Wikileaks, Denver, Radicals & a Critique of Messaging
In Denver, Colorado outrage about the case of Julian Assange and the illegal attacks on Wikileaks is almost invisible. Exceptions to the rule include random messaging on college campuses, such as Auroria Denver, and street messaging, such as this graffiti picture, taken from a locomotive next to the Lightrail at the 10th and Osage station. These messages are beautifully done, and certainly it is better that these exist than nothing at all. However, these meager offerings, moderately inspiring though they might be to some, are only in reaction to the dominant discourse. At best these messages are an attempt to radicalize people at an incremental level, influencing the discourse and encouraging people to action and inquiry, however shallow. At worst they honestly hope to influence policy about Wikileaks or the attack on Julian Assange with some pressure-group theory of politics. Unfortunately, the current mode of production, system, or totality (krapitalism, the spectacle, the commodity relationship, class rule) not only determines the dominant discourse, it defines it.
The thing that is really crazy about the case of Wikileaks and Julian Assange is not the fact that the organization has unveiled any truly damning or insightful information. Except for accidentally publishing a complete blueprint for a nuclear weapon, Wikileaks has yet to reveal anything that could potentially disrupt any local or international distributions of power. The Iraq war files reveal nothing that wasn’t understood about the way the US military operates at least since Winter Soldier in Vietnam, if not from the very beginning with testimony about the Indian wars. The diplomatic cables are mostly trivial, taken from the lowest designation of US secrecy. I do not mean to malign Wikileaks or the work that individuals in that organization do to fight for justice or subvert the system, but neither do I find their work to be the pinnacle of human endeavor.
The degree of severity in the reaction by the authorities is also nothing to write home about. The degree to which, in reaction to Wikileaks, the US government has infringed on any civil liberties that we might enjoy is not in any sense unprecedented or uniquely troubling either. Although it is perhaps somewhat unusual, in the sense of an illegal computer attack against the wikileaks website, the government already reserves the power to shut down and even take over any domain or website that it finds threatening. The only thing that is stopping them from doing this at an official level is the fact that Wikileaks is operating in a legal loophole of the Constitution called “Ammendment I.” However, the government has seldom let that stop its efforts to squash dissent through legal and extralegal means, even though it also defines and interprets the legal rules under which it operates as well. The attack on Wikileaks is no exception to this pattern of oppression, although the tools are new. Furthermore, by all comparison, the situation with Julian Assange is an example of the use of kid-gloves and low-intensity conflict compared to what is currently happening to radicals and rebels throughout the globe, let alone in the past.
In fact, the crazy thing about the Wikileaks controversy is the fact that it has been made public. It is the fact that the main-stream media has deigned to talk about it. Not that there is any sort of Alex Jones-ish conspiracy to create a show case to operate as an excuse for the government to increase its repression. Indeed, to the degree to which the government plays by its own rules, the government needs no excuse to change them, and does so (if only incrementally) as and when it sees fit, with little if any opposition or media coverage. To believe otherwise is to delude oneself into believing that democracy works in this country, which even according to the standards of its own mythology, it plainly does not. No, the degree to which any civil liberties exist is largely the degree to which the efficient monitoring of organized chaos and worker self-policing needs to be allowed for overall maintenance of peak-levels of wealth accumulation. Individual actions may result in the system changing these facts, but only due to a new variable being introduced into the equation which brings down efficiency and effects the best methods of maintaining production. It is not because a conspiracy exists to mechanize everything and subdue humanity and the only thing stopping it is the Libertarian Party, the ACLU, and a lack of genuine threats as excuses. The decision to report about the Wikileaks controversy is not made in a closed board-room video conference of elites, but extremely indirectly, in the graphing of a thousand market curves and cost-benefit analyses .
The second most crazy thing about the Wikileaks controversy, is the fact that so many radicals seem to embrace the media’s perspective, if not its conclusions. It is tempting, surely, to embrace the current controversy. For the first time in a long time, in the United States the media is consistently reporting on some form of opposition to imperialism and authority which does not take the form of religious extremism or vested self-interests such as extreme nationalism or dictatorial socialism. This is partially due to the fact that the media exists on an international basis, and when the story is reported elsewhere, it eventually reaches the United States. It’s better to co-opt the story than to not report it. But this is only a minor aspect of the situation. Media in other countries where people have different tendencies or interests pander to their perspective while simultaneously limiting it. Coverage is provided, but in a superficial way, and over a narrow range of perspectives. Before even this limited approach would have been too dangerous in the United States, a country where some individuals have proportionately greater amounts of money and power than most others, and which in aggregate people have the greatest amount of control of the global system through a monopoly of wealth and weapons. Such a situation so obviously unjust that it had to be justified by appeal to myths about creating peace, promoting freedom, and self-defense.
However, the situation has finally changed. No-longer do we see ourselves as innocent. We are no longer an idealistic, thoroughly ignorant nation. Instead, through a combination of corruption and disillusionment, we have become incredibly cynical and narcissistic. It’s not all our own faults, the best revolutionary groups were systematically targeted and destroyed. Nevertheless, today, many people have still never heard of Wikileaks before. Those who are seen as naïve enough to think that paying attention to world affairs might matter still are not naïve enough to think that anything can ever really change, or even that it should in any fundamental way. Wikileaks can be reported precisely because it’s not dangerous. Nobody is shocked, nobody really offended. The revelations during the Bush Era of electioneering, WMD fabrication, lying about issues related to 9/11, and open financial and government corruption were just as damning if not more so than the Pentagon Papers or the Watergare Scandall ever were, yet the reaction was far less dramatic. The Wikileaks controvery is merely an echo of the same phenomenon, only this time there is no partisan political factor. Today, to most people, either the ways of our world are necessary evils, or inevitable tragedies.
While it is currently impossible to free ourselves or exist outside of this all-encompassing paradigm, it is possible to destroy it or at least overturn it. While our actions, thoughts, and perceptions may be at least partially unconsciously determined to a degree by the totality, it is not the ultimate arbiter of existence, nor the fundamental point of reference. The material conditions, or real physical and metaphysical facts and tendencies of life on earth ultimately control most aspects of not only our individual lives, but the makeup of any superstructure which exists above us. Things can change. We can have an effect. Our actions matter. Unfortunately, as radicals our numbers are few, our resources limited. It’s easy to view media controversies as opportunities which help lay the groundwork for our efforts. Sometimes they might actually be opportunities, but there is always a danger of getting distracted and losing your message, or even forgetting your overall analysis. Should we attach ourselves to every cause that aligns with ours to a degree, stick with it for about two weeks, and move on to the next? Or should we spend the same time promoting our most honest, accurate, and fundamental critiques? To attack the dominant ideology, and all of its physical apparatus, we cannot hope to win by surrendering to its pre-determined discourse.
Wikileaks’s site can be accessed at http://wikileaks.ch
Let us hear : Wikileaks is not enough! No war but social war!