• WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange looks out before speaking from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Friday February 5, 2016. (AAP)Source: AAP
The ideology of Wikileaks is that knowledge is power, and transparency is required in order to create a good society. However, this ignores that sometimes secrets are essentials to ensuring people can live safely and comfortably in a dangerous world, writes Simon Copland.
By
Simon Copland

25 Aug 2016 - 11:39 AM  UPDATED 25 Aug 2016 - 4:50 PM

The irony is staggering.

For the past four years, Julian Assange has been hauled up in the Equadorian embassy, in an attempt to protect himself from the threats of the American State. Assange has taken away his own liberty with genuine fears for his own life. Now, it's been revealed that Assange and his Wikileaks team have opened up numerous people to potentially greater, and more immediate, threats than he has ever likely faced.

Yesterday an investigation revealed that over the past year, Wikileaks have published the personal data of hundreds of people, including the details of sick children, rape victims and people with mental health problems. These data dumps also included the name of a Saudi citizen arrested for being gay -- opening this person up to significant threats in a state where homosexuality is still punishable by death. Other data includes the details of people living with HIV, and the identity of domestic workers who have been either tortured or sexually abused by their employers.

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And why?

That is the million dollar question. The "radical transparency" group Wikileaks prides itself on exposing the secrets of those in power. Wikileaks rose to fame when it released thousands of classified military documents leaked to it by Chelsea Manning, exposing horrendous abuse at the hands of the U.S. state.

But what value is there in leaking people's personal medical histories, including those of gay men who could face severe retribution because of the action?

Maybe the answer is a simple desire for Assange, and his comrades at Wikileaks, to stay in the news. To create something controversial or to generate headlines. This is the literal invasion of people's privacy to boost a massive ego.

But I think this goes deeper than this. This is a problem with the ideology of Wikileaks, or really the lack thereof.

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Wikileaks likes to frame itself as a progressive saviour. Julian Assange rants and raves about how the United States is, in effect, a large conspiracy and that the only way to break down the conspiracy is stop its ability to conspire behind closed doors. Wikileaks tells the age-old story that knowledge is power, and that if we just have greater knowledge of what our leaders are doing then we will be able to challenge their power. In doing so, it has exposed some important things -- in particular the Iraq and Afghanistan files. This is information the world deserved to know.

But this is not enough. Information without purpose is not enough. Transparency does not create a good society, nor a good government. In fact, many Governments have been extremely effective in the past in being very open about their authoritarian behaviours -- just look at the campaigns against LGBTQIA+ people that are raging across parts of the world at the moment.

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On the flipside, good society is not created by getting rid of all secrets. In fact, as most people in minority groups will tell you, secrets are sometimes essential to ensuring people can live safely and comfortably in what is often a dangerous world.  

This is what Wikileaks clearly do not understand. The revelation of these data leaks however is the obvious end-game of the lack of ideology behind their project. If all information is good, then surely the logical conclusion is that releasing people's medical records cannot be bad? Surely publicly outing people, putting them at risk of criminal punishment and worse, cannot be bad? This is just part of bringing down the conspiracies that are keeping those in power, no?

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Well no, this information is not good. It is not helpful. This information is not needed in our society and it is not right to release it. In doing so, Wikileaks have not just put people at risk, they have also highlighted the massive void in their own ideology. This investigation has highlighted how Wikileaks is unable to comprehend the risks people who are gay, or have HIV, or have been raped and sexually abused, face in their every day life.

The fact that Wikileaks don't understand that shows something very serious. It is not, nor never has been, our progressive saviour. Nor will it ever be. More information simply is not enough.

Putting people's lives at risk for the sake of 'transparency'. Well done guys. *slow clap*