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Monday, December 06, 2010
If you're like me, your first reaction to last week's huge WikiLeaks disclosure was either one of ambivalence or even a little feeling of "about time." But in truth, such leaks as these will likely do much harm and little good for the world. Theodore Dalrymple explains:
The actual effect of WikiLeaks is likely to be profound and precisely the opposite of what it supposedly sets out to achieve. Far from making for a more open world, it could make for a much more closed one. Secrecy, or rather the possibility of secrecy, is not the enemy but the precondition of frankness. WikiLeaks will sow distrust and fear, indeed paranoia; people will be increasingly unwilling to express themselves openly in case what they say is taken down by their interlocutor and used in evidence against them, not necessarily by the interlocutor himself. This could happen not in the official sphere alone, but also in the private sphere, which it works to destroy. An Iron Curtain could descend, not just on Eastern Europe, but over the whole world. A reign of assumed virtue would be imposed, in which people would say only what they do not think and think only what they do not say.

The dissolution of the distinction between the private and public spheres was one of the great aims of totalitarianism. Opening and reading other people’s e-mails is not different in principle from opening and reading other people’s letters. In effect, WikiLeaks has assumed the role of censor to the world, a role that requires an astonishing moral grandiosity and arrogance to have assumed. Even if some evils are exposed by it, or some necessary truths aired, the end does not justify the means.


Luke C. said...

If we replace WikiLeaks with theft of climate scientists' e-mail (which you seem to gleefully support), does Dalrymple's argument still hold?

Darius said...

I have never said I supported anyone who hacked the ClimateGate emails. If someone did something illegal, they should be punished. And not just the scientists who hid data illegally. The hackers too.

I am just glad for what the emails showed: deceit by scientists and the weakness of the warmmongering position.

And no one is saying that the Wikileaks don't do SOME good for society. It's just that the net impact is probably negative, for the reasons Dalrymple mentioned.

Luke C. said...

I appreciate that you think the hackers should be punished. You are, I think, too rare among the global warming deniers in thinking that.

However, you didn't really answer the question. If Wikileaks probably has a net negative impact because it can stifle frankness and other reasons, do the hacked climate e-mails probably have a net negative impact for the same reasons?

Darius said...

Good question.. I'm not sure. I think we're talking about two different things, since the Wikileaks situation is on a much larger scale than the ClimateGate emails. Plus, the likelihood of the Wikileaks happening again seems much higher than the chance that some private emails between a few scientists becomes public. Furthermore, the Climategate hack revealed what the public SHOULD have been told already and were legally obligated to see: data and actions by scientists which indicated a conspiracy to commit fraud and to break the law. Conversely, what was revealed with Wikileaks didn't tell us anything of significant importance. It's mostly political gossip.

The hackers did what the scientists should have done: publicize data that damaged their global warming position. If the secrecy and censorship surrounding global warming was lifted, people might actually start believing them. But when the global-warming community throttles all contrary opinions, it clearly shows that something isn't right.

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The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

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