Wikidanger Assange

With switches under its control every Government tries to make right things wrong and vice versa. Easily it whitewashes its crimes. Conventional tools and people were not able to break this monopoly of the Governments. But Wikileaks is an unconventional tool. Information and dirty secrets of the Governments may be brought out. The final impact becomes disastrous for every one including its founder Julian Assange. Too much of leak is dangerous for the very survival of the global society.
Shiv Vishwanathan writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 17th December 2010
Wikileaks has become a modern fable. Its founder Julius Assange faces charges of rape and years of harassment. Mr Assange is seen as that loathsome creature, the hacker. The hacker threatens the security systems of foreign policy. But more than security Mr Assange, the hacker has exposed the hypocrisy of governments.
The leaks have exposed the arrogance of US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her sense of pomposity of India as a self-appointed member of the United Nations Security Council. Wikileaks has provided an everyday X-ray of how the American ambassador reads the weakness of India as a soft state, too invertebrate to take on Pakistan. The disclosures reveal the contempt of the ordinary foreign service bureaucrats for politicians and political processes.
The general reactions everywhere have been a sense of outrage first at the temerity of the act of disclosure and secondly at what the disclosures reveal. It reveals the hypocrisy of bureaucrats and politicians and it also exposes the fragility of the power to information.The leaks almost seem to suggest that power exposed is power weakened. The sanctity of secrecy creates a halo around power which it does not deserve.The leaks also expose the ambivalent figure of the hacker. The hacker is half outlaw, half dissenter. He is like the Levellers and the Dissenters were in Oliver Cromwell’s time. He embodies a different idea of power and responsibility.The hacker as dissenter is a moral figure. He is an early warning system of the pathologies of power. The hacker is a liminal, ambivalent figure, anarchic enough to threaten power, an outlaw challenging the sanctity of rules and redefining them.What I want to argue is that the hacker must be seen as homeostatic to the system. Every information system needs a hacker. It threatens power but guarantees the limits of power by creating an epidemic of accountability. To control the hacker beyond the norms of democracy is futile.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has argued that phone tapping is essential because security demands and terror legitimises it. My counter argument is that if phone tapping is necessary for security, hacking is necessary for freedom.One admits the problem resides in the sense of proportion. If an excess of phone tapping creates the paranoid world of surveillance, an excess of hacking can destabilise norms.The hacker is seen as a bohemian. In fact, someone like Mr Assange is seen as bohemian in his sexuality and in his attitude to information. The hacker personalises excess. Given his liminality, the hacker must be allowed his way of life. This holds as long as the hacker is a dissenter. In that sense Mr Assange is a prisoner of conscience and must be adopted by Amnesty International as one. It is illiterate to compare him to a Cyber bin Laden. Mr Assange is a dissenter not a fundamentalist. He wants to save lives not to eliminate people. It only frightens power. Hacking is a part of the power of the powerless.The responsibility does not end with the hacker. The information the hacker revels is an invitation to citizenship. Hacking cannot end as a scandal. The scandal is a ritual that initiates deeper understanding of power. Where hacking stops, the citizen takes over — asking for accountability and transparency from power. The journalist as investigator, the dissenter as researcher finds a new sibling in the hacker as a subventor of power. The tuning fork for judgment is motive and the consequences of the hacking act. The hacker is an essential purgative to the Assange in a historical sense stands on par with Daniel Goldberg of the Pentagon tapes or the journalists Woodward and Bernstien who exposed Watergate and ended the strange career of Richard Nixon.The hacker is a special kind of whistleblower. Whistleblowing is usually an individual act of courage, an exemplary act of dissent. Hacking is more communitarian. It is a network of dissent which operates on power.I want to emphasise that I am not creating a hagiography of the hacker. I think his ambivalence is what provides a sense of limits of power. The hacker carries both the marks of a trickster and a martyr, and we need to recognise his mixed, mixed-up nature.The hacker in homoeopathic doses is necessary to prevent the arrogance of power. He is an antidote but should not become purgative. In excess he is an epidemic, in aesthetic limits he is a democratic necessity. Think of it, the right to information will be a feeble promise without the culture of hacking. If the right to information creates access to information, hacking breaks the secrecy that prevents information from going public.One might ask what the difference between wire-tapping and hacking is. Wire-tapping as an instrument is used by the structure of surveillance. Wire-tapping invades privacy.There is a final point one must emphasise in this ode to hacking. Hacking emerged like IT, out of the beat cultures that made Silicon Valley. Hacking was a dissenting cult which understood the spirit of the network and kept it alive. Hackers are not luddites. They are experts in technological folklore. As tricksters they understand that technology cannot be a servant of power. This much the Wikileaks proved and for this much Mr Assange must be seen as a force of freedom, a dissenter, a whistleblower, whose “noise” is always the unwelcome music that power cannot tolerate.