03 May 2015

Wikileaks

A recent post noted Julian Assange's splenetic response to his failed relationship with the Guardian. In the latest issue of that newspaper there is a feisty response by Catherine Bennett, tartly commenting
The collaboration has been a long time in coming, but so close is the current working relationship between WikiLeaks and the Daily Mail that it is becoming difficult to believe that the two organisations were ever at odds.
Hardly any time has passed since the paper was happy to style Assange a “traitor”, aka “the slimy WikiLeaks founder”; his most notable achievement, in that newspaper’s estimation, to have cost Britain around £9m – to date – for policing the Ecuadorian embassy. All the WikiLeaks editor in chief appeared to have in common with the Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, was a mutual abomination of the Guardian. ...
No disrespect to the Mail’s showbusiness reporters but Assange has surely outstripped all rival contributors since his colleagues at WikiLeaks dumped a massive file of Sony Pictures’ emails (originally hacked by persons, allegedly North Korean persons, unknown) in a new, search-friendly format, accompanied by the founder’s high-minded justification. “This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation,” Assange said. “It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geopolitical conflict. It belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there.”
No government or corporation will ever be powerful enough to suppress, for instance, the fact that a famous friend of Sony Entertainment’s CEO once newsworthily tried to set up their famous mutual friend with someone also quite well known who fancied him, though it newsworthily didn’t work out. Whether it reflects the evidence, in this cache, of people doing the sort of things they might well do inside a global film production company, or the shocking complacency of a meretricious western media, the geopolitical implications of Sony’s emails appear to have attracted less attention than content featuring celebrities or money or bitching or anything remotely embarrassing to do with bottoms.
Bennett goes on to comment
“Once again,” tweeted Glenn Greenwald, celebrated champion of the individual against the state’s covert mining of personal data, “@wikileaks has performed a great journalistic function & service with this new archive.” Although not so journalistic that it involved any effort at editing, so as to separate out politically and fiscally telling material from the morally indefensible.
In terms of gossip, admittedly, there is no arguing with Greenwald’s assessment: WikiLeaks’s lurch into celebrity scandal was instant inspiration to fellow content providers at Gawker and its sister blog, the purportedly feminist Jezebel. Hardly had WikiLeaks released 173,132 emails and more than 30,000 documents than the latter’s editors had fallen upon the (former) Sony Pictures chair, Amy Pascal’s Amazon shopping history, added scatological commentary and transformed it into clickbait gold. ...
[L]esser members of staff who have neither cracked distasteful jokes about Obama nor had the impudence to buy La Prairie face cream, nor earned enough money to have forfeited all privacy rights, remain equally vulnerable to this form of dehumanisation. Questioned about this invasion of the privacy of those Sony employees and their correspondents who were naive enough to think their work email accounts safe for exchanges about, say, illnesses, bereavements and relationships, Greenwald tweeted: “It wasn’t @wikileaks that did the hack. And there is very close government dealings w/Sony.” So by all means laugh at the expense of staff who rank too low to help progress Sony’s sinister web of geopolitical alliances, but who nonetheless unwittingly volunteered for what is called, when GCHQ does it, the bulk interception of private correspondence. ...
How much Greenwald’s invocation of a greater good will soothe Sony employees whose data has been made so instantly trawlable can perhaps be gauged from the previously exposed and mocked. Julian Assange, for instance, has objected vigorously to media portrayal that, he said, took liberties with his privacy, even when the offending material (like the hacked Sony emails) was already accessible online. In 2012, Ofcom ruled that his privacy had not, after all, been violated in a Channel 4 documentary that showed him dancing in a club. Assange, it said, “was not shown engaged in an activity which would reasonably be considered to be private or in circumstances which could normally give rise to a legitimate expectation of privacy”.
But Assange’s shyness, in that instance, is at least consistent with principles he outlined to writer Andrew O’Hagan, for an autobiography subsequently published without his authorisation. His early “cypherpunk” adventures, he stressed, were all about protecting individual privacy from data-hungry corporations and governments and his personal life was no exception; it was a “category error” to suggest otherwise. “Disclosure is my business,” he said, “but we don’t deal in gossip.”
Well, he does now.