Thursday, December 09, 2010

Swan to Press: Exercise Caution when Interpreting Translation of Conversations

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan, succinctly sums up the problem’s presented by Wikileaks and the attitude that should be taken regarding the disclosure of thousands of US diplomatic cables and communications. DPM Swan, talking to reporters in Brisbane, cautioned the public, stating that the leaked diplomatic documents may have been taken out of context.

"I think we ought to exercise just a degree of caution when we're interpreting the translation of conversations," he said, according to the Australian Associated Press. "It doesn't mean that the reportage of them in the cables is accurate, it doesn't mean to say it's well grounded and it certainly doesn't mean to say it's in context."[1]

This comes on the wave created by unknown vandals who attacked the reputation of Australian cabinet member Mark Arbib. These persons unknown edited his Wikipedia page adding to his reported job descriptions: CIA Agent, U.S. Mole, Traitor and U.S. Embassy Hero.

Wikileaks documents cite him as a “’protected’ source whose identity should be guarded.” The documents in question then go on to state that Arbib as having been able to provide the U.S. valuable “insider information.” This information supposedly details power struggles and troubles within the country’s ruling Labor Party. These allegations have been dismissed by several lawmakers as nothing more than rumor mongering.

The Wikipedia vandals also called Arbib an “Australian traitor and a spy for America.” They further stated “he will join Benedict Arnold and Judas in the afterlife,” and that, “he is a public enemy and a villain to his people.” This isn’t much different than American politicos and conservative pundits who have suggested Julian Assange be assassinated. Wikipedia deleted that posting shortly after it was brought to their attention.

Mr. Swan expresses what I tend to see as the crux of the matter. The context of the conversations being reported is not being reported by WikiLeaks. They are simply dumping documents on to the internet and this is not investigative journalism. A journalist collects information, interview people and analyzes it. Wikileaks is vandalism.

All the documents presently show is that Arbib, as do government officials around the world, met with American embassy officials. As to what the nature of the conversations or any information that might have been given is not clear and may be nothing more than “dinner table gossip” as one official is cited as suggesting.[2] The hyperbolic attacks on Mark Arbib’s character may prove to be more scandalous than anything he may have actually done – in fact he may have done nothing irregular at all.

This is the danger of Wikileaks. The amount of information being leaked by the website is voluminous and complex. It requires a level of sophistication in regards to international politics, economics and the art of diplomacy that most people don’t have. Indeed, it is doubtful that most people are reading the documents in depth and doing the additional research needed. They are simply taking a position based on where they fall in the political spectrum. In fact as I troll the website reading documents posted there I find continued support for my opinion that Assange is just an angry, irresponsible man-child who has no real commitment to the truth. The documents even take the steam out of his Anti-American sentiments. The alleged actions of his “army of supporters,” who may be responsible for the MasterCard takedown, further demonstrates that this is not journalism at all, but an attack on the rule of law.

Experts are still uncertain the full extent of the damage that these leaked documents have caused. That will take time. Eventually the dust will settle and the anger and embarrassment of the countries and officials outed will subside and people will return to jerking each other off clandestinely under the table as always. The damage may not be as horrendous as feared. It might even allow for the West to get some of the more problematic leaders in N. Korea and Iran back in line, now that the world can see for themselves the nature of what is going on there – that is if they take the time to carefully go through the documents.

The free press, as I am fond of saying, is often the most effective tool we have in safeguarding liberty and in exposing government corruption and misdeeds. But, the press has the requirement to do so responsibly and with integrity. This is not the case with Wikileaks.


[1] Australian Official Scrambles After WikiLeaks Disclosures, by Lauren Frayer – AOL News, December 9, 2010
[2] Ibid

No comments: