Daily Archives:December 5th, 2010

Veni, vidi, wiki?

There’s a good post on the Economist blog about the WikiLeaks affair:

My gripe against Mr Assange is that he takes advantage of the protections of liberal democracies, but refuses to submit himself to them. If he wants to use the libel protections guaranteed by New York State, then he should live in New York, and commit himself to all of the safety and consequences of America’s constitution. If he wants to use Sweden’s whistleblower laws, then he should return to Sweden and let its justice system take its course.

It’s a bit of an over-simplification: if you’re an an anarchist, where should you live, since we no longer have Australia set aside for that purpose? But it’s basically a good point.

This makes me think of the observations by Dawkins et al that those who will flatly deny the validity of the scientific process when it challenges their view of the creation of the earth, or the efficacy of alternative medicines, will then happily get on a plane to fly home, where every minute of their very lives depend on hundreds of years of that same process.

This is the point at which, by the way, if you haven’t seen it, you should watch Louis CK’s comments on ‘Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy’:

Anyway, back to WikiLeaks: The other thing that bugs me is that the feeling that some of those who revel most enthusiastically in the WikiLeaks revelations would be those who would protest most loudly if their own privacy were compromised.

Just as ‘superstition’ is often the name we use for somebody else’s religion – and they for ours – so ‘freedom of information’ is often the name we give to invasion of someone else’s privacy, and, one day, might be used for invasion of ours.

Be careful what you wish for… You may get it!

Update: I should perhaps emphasise that I’m an advocate of freedom of information in general! But we’re starting to hear stories which remind me of what we’ve seen with the Human Rights Act in the past: the more such good intentions get formalised into legal structures, the more people come to think of them as unassailable rights in all circumstances, and the more they can be misused by those wanting to make a quick buck or write a sensational story.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser