Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ On Wikileaks

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Dec 01, 2010

Posted to HBR Blog, which states,
 U.S. administrations for years have portrayed themselves as supporters of democracy, freedom, and human rights. The telegrams tell a different story of intimate and co-dependent relationships with unpleasant and repressive regimes in Riyadh, Cairo, and Rabat.
Many people - including myself - have long called on the governments of the western world to actually support human rights and democracy, rather than merely giving lip service to it in public and subverting it behind closed doors.

The response has typically been that our allegations are unfounded, that we are being unnecessarily cynical or sceptical, and that if we understood what is really happening, we would be thankful and supportive of our government's efforts.

Now in the wake of Wikileaks, it seems appropriate to once again ask that our governments actually support human rights and democracy, and to mean it this time. In the same breath, it does not seem misplaced to ask that corporations actually behave ethically, and that the very wealthy and the very powerful behave responsibly, working for the good of society, rather than to further their own interests by whatever means at the expense of the rest of us.

The people who decry openness and disclosure complain that it makes it impossible for officials to be honest in these closed door meeting, to have frank exchanges of ideas, and to make the difficult deals that are necessary. But the converse is that it entitles them to lie in public, to misrepresent the purpose of their actions, and to engage in activities that, if the public were informed, it would find deeply disturbing.

Wikileaks should not be necessary. That's not to offer a blanket endorsement of openness, but the rather routine betrayal of trust Wikileaks reveals makes it clear to me that the level of openness is far less than what is needed, the right to privacy abused in order to allow the criminal and corrupt to ply their trade in our names and with our tools. It has to stop.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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