Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Weight of "?"

In considering Voltaire's criteria for judging people, that is, by their questions and not their answers, I find myself worried to introspect and find myself too simple: my overwhelming, all-encompassing question over the past few weeks has been a straightforward, "wait, really?"

My question is prompted by an ongoing series of answers ostensibly about WikiLeaks and its editor in chief Julian Assagne, but are actually about freedoms like speech and press. The US government demands his Twitter account info, Vice President Biden labels him a "high-tech terrorist" (as did Newt Gingrich) and some buffoons want to kill the "traitor." Assagne is Australian.

Compare answers like the US government calling Assange a terrorist to the Economist awarding him the Index on Censorship award and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suggesting he win a Nobel Peace Prize.

So while Sarah Palin is the only person I've found who has actually levied a specific charge against him, on her Facebook page, all other criticism has been nebulous at best. On the other hand, you only need hop over to Assagne's Wikipedia page to find out he's published material about extrajudicial killings in Kenya, toxic waste dumping in Africa, Church of Scientology manuals, Guantanamo Bay procedures, and banks such as Kaupthing and Julius Baer.

But that all amounts to weighing good and bad, which is so largely a matter of perspective. According to Joe Biden, Assagne is guilty of the monstrosity of making meetings with world leaders "cumbersome." So that's bad.

All these answers are given to the woefully underasked question, "is Julian Assagne and WikiLeaks in the wrong?" I'm going to come down and say "no." I voted for Obama because he promised for transparency in government. I really wanted to see the people in my government who started the war in Iraq held responsible for their actions. I hoped this administration would stand for the liberties the PATRIOT Act (which Obama upheld) usurps. Obama didn't, Assagne did.

But the US still wants to jail him for releasing State Department documents and no one could blame them. Just consider Assagne's audacity for exposing US diplomats in selling Boeing jets.

Which incites me to ask another too-simple question: so what? So what about all this bickering and name calling? So what about the government lusting after classification and opacity? So what about Joe Biden's convenience?

And what about the First Amendment? The accusations levied against Assagne and WikiLeaks shouldn't amount to a hill of beans next to the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the rights of people in a democratic society to know whatever they want about their government.

Right Newt Gingrich? Sarah Palin? Joe Biden? President Obama? The freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution are more important than vagaries and speculative charges, right?


My questions are simple. I might be a simple person, but I don't think that's such a bad thing. I'm incredulous, and that disbelief might be the beginning of something better.

No comments: