Sunday, 5 December 2010

Least said, soon as mended?

Its all about the WikiLeaks isn't it? People are divided on wether it undermines the diplomatic process and therefore constitutes an invasion of privacy or it is blow for freedom of information? When I am trying to gauge my moral compass I usually think of my grandmother, the inspirational Margery Allison. Nanna was fond of the above saying and spent several years in Washington where my grandfather was a security advisor to the US Government. So what would she have made of WikiLeaks? I believe she would have cheered at Gordon Brown's attempted defence of Gary McKinnon, the young Englishman with Asperger's who hacked the US defence systems. I know she would not have been surprised at the revelations about US security and worldwide diplomacy being rubbish, according to the tales she used to tell, there is nothing new there. And the principal? I believe Nanna would have approved. She believed in democracy, as only those who have known what it is to fight for it do, and she knew what people got up to behind closed doors when they believed their behaviour would never be scrutinised.

I can understand the frustration of those compromised by the leaks. Who has not sent an email that you would be horrified to share with the world? Or at the very least, embarrassed?  But I read with slack jawed incredulity at the Swedish "sex offences" arrest warrant for Julian Assange WikiLeaks founder, and Paypal's decision to freeze payments to WikiLeaks because it alleges the site is set up to, "encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity." Even if you don't watch Spooks, this stuff adds layer upon layer of defensive, paranoid, manipulated and manipulative decision making which assumes we are all as daft as 'they' are.

Yesterday I joined in a twitter chat about censorship on my favourite social media forum. Time and again people's satirical or just ill advised tweets are being subjected to legal sanction. It was a dark day for British justice and our legendary ability to appreciate irony, when Paul Chamber's was fined £1000 this year for tweeting he would bomb Robin Hood airport if they didn't get the snow plough's out and clear it so he could see his girlfriend. I was delighted to be able to join the #IAmSparctacus campaign where thousands of us retweeted his original tweet in defiance of the so-called 'authorities', carrying the above hashtag to identify ourselves as dissenters of censorship. I will take to the streets to defend my right to be flippant.

The bottom line is the world has changed. Technology has encouraged we ordinary folk to expect that we have a right to information, which in turn has reduced the power of gatekeepers. Keeping things secret is harder and the very act of doing so requires fresh thinking. The world has shifted and it is just possible our leaders are having difficulty keeping up with this brave new world. Sorry boys but Google will get through to the Chinese, twitter will remain unfettered, and the US will not shut down WikiLeaks (Is it me or does it take rather too long to open?). Understanding how people think has never been more important because if you don't agree, and hope to keep that to yourself whilst seeking to represent the common view, it is unlikely you will get away with it anymore. Nanna believed that corruption was not just taking money you are not entitled to, but also responsibility. That is why I know she would have enjoyed every revelation that exposes hypocrisy for what it is, ridiculous and doomed.

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