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Wikileaks and the holy grail of Journalism

At the beginning was the word. The greek term  for word was logos. And that might have been translated “In the beginning was the point of it all”. The plan that would be realized, do you say, the intelligent design that the balance of human life and human history would instantiate. In the beginning was the point, and journalists are very helpful in getting us to the point.

By the end of november wikileaks suffered a DOS attack and was subsequently taken offline by Amazon and signed out by Master, Visa and Paypal. At day two (29th of November) of what came to be known as cyberwar, Hillary Clinton stayed rather cool about an issue that has since than quadrupled. And EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton should not be too happy for the pretext to spend more money on cyber security and counter-espionage. Paper copies of  top-level-classified documents from the EU’s intelligence-sharing bureau is EU’s answer to the hole which wikileaks fills.

While the US state department is ‘looking into’ possibility to issue a law suit against the australian hacker – Austria’s far left party considers to grant Assange asylum. While the french government dislikes the idea of having wikileaks hosted on their territory, US diplomat Hillary calls wikileaks action an attack on the international community. And she is right! Nothing could be further away from the truth than an information fountain spreading globally information worth in the billions to everybody for free. The question is why not building a business model around it?

Lets start slowly. The moral quibbles of opponents and apologetics on freedom of information are boring and miss the point but help in deluding our grasp. Like the free flow of gossip about political leaders are being repackaged by journalists behind their screen analyzing the constant stream of information via RSS, so are the debates on “whether it[wikileaks] is a good or a bad thing” or whether Assange is a “hero or a monster”.  That China was the first nation successfully blocking wikileaks finds resonance in all western attempts to stop its service from working. And how hard this is explains Jeff Jonas.

On the fourth day (1st of December) after the information fountain began spreading its content over the globe the horde jumped on it. No newspaper on this globe did not pick “whats fit to print” and did so instantaneously. Until Anonymos was sure what the phenomenon meant Mastercard found itself in the leaked cables and got attacked.

And what does this all have to do with Journalism?

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Wikileaks: The implosion of Investigative Journalism

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Take Today: The media as drop out. Todays buzz is certainly not yesterdays news: look at facebook or on twitter. When wikileaks released a video in june this year nobody blamed the Chinese dissidents who announced in 2007 that “they will launch a site designed to let whistleblowers in authoritarian countries post sensitive documents on the internet without being traced” for violating the values undergrinding western democracies. But in the last week Julian Assange became the center of attention for millions around the planet as its detention in England casts an enigmatic shadow over a charismatic character.

Marc Coddington provides a useful summery of the highlights of yesterdays news briefly and concise. Most professionals from the field of journalism and experts are torn between moralizing and analyzing the “full-out war on the internet”. But while most commentators attempt to reconcile their identity in the face of the new reality, few go beyond the surface level into the more profound implications of the wikileaks phenomenon. Others are just artistic expressions to update our sensibilities to the present. Robert Fisk is unlike others who always look into the rear-view mirror for a guide to the future rightly pointing to the loss of institutional memory as the cause of wikileaks rise.

“…Its a very sad day for journalism, in fact what appears to be happening is of a computer hacker… has become the new journalist”

Is wikileaks the failure of journalism? Very much, Fisk says and explains the larger consequence of wikileaks on the values undergrinding western democracies.

“There is one thing we don’t take into account. These are documents that eventually would have become in the public domain in 30 years time. Where of course historians would have read them and used them. Whats different about this is that we are now getting them online and in real time. And if this goes on, and the Americans actually cant improve their encryption of their own documents when they are floating around, we are going to have pretty soon a situation where we will know today what the British ambassador or the American ambassador is saying in Beirut yesterday. And this will be pretty astonishing.”

Not only is this the view of an icon in investigative journalism but also that of an informed historian. Needless to say the matters have worsen every day with journalists subscribe to the Cable Leak’s via RSS picking out what satisfies their national or nice audience. Neither in 2008 when wikileaks conducted an information auction into Chavez’s management, CIA activities in Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolution nor in 2009 when it publishes 9/11 messages

has it caused so much widespread discussion over the moral ground of the non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public. With the release of 250.000 diplomatic cables of  “The Iraq War Logs” two weeks ago the tip of an iceberg is now melting. This caused already one victim. An  69-year-old diplomat was admitted to George Washington University Hospital after falling ill at work on Friday. Richard Holbrooke is a good example of what might happen to many more people over the shock wikileaks created by making public what was thought of being confidential. Finding himself on the front news of newspapers all over the globe can cause heart-attack. And it is only in the light of this tragedy that we can appreciate the conclusion Oiwan Lams blog post with the title “Why is china blocking wikileaks?” has to offer us. Maybe we are all wrong about our assumptions underpinning our self created identities. And it is good to remember that the same companies that build the “Great Firewall of China” hosted Wikileaks “alleged documents”.

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