea, conceived in Australia , was to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth.

    The beliefs a) that truth will triumph over falsehood and b) that this is an end in itself, seem utterly contrary to a politics of hegemony. I’m happy to look at Assange as a player in that struggle, but God I find his philosophical musings repugnant.

    “A young Rupert Murdoch”: the very man who demonstrated conclusively that truth is worth a lot less than repetition.

    Alex

    December 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    • When I hear the phrase, “core values,” I reach for my gun.

      Alex

      December 7, 2010 at 2:32 pm

  5. Give me David Simon any day for reflection on the news industry.

    Alex

    December 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm

  6. “Give me David Simon any day for reflection on the news industry.”

    you mean this guy?

    from an open letter to his former corporate employers, with an idea from his new corporate employers:

    Most of all, I know that here you are being individually asked to consider taking a bold, risk-laden stand for content—that antitrust considerations prohibit the Times and The Post, not to mention Rupert Murdoch or the other owners, from talking this through and acting in concert. Would that every U.S. newspaper publisher could meet in a bathroom somewhere and talk bluntly for fifteen minutes, this would be a hell of a lot easier. And yes, I know that if one of you should try to go behind the paywall while the other’s content remains free, then, yes, you would be destroyed. All that is apparent.

    everything else i’ve ever read of simon’s on the news industry, while often sharp in its appraisal of how things went wrong, is both politically and technologically reactionary.

    traxus4420

    December 7, 2010 at 1:53 pm

  7. I was referring to the “what went wrong” aspect of David Simon’s critique. Whether paywalls will work seems dubious; whether it would be a good thing is even more dubious.

    If we wanted to talk about open information though, there are a lot of questions I have. The copyleft/commons people seem to believe that information should be absolutely free. In practice, this has seemed to make competition among original producers of content (i.e., writers) much more vociferous (“how the fuck do I get anything for all the work I’m doing adding content to the internet?”) while providing an unprecedented amount of power and wealth to those who operate information clearinghouses, google prime among these. I don’t think it’s reactionary to question these things, just like it isn’t reactionary to question the benefits of automation for humanity.

    Alex

    December 7, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    • This seems like a debate for a different forum, so I’ll let you have your say and I won’t add anything else – since the basic question was Assange’s op-ed and his Kantian love of openness.

      Alex

      December 7, 2010 at 2:30 pm


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