Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

More WikiLeaks Surprises: Putin Applauds, Hitchens Derides

One of the most interesting aspects of the emergence of WikiLeaks as a global phenomenon is the unexpected range of responses that it has provoked.  The very nature of the WikiLeaks agenda is not necessarily one which readily adheres to traditional left or right wing ideology, so predicting any given person’s reaction has proven remarkably challenging.  Take, for instance, the revelation that Vladamir Putin has openly expressed solidarity with Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks movement, implying that the leaks have been beneficial for democracy:

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has led growing support from some world leaders for the beleaguered WikiLeaks founder, describing his detention in Britain as “undemocratic”….

Putin railed against the detention of the 39-year-old Assange, the Australian founder of the website which has been releasing thousands of secret US diplomatic cables as well as Pentagon communiques.

“Why was Mr. Assange hidden in jail? Is that democracy? As we say in the village: the pot is calling the kettle black,” Putin said.

“I want to send the ball back to our American colleagues,” Putin added.

Putin is not someone who is renowned for his embrace of democratic principles, so his vocal support for WikiLeaks is initially somewhat worrisome.  Particularly when we consider that Christopher Hitchens, a highly intelligent and generally ethical individual, has spoken out against the actions of Assange and WikiLeaks:

All you need to know about Assange is contained in the profile of him by the great John F. Burns and in his shockingly thuggish response to it. The man is plainly a micro-megalomaniac with few if any scruples and an undisguised agenda. As I wrote before, when he says that his aim is “to end two wars,” one knows at once what he means by the “ending.” In his fantasies he is probably some kind of guerrilla warrior, but in the real world he is a middle man and peddler who resents the civilization that nurtured him. This Monday, in two separate news reports, the New York Times described his little cabal as an “anti-secrecy” and “whistle-blowing” outfit. Such mush-headed approval at least can be withheld from the delightful Julian, even as we all help ourselves to his mart of ill-gotten goods.

What are we to take away from all this?  One might expect that those who uphold the highest ideals of democracy would embrace WikiLeaks, while those who despise democratic practices would denounce it.  And to a certain degree this is what has happened, as demonstrated by the vehement protestation spewing forth from the likes of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Joe Lieberman.  There are no surprises here.  Yet in this instance we have the notoriously authoritarian Putin boldly vociferating his admiration of WikiLeaks for its promotion of democratic ideals, while the alleged champion of free thought, Christopher Hitchens, has expressed scathing resentment.

I suspect that the reactions of Hitchens and Putin are anomalies and are not representative of the norm.  Putin likely sees an opportunity to burnish his heretofore thuggish reputation, and wisely recognizes that the WikiLeaks era of widely divulged classified information is here to stay.  Undoubtedly, his regime will now be taking painful precautions to ensure that no such damaging leaks are spawned in the future.

With Hitchens, I am afraid to say that I suspect at some level he is somewhat of an elitist.  Though I despise the term for its routine doublespeak usage, in Hitchens case I fear the original definition to be all too applicable.  I respect Hitchens and greatly admire the work he has done combating religion and other forms of ignorance and intolerance, but on social and governmental issues his beliefs reek of disingenuousness and snobbery.  His (continued) support of the Iraq War was remarkably brutish and wholly incompatible with the rationality and critical analysis endemic in his work, as is his most recent implication that preemptive war with Iran is also to be desired.  Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that both Putin and Hitchens are in agreement as to the loathesome nature of WikiLeaks, due to an innate antipathy towards democracy – Hitchens is simply honest enough to admit it.

And such is undoubtedly the case with most observers:  disciples of authentic democracy and freedom respect and uphold the WikiLeaks agenda, while those who despise democracy abhor it.

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8 responses to “More WikiLeaks Surprises: Putin Applauds, Hitchens Derides

  1. citizen 4131 December 10, 2010 at 9:46 am

    WL to much Change for Obama?
    We NEED transparency for our global society that we created an cannot control.To many crises.
    We’d never gone to Iraq if we read the cables first?

    How can a few wise leaders alone solve complex global issues pending ?
    People need to be involved/need same info on these complex issues to let our global society decide & survive.

    If democracy fails, the only solution is More democracy.
    Know It’s a hard path, but harder for our totalitarian enemies.
    E-vote(power), not E-commerce(money) that changes our world, stupid!

  2. dsmith December 11, 2010 at 8:09 am

    remember Hitchens was all ga-ga over the invasion of Iraq, before he was against it. Look for him to change his mind in his next rant.

    • JohnMWhite December 11, 2010 at 9:37 am

      I thought Hitchens was always in favour of the invasion of Iraq and remains so, even when Blair himself has back-tracked to some extent (though without ever admitting fault, of course). Perhaps I am wrong on that, I don’t pay too much attention to what Hitchens says on foreign policy. Like the author, I am baffled by his penchant for invading certain countries, which seems to fly in the face of his usual well-reasoned and cutting analysis. Decrying Assange’s ‘fantasies’ certainly does reek of snobbery and his rant entirely misses the point of what WikiLeaks is doing. They are setting the cat among the pigeons, it’s true, but only because some unscrupulous bastard locked the cat away and pretended there was no way to stop the pigeons shitting everywhere. Tortured metaphors aside, Putin is likely winding up the Americans and trying to make himself appear more fair-minded, while at the same time I am sure as the article says he will be scrambling behind the scenes to avoid sensitive material leaking onto Lady Gaga CDs in the future. I doubt either of them are in favour of full disclosure, which is no secret with Putin but a somewhat hypocritical position for Hitchens who is happy to rely on ‘intelligence’ (a euphemism for spying) to justify invading countries. It’s all right if governments do it but not the people those governments are meant to be serving? Perhaps it would be good for the people to have access to what their politicians are really doing in their name, so that they can make a genuinely informed choice the next time a vote comes up.

    • spktruth December 11, 2010 at 12:40 pm

      Hitchens is not a critical thinker. He refers to Julian as some bombastic fool only in it for himself. I think that is what Hitchens really is about. Why wouldnt the left, liberals and moderates embrace wiki, if Ellsberg, McGovern, Rowley and even Colin Polins chief of staff side with Wiki what does that tell you. They know of the horrendous secrets of the Bush regime, they couldnt put them out themselves, but they want even higher level communications declassified and posted! There can be no secrecy in a democracy. What Wiki is proving is that Rice and now the 100% zionist Clinton did a terrible job as Sec. of State. The CIA, FBI are the spooks, the State Dept is supposed to be about diplomacy…on that Clinton has failed miserably. There is literally no diplomatic negiotiations going on in Afganistan. Its all military, Pentagon and continuation of the slaughter of innocent people. Veterans Network Gordon Duff is obviously incorrect in his assessment that Wiki is a mossad op. How can these people blatantly make these statements when ony a few hundred docs are out? Chris Hitchens may be CIA who the hell knows. If he couldnt get Iraq right, what does that say about his critical thinking skills. Putin is laughing his ass off, because he probably understands more than anyone how the State dept. CIA and FBI have targeted their supposed “allies” to spy on. Putin may want the docs out to prove how he tried to bring about more democratic ideals than we the dumbed down american sheeple ever knew about do to our corporate, government embedded media.

  3. leviathanus December 19, 2010 at 12:19 am

    i stumbled on this article in search of serious works….this is the lousiest piece of journalism i have ever read. i felt compelled to say this. vladimir putin does not want ( or need ) to conceal his tuggish reputation. wikileaks means great harm to the united states and isnt hiding from that fact. of course putin would be for anything that causes damage to the USA. no real argument as been put forth here except: to be for wikileaks is to be for freedom and to be againsnt it is a totalitarian freudian slip. ridiculous. want an negative opinion of wikileaks by someone who wasnt for the iraq war try robert baer…he pretty much sums it up.

    • Andrew December 19, 2010 at 9:06 am

      “In search of serious works…” Classic. Thanks. You claim that this is the “lousiest piece of journalism” you have ever read, and lament the fact that “no real argument has been put forth here.” To which I would respond: this is not “journalism” per se, but an opinion piece in which I, surprisingly, presented my opinion. It is not a doctoral thesis, so please accept my apologies for not delving into the precise justifications for my beliefs.

      In my defense, I should state that I do not think Wikileaks is a perfect organization, nor do I think that all of Assange’s actions are helpful or grounded in altruistic intentions. He may well be a bit of a megalomaniac. However, I think Wikileaks represents a step in the right direction, towards a world (or nation, at least) of total government transparency – which must exist, by the way, if we are to have genuine democracy. If you fail to understand the connection here, I would suggest retaking your freshman Civics class.

      Now, I will concede that Putin has no need to improve his reputation. He probably enjoys his negative press. It seems much more likely, as JohnMWhite noted above, that he is simply enjoying this opportunity to taunt the Americans a little bit – after all, Putin is a bit of a dick.

      But where did you get this idea that “wikileaks [sic] means great harm to the united states [sic] and isnt [sic] hiding from that fact”? Rush Limbaugh, perhaps? Sean Hannity? Maybe you are confused about the difference between the U.S. government and the U.S. population. Yes, WikiLeaks is seeking to harm a government which is rife with unnecessary secrecy, but how does that subsequently harm the citizens? It doesn’t. Government transparency, in the long run at least, can do nothing but help them.

      Now as far as Robert Baer being opposed to WikiLeaks – should anyone be surprised that a former CIA spy is in favor of government secrecy? Does that prove anything relevant? The CIA shouldn’t even exist, and wouldn’t exist if citizens were allowed to be fully informed of the actions of their government.

      But let’s move beyond WikiLeaks, because really it is irrelevant to the core of this article. The fundamental supposition here is that total government transparency is a crucial prerequisite for a functioning democracy. Would you disagree with this? If so, why?

  4. Pingback: So Assange is a Pervert – Who Cares? « Failed Empire

  5. Pingback: So Julian Assange is a Pervert – Who Cares? « Failed Empire

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