Torches and pitchforks at the ready, the mob advances on their prey. They have decided that the evil in their midst must be driven out at all costs and no other way exists to rid them of this scourge. A vat of boiling tar and a wagon of feathers stands ready as the chanting increases to a fevered pitch. Townsmen brandish their pitchforks over their head as they shout. What is this evil that has so riled the mob? What villain has committed such fowl acts against them that violence is the only answer? Why, it is the law, of course.
The website Wikileaks has riled the US Government by publishing several diplomatic documents that were never intended for public view. The site was founded in 2007 and claims to be a journalism organisation (sic) dedicated to informing the masses and journalistic integrity. They claim to fact check every story they publish and rely on anonymous tips for their content. Simple enough, the history of journalism holds these same principles. True journalism is touted as the fourth estate—a way of keeping government in check by informing the people of what goes on behind the closed doors of the administration and congress. But in recent years, many cynics have decried journalists as being nothing more than mouthpieces for the various political entities. Many claim CNN and the major networks are pro-democrat and Fox news is pro-republican. Most online and print news stories are written specifically to sell advertising that is posted along side.
So it may seem refreshing to have an outlet that posts everything in a relatively objective manner. But Wikileaks doesn’t just report. They have made it a mission to post any and everything that they can get, no matter what the subject or the consequences. Many of the stories they have posted of late were obtained by a soldier who stole sensitive diplomatic documents and passed them along to Wikileaks. Many of these documents are classified as secret or top secret and compromise American interests in foreign countries. It makes our government look bad, and—by extension—makes us look bad.
There are just some things that the people don’t need to know. Yes, there are many things that we do need to know that we don’t know, but in reality, most of what these documents reveal have no direct bearing on the average Joe’s daily life, or are anything that Joe needs to be concerned about. They should have remained secret if for no other reason than to not bother anyone. But they were leaked.
The government promptly brought pressure to bear to try to stave the leak, as did many businesses (some claim this was because of government pressure) such as Amazon, Visa and Paypal. Wikileaks is funded primarily by donation through these sites and without the revenue its survival could be in trouble. Enter the mob.
Many young idealistic nerds have rallied to WIkileak’s defense, railing against the oppressive government trying to silence the lone voice of truth in the void. These computer geeks have banded together under the clever (sarcasm here) banner known only as “anonymous” and have attacked Paypal, Visa and Amazon in an effort to shut down the sites and force them to start funneling money back to Wikileaks. They use their collective computers to send huge amounts data through the internet to the sites’ servers thus tying them up under the demand and preventing them from servicing their legitimate customers. Downloads of the software needed to coordinate these attacks have increased by the thousands as more hackers join the effort.
This is lunacy. It is not Paypal’s, Amazon’s or Visa’s fault that Wikileaks decided to publish these documents (the act of which is still considered espionage in America and is thus a criminal act). These reputable businesses are just trying to distance themselves from a criminal activity and protect themselves from bad publicity that will surely follow this incident for a while to come. These attacks are not really even about supporting a cause, but now it is more a matter of cyber nerds finding an excuse to be use their antisocial, nerd, geek, hacker behavior to cause mischief.
The real problem is not muzzling the truth. It is not Big Government pressuring business. It is the definition of responsible journalism, and Wikileaks is NOT responsible journalism. Responsible journalism weighs the greater good against revealing information. If it hurts more than it helps, it does not need to be reported.