PEOPLE   |  MOVEMENTS   |  TALK


So, how about them WikiLeaks?

September 5th, 2016

What will be the fallout from this extreme test of real democracy on the Internet, and how will it affect the spread of movements?

I suppose that everyone has a different take on the WikiLeaks story, depending on with what part (or parts) of their own personal story it intersects. Since we’re in the business of creating Movements, most of the talk around the Hey Harry office has been around what the long term effects might be to the democratic nature of the internet, and how the transparent and free movement of ideas and information may be threatened by the chaos that sustains it. Or, in more brutal terms, does the internet exist at the pleasure of the military-industrial complex that built and supports it, and if so, what will be the result of its biting the hand that feeds it? Or, conversely, if it is not so, will this event be a wake-up call to autocrats everywhere that the internet is officially out of control, and thus needs more aggressive oversight?

Movements are created, either intentionally or by accident, by the collision of a series of specific catalytic events.  They are fuelled, however, by the flow of information, and the nature of that flow can either amplify or retard that growth. That is not to say that a free-flow guarantees a rapid spread; in fact, the opposite is often true, as Newton’s Third Law comes into play and a greater force of suppression is met with equally escalating urgency. And that flow of information, the democracy of that pipeline, is now a very hot topic of conversation. Long after Mr. Assange has disappeared from the limelight, the spectre of his deeds will wander the halls of government regulators and legislators, affecting both broad policy direction and particular tactical decisions. It will be trotted out in front of the media, as was (and still is) the unmitigated terror of the 9/11 attacks, to justify all manner of actions to either limit the rights of citizens or to fuel mistrust in government institutions.

This is the uncomfortable story of fire and water, elements that are in constant and vehement opposition, but which we need with equal importance. The two ideals at play in the WikiLeaks story, that of absolute transparency of governments opposing the basic human need for discretion and privacy in which to conduct our affairs, will not be resolved by this debate. Nor will it ever come to full resolution. It will forever be a sliding scale of relative desire, changing on the same whims that forge and break our relationships daily. What this will do, however, is change the nature of how our governments regulate the internet, how industry protects it, and how people use it.

There is no way to judge the value of human interaction. Circumstances that some might consider a degradation of the human condition, others might see as an opportunity to better a difficult situation. We often try to create ideal circumstances in which to conduct our affairs or cultivate our ideas, only to find that adverse conditions are actually more fruitful, thanks to Darwinian politics. So while there are many debates currently being waged as to the specifics of justice currently on trial in the court of public appeal, there can be little doubt that there will be a marked shift in the landscape of the internet when the dust settles.

What will that shift be? Will the internet be more guarded, less open and therefore less appealing as a global forum? Or will its democratic nature be more prized, making it lawless and chaotic, and therefore less appealing as an organized platform to disseminate and gather information? All I know is that it will still be about people. Because people are the most basic unit of all organizations, be they governments or rebels, producers or consumers, kings or pawns. And the only predictable truth about people is that they are unpredictable – as individuals surely, and even more so when they appear in plural.

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