Kathy Gill has some really great quotes from @BruceS (whose Twitter account is private) on the WikiLeaks/Julian Assange phenomenon, including:
Saints, martyrs, dissidents and freaks are always wild-cards, but sometimes they’re the only ones who can clear the general air.
That and other quotes from Bruce sort of sum up how I feel about WikiLeaks: I can’t really decide if it’s “good” or “bad;” I just know what it does and that some of what it does is good.
Which is sort of what I was saying when I said Facebook was like The Smoke Monster a little while back. (OK, now that LOST is over, we can pretty much all agree that the Smoke Monster was intended to be the bad guy, but we can also agree that it did a few good things and wasn’t entirely bad.)
Smoke Monsters aren’t ideal, but when they’re all you’ve got, sometimes you just have to make use of them as carefully as possible. Has WikiLeaks done anything bad? I haven’t seen any conclusive evidence, though I can see where Julian Assange and his organization make international actors nervous. Has WikiLeaks done anything good? I would argue yes.
At the same time, I’m still just as conflicted as Clay Shirky:
I am conflicted about the right balance between the visibility required for counter-democracy and the need for private speech among international actors. Here’s what I’m not conflicted about: When authorities can’t get what they want by working within the law, the right answer is not to work outside the law. The right answer is that they can’t get what they want.
Also, as Shirky mentions, WikiLeaks may only be “good” for a limited amount of time. In other words, if WikiLeaks is what’s needed to reset the balance of government secrecy vs. the public’s need to know, then so it is. But once we let the Smoke Monster out of the bottle, how do we get it back in? And that’s the thing: we can’t; or, at least, it’s insanely difficult to do so.