Friday, December 10, 2010

Wikileaks and Philip K. Dick

I don't have much to say about wikileaks, actually. Here are some thoughts, that are not definite and generally jumbled.

One of the common objections to wikileaks is that the approach is random. The documents leaked seem scattered, unconnected, leaked without any sort of thought as to why or for what reason. Maybe, but that all seems a better description of our current national security culture, one which is obsessed with creating more and more things top secret. Often without rhyme or reason. I think we can agree that such an attitude is dangerous and problematic.
This also reminds me of the novel by Philip K. Dick, The Simulacra. The Simulacra tells the story of a totalitarian society ruled and centralized around a secret. As is described in the novel:
Any failure would have betrayed to the Bes [the underclass] the secret, the Geheimnis, which distinguished the elite, the establishment of the United States of Europe and America; their possession of one or more secrets made them into Geheimnisträger, bearers of the secret, rather than Befehlsträger, mere carry-outers of instruction. (p. 34)

One of the reasons that national security culture of making everything top secret is so problematic is that divides our society, those who get to know the secrets, and those who don't. Those who do get to be the ones who set our policy, get listened to, have opinions that manage to shape and influence our foreign policy. Those who don't know the secrets, don't get to do that. We can't even be listened to, because we those who know the secrets know we don't, and therefore know we cannot know enough to be listened to. This splits foreign policy off from democracy, off from reasoned debate and input of the demos. The obvious example here would be the Iraq war, which was authorized based on all the secrets that Congress knew, all the secrets we didn't know and therefore we could not be listened on (though in fine Philip K. Dick fashion, those secrets turned out to be false, as well. And there was a secret within the secret, the secret that there was no secret). I am not sure yet entirely how I feel on wikileaks. I am not sure if I yet believe it is the right way to go about pushing back on these issues, but I certainly understand it and am sympathetic.