The Wikileaks controversy was a story that frankly, in this age of mass information distribution, was bound to happen.
I guess large stacks of classified memos could have been leaked many years ago, but it would have required reams of paper and that would be far more difficult to smuggle out of a government facility than electronic files.
But technology is not the only thing that made Wikileaks situation possible. The other non-technological aspect that made this a reality is our ever-growing, insatiable need for information.
It makes sense that in a time when our government is capturing more information about its citizens than ever before, that we want more information about our own government than ever before.
But is this circular desire for more and more information actually detrimental to our collective safety?
Well, I think it depends.
It seems that in the short term, the release of the multitude of information from the Wikileaks scandal is going to prove to be more embarrassing than truly harmful to national safety. It also seems likely that much of this dirty laundry should already be known in the highest levels of government of the countries involved.
You don’t have to be James Bond to already know how the United States and South Korea see North Korea. Nor do you have to be a seasoned diplomat to believe that our government worries about corrupt politicians in Afghanistan.
So the great majority of the recently released material shouldn’t make us less safe. It just makes State dinners a bit more uncomfortable the next time our State Department needs to meet with the aforementioned parties.
It’s kind of like trying to enjoy the rest of Thanksgiving dinner after your six year old tells the entire family what you really think of the person your cousin is engaged to. It’s not necessarily a threat to your safety, it just makes the rest of the meal really awkward.
(On a personal note, I’m a big fan of my cousin’s fiancé.)
In the long term though, I believe this desire for more and more information, especially without necessary context, can be harmful.
I realize the threat of personal hypocrisy here since I am writing a blog entry on a website that provides breaking news 24 hours a day and that I work in the media. My livelihood depends on an audience seeking information.
But even though I participate in the distribution of information, I believe we can strike a balance. As a society we can determine our own limits to how much information we actually need. We don’t necessarily need to know absolutely everything.
I’m not advocating that we bury our heads in the sand while our government does whatever it wishes. But I am confident that all of us know deep down inside that we do not need to be aware of everyone’s business around us.
The balance of how much information we need as a society can’t be solved in one blog entry or even in one extended conversation. But the conversation that this Wikileaks controversy brings up is a healthy one, and one that is needs to happen.
Because sooner or later, if we don’t talk about that balance, we’re going to stumble across that line, and learn our lesson the hard way.
Before that happens, it sure would be nice to talk about it first.
- by Dominic Dezzutti