THUNDER BAY, ON ------- December 5, 2010 --- All right, so it has been formally confirmed that Prince Andrew is a buffoon. What else is new? Quite a bit actually, and all of it is quite, quite scary.
Once the Wikileak and Guardian (q.v.) stories drawn from an immense cache of (ahem) secret American diplomatic messages were released, I knew that this was a subject that was going to require a reasonably deep analysis. For the past several years, people have been speculating on the subject of what 'new media' was going to look and feel like – such fabric ranged from kitten-soft woolies to a corduroy impossibly charged with enough static electricity to light the New York Times Building for a year.
Who was going to win out? The old media companies like the NY Times? The newer, gauche, arriviste typed like the septuagenarian Rupert Murdoch? Maybe sexy-looking and saucy web concoctions like Slate or Salon?
Turns out it's any asshole with a memory stick an d a blog with a catchy name.
Regardless of whether you view Wikileaks 'founder' Julian Assange as a Babyface or a Heel one inquiry about him can be stamped as closed. He is a lousy journalist.
Journalism is all about editing. The classic image is of the harried and balding city desk man two coney dogs away from a terminal heart attack, slashing away at copy with a red marker, or red highlighting on a pdf as it were. All true, but there is also editing at the point of attack. The individual writer, producer, reporter is self-editing constantly. In the simplest case, in a scrum, the politician will glance at you once. You will get to ask one question. You can think of 15. Which one will you pick?
That's editing on the front-line.
But Assange didn't do any of that. Like the Hollywood scandal sheets (e.g. Confidential) of years gone by, Wikileaks has just published everything slipped to it, raw as meat cut fresh from the slaughterhouse knife.
And that's my problem with it.
Whether or not Assange is captured, prosecuted and sentenced to Devil's Island – or Terrace Bay ON – with only a Commodore 64 at his disposal for communication, it really doesn't matter. Now that he has shown the way to fame and a happy happy joy joy fleeting moment of briefly being The Biggest Story in The World, there will be more imitators than the hydra had heads.
At least the Guardian, my favourite newspaper in the world had the decency to organize the stories, release them with informed commentary, and add the codicil that 'just because Wikileaks is reporting this, its not necessarily true.'
Because – dear God – what if in the middle of all these officially acknowledged as real communications, what if Wikileaks had put out one that was absolutely false. Imagine this headline:
Wikileaks Reports U.S. to Cease Israeli Support: Cites Long-Range Oil Demands as Rationale
Who would believe the denial?
Much of the Wikileaks, er, leaks can be defended on a public right to know. For instance, why in hell is a buffoon like Prince Andrew on the public payroll? Surely there must be a gentleman's private club in London willing to pay for a Prince of the Realm to sit in an armchair and spout silly things in a shout ignored by the card players.
That's all fine.
But if you accept the general notion that a nuclear-armed North Korea run by dictators madder than anything Lewis Carroll ever imagined, then the leak that China was thinking about tossing Pyongyang into the Sea of Japan and cleansing its hands of a client state, well, that leak should make you seriously question the idea of need to know v. wan t to know.
If the story is correct, there is not a chanced that China will now follow through with the abandonment. One truly cannot imagine a greater loss of face than a supposed private communication on a delicate matter … BEING SPLASHED ACROSS THE INTERNET! And so the world will sleep a little more uneasily tonight.
This is the most fruitless proposition I will ever put forward, but I truly beg anyone like Julian Assange who is surreptitiously passed sensitive inform ation, please in the name of humanity, think before you publish.
Be seeing you.
by Hubert O'Hearn
for Lake Superior News