Julian Assange, the Internet and the American Republic

In Curious Notions, Journalism, Justice, Political on December 8, 2010 at 9:08 pm

The internet is a beautiful and deadly place. It lets one share their ideas, discuss them, have them applauded, shut down or ignored. We can address global problems while simultaneously creating new ones. It is the home of knights and trolls, thinkers and speakers, the oppressed and the oppressors. The ultimate beauty of the internet is that, unlike the outside world, the oppressors are in the minority. If I’m being bullied on one site, I can always move to another. It is quiet the opposite here in the world of countries, republics, empires and nation-states where my movement is strictly controlled by my nationality and presentable papers. It’s enough to make one feel like an AKC half-breed whose documents have been barely authenticated. I speak of this as a born-and-bred American citizen not even as a jaded and green-card carrying immigrant whose place remains untenable until the final swearing in and oath taking.

“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands…

The United States was founded as a republic and we continue to call ourselves one. That means that we, as it’s citizens, retain control over our government. We apply the Mandate of Heaven, so to speak. That Mandate, which is expressed clearly and succinctly in our own Declaration of Independence, goes that (1) we have “unalienable” rights that we (2) secure by forming governments. These “governments are instituted among Men” and derive “their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…” The governed includes myself. In my opinion, it includes anyone who calls the United States of America home; legalized or not.

This lengthy introduction brings me to the case of recent internet (and print) cause célèbre Julian Assange. Assange is a former internet hacker who is also the founder of WikiLeaks, a website which collects and releases government documents on the web. As of this writing, almost 500K pages on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been released onto the internet.

The internet…

Such an idea, leaking classified documents to the world, was not possible to this extent 10 years ago. Maybe even fewer years ago then that. Now, such information dumps are instantaneous. Anyone with access to the internet can read about the documents or download them and read them for themselves. The internet is simply incredible in that it allows an individual unprecedented access to the world, to others and to ones own government.

What this has to do with the American Republic is simple: a Republic wouldn’t be afraid of transparency. A Republic would be proud of what it had accomplished and would spread that information with the world. Even if they aren’t proud of some actions there is still such a thing as responsibility and owning up to ones faults. It’s called being an adult.* You’d think a government run by supposedly mature adults would be aware of such a thing. If they aren’t, what are they doing there?

In conclusion, the ultimate idea of transparency within a Republic is best expressed in a quote by the playwright George Bernard Shaw: “If you have skeletons in the closet……you may as well make them dance.”


*Of course, it goes without saying, everyone has some secrets that they’d rather not share. I know I do. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t know them, even if I don’t want them to. It should also be said, however, that we all make mistakes. It is simply a fact of life and cannot be changed.

  1. “. . . one nation, indivisible . . .”

  2. Excellent summary and perspective. I firmly believe that all knowledge is worth having.

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