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Julian Assange of WikiLeaks at Press Conference on Afghanistan War Diary LeaksJulian Assange of WikiLeaks holds a copy of The Guardian newspaper that features a report using the site’s leaked documents on the Afghanistan war. (photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

[Governments] used to be able to control what…newspapers and news organizations would do in part by informally controlling their access to information, by in essence saying, ‘If you go over the line, we’ll stop talking to you. We won’t invite you on to the press plane. We won’t give you a seat on the bus.’ And reporters behaved within certain parameters in part, because they do need that continued access. WikiLeaks doesn’t need a seat on the bus.
Micah Sifry, executive editor of TechPresident.com on FutureTense

Micah Sifry’s commentary on the unfolding WikiLeaks story on the war in Afghanistan has gotten me thinking about questions of trust and relationship-building in and beyond the realm of journalism and politics. At its worst, needing to keep our “seat on the bus,” as Sifry puts it, can result in collusion and self-censoring. Information or, put differently, necessary truths, get squelched in favor of preserving expedient relationships.

Maybe we do this with family, friends, and loved ones — keep things to ourselves to maintain a connection, a sense of belonging, or simply to get our basic needs met. But coming at it from another direction, I believe there are moral and relational benefits to interdependence. Both sides have to consider each others’ needs. Empathy is triggered. No one party can act with reckless abandon. The work of peacebuilder and conflict transformation practitioner John Paul Lederach comes to mind here.

I wonder if the truths unearthed through WikiLeaks’ release of classified documents about the war in Afghanistan will galvanize a public response. NYU Journalism professor and blogger Jay Rosen offers some sobering insight in his PressThink blog:

“We tend to think: big revelations mean big reactions. But if the story is too big and crashes too many illusions, the exact opposite occurs. My fear is that this will happen with the Afghanistan logs. Reaction will be unbearably lighter than we have a right to expect — not because the story isn’t sensational or troubling enough, but because it’s too troubling, a mess we cannot fix and therefore prefer to forget.”

What do you think?


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3 Comments

I tend to think it's better for us to know the full truth. I disapprove of the government "shielding" us from the complexities of relationships and wars. Ultimately, I think the stories get dumbed down by the mainstream media anyway, and turned into simple, black and white scenarios.
My vote: Tell us everything that is safe for disclosure. Each person will understand it to the best of their ability.

If we are to save our earth, there are big decisions we must make about changing
the way we live. Gaining knowledge through revelation of our nation's secrets can/
will/must inform those decisions.

I belive it is better for us to know the truth - to be able to make decisions on a national level. But for thoses who feel powerless to effect change on a greater political level, may feel the need to punish those in their immediate environment - punishing people who they feel represent the offending political powers. Wikileaks can't control the reactions of public - the information can lead to better political decisions or it can add to the rising political violence in the world.

apples