Hanif on Media

News Media, New Media, Politics, Culture & Spiritual Perspectives from South Florida to Infinity.

Hanif on Media header image 1

WikiLeaks helpful, hurtful or just voyeuristic?

December 13th · No Comments · Florida Weekly

From my latest Florida Weekly commentary:

Perusing the trove of sensitive documents is like viewing our world neighbors’ — and our own — dirty linen. Foreign leaders are as embarrassed as our own. I was left wondering just who decided what got leaked.

Read the rest here. See this week’s entire Digital Edition here. Or, just keep reading:

Is WikiLeaks information helpful, hurtful or just voyeuristic?

C.B. Hanif

December 9, 2010

By now we’ve finished off the leftover turkey. And others of us have digested a portion of the latest WikiLeaks release.

For those who haven’t, WikiLeaks is the award-winning, international notfor profit whistle-blowing organization that, as its name implies, publishes leaked documents alleging high institutional misconduct.

Beyond the obvious national security implications, there’s plenty for shock value, humor and serious contemplation in the recent massive release of confidential diplomatic cables.

Perusing the trove of sensitive documents is like viewing our world neighbors’ — and our own — dirty linen. Foreign leaders are as embarrassed as our own. I was left wondering just who decided what got leaked.

Like most local folks with whom I talked, I confess to being of two minds on all this.

Most were your average Jane or John who have been numbed by, or simply have tuned out, the revelations of what our government and foreign governments have been up to. Other folks shared thoughts from pertinent professional backgrounds.

“I have mixed reactions to WikiLeaks,” said Bob Jenks, member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Burns Road.

“I am absolutely of the viewpoint that our government should be open to full scrutiny and subject to the will of the people,” said the former Naval aviator who has been a business planner throughout most of his career, including when he organized the first practical business plan for the Palm Beach County Health Department.

“I am not so naïve, however, to believe that we live in a world of full trust and mutual honor,” said Mr. Jenks, who has degrees from Harvard, who continues as a professor in the School of Management at Walden University and now lives in North Palm Beach.

“So, especially when dealing with situations where we already know that there is rampant corruption, I reluctantly have to recognize we have to use the same weapons employed by the bullies, liars and cowards out there in order to protect our country, ourselves and our children.”

It turns out our foreign policy is much more complex — and perplexing — than even those of us who have tried to pay attention have thought. Recognition of that is one good outcome of this peek.

For example, we’re learning just how “disastrously” corrupt is the Afghanistan government we’re trying to prop up. According to our embassy folks, their agriculture guy “appears to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist.”

Unlike government corruption, one revelation that was surprising is Arab leaders’ sentiment that the U.S. should invade Iran.

Regarding that, Ghassan Rubeiz of Palm Beach Gardens, prior to his Dec. 2 talk on “Sex, Religion and Politics in the Middle East,” at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches, said: “Religious dynasties can be fratricidal: (Saudi Arabia) King Abdullah wants the ‘head of the snake to be cut off in Iran.’

“But the Saudi people and the majority of Arab society disagree with the king and with other Gulf rulers,” added Mr. Rubeiz. “Arab society may have mixed feelings about the Tehran regime. But they are against hosting a third war in the region, and they do not consider Iran a major threat.”

Mr. Rubeiz is an Arab-American social scientist with a background in ecumenism; he was Middle East Secretary of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches between 1979 and 1993.

“My reaction: Media is making too big an issue of it,” said Allen Maxwell, who’s back for the season to lead the popular NewsTalk discussions at 9 a.m. Sunday mornings at First Unitarian Universalist on Prosperity Farms Road.

“This is the type of communication that takes place — and should take place — between our diplomats in the field and the Department of State in Washington,” said Mr. Maxwell, emeritus professor of Political Science, Indiana University Kokomo, whose specialties include U.S. foreign policy and global politics.

“I am impressed with the candid nature of some of the cables,” he said. “They provide insights into the attitudes of foreign leaders and of the foreign publics. These are necessary for wise policy-making by our policy makers in Washington. These cables are the heart of diplomacy. The only difference with the WikiLeaks cables is that the public is getting a look at diplomatic communications.”

That’s the transparency I want: to know what my government is doing even when — especially when — government officials don’t think we need to know, or don’t want us to know.

But there’s also the need to balance the jeopardy to our diplomatic and security service people.

That may or may not explain why WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being pursued by Interpol for alleged sex crimes, why Amazon Inc. has stopped hosting his site, or why WikiLeaks had to move its servers to Switzerland following “mass attacks” online.

But consider Bob Campbell’s cautionary sentiment, as he recalled the leak during the Vietnam Era of the Pentagon Papers, by Daniel Ellsberg:

“Ellsberg was exposing lies perpetrated on the American public by two administrations. That was a major service to America,” said the retired public school psychologist and Jupiter resident. “The WikiLeaks revelations serve no useful purpose and in fact are destructive to the U.S. and our relations with others.”

Truth does have consequences. Given these latest leaks’ potential for help and hurt, we need to be more than just voyeurs.

— C.B. Hanif

Tags: ·······

No Comments so far ↓

There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment