IS OPENNESS THE END OF DIPLOMACY?
WikiLeaks anniversary challenges a transparent future
On the tenth anniversary of WikiLeaks opening its electronic doors, it’s perhaps appropriate to consider the impact that the crusade for increased openness and transparency has had on governmental thinking.
For a while in the early 2000s we really thought that openness might have a chance.
In its post-Apartheid euphoria South Africa embraced ‘The Truth Commission’ as a way of opening up past deeds on all sides in an attempt at reconciliation. A similar attempt in Northern Ireland failed. The UK’s Freedom of Information Act certainly contributed to the MP’s Expenses scandal.
In a way, the WikiLeaks phenomenon really put the lid back on transparency. Hillary Clinton’s reaction in 2010 still characterizes the prevailing attitude: “WikiLeaks represents an attack on the safety of the international community.”
Governments are all agreed: Openness is dangerous. Obama says: “There’s a reason we have diplomacy, and tact. International relations cannot exist without it.”
A blogger commented recently: “The world stage is like a giant chess board. WikiLeaks comes along like a great big toddler, picks up the pieces and hurls them around . The problem is it didn’t understand why it was a game for grown-ups.”
So, the net effect of the pressure for a more open and transparent world has resulted in governments uniting around the need to control and censor information flows.
As well as a Bill of Rights that includes the rights to access information, there are now new statutes that give specific rights to government to do exactly the opposite.
While Russian, Asian and African governments have led the way in controlling information access, the US, UK and EU governments have recently followed suit.
Well that’s that then. At least secrecy and censorship is all legal now! Diplomacy is safe and countries can spy on each other again with gay abandon.
And we’re all left in the dark.
Warning: Hazardous thinking at work
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