Wikileakers Perform Public Service

Wikileakers Perform a Public Service

As published in the Ottawa Citizen: Dec. 2, 2010

Far from being traitors or criminals, the so-called Wikileakers, at considerable risk to themselves, are providing the public with valuable information that we have every right to access. In most cases, it is our information being withheld by elected and unelected bureaucrats who seem to feel that only they are fit to decide what the public should know about public affairs.

The Wikilieakers are attempting to counter the negative effects of our system of symbolic democracy and its empty mechanisms of formal freedom like the first past the post electoral system. We have a formally democratic system that is designed to create the impression that government is literally accountable to voters. Ours is a system of government in which the desires of the majority of voters are intentionally marginalized and subtly dismissed in favor of policies that favor the demands of concentrated economic power such as transnational corporations. Public comment and debate generally occurs within rigid parameters defined by unspoken assumptions about power. Academics and journalists who stray outside these boundaries find themselves in conflict with gatekeepers who have proven their loyalty to power.

These anti-democratic tactics have also been called the manufacture of consent; a concept created by Walter Lippmann, the father of the U.S. public relations industry and popularized by political dissident Naom Chomsky and others. IN Lipmann’s model, consent in manufactured in liberal democracies like Canada and the U.S. because it is not possible to use more direct methods of controlling peoples’ behavior. People are encouraged to isolate themselves and practice apathetic consumerism rather than engage with like-minded others intent on improving society.
Overtly despotic regimes like Iran, Myanmar and China enforce consent for state policy through the harsh example of public executions, and the threat and reality of arbitrary arrest and torture. Unfortunately, the U.S. has taken a few steps in that direction since 911 and the Harper government has largely silent on the pervasive erosion of our precious liberty.