Wikileaks changed the world. Well, perhaps, that’s a smidge of hyperbole, but Wikileaks certainly changed the access to information. More importantly, Wikileaks has challenged people, especially Americans, to recognize perspective. There is more than one perspective on the global stage, and while the American view of the world seems to trump other Western cultures, it’s important to understand that America’s view of the world is just one perspective among many.
It’s hard to recognize a perspective that isn’t yours. Yet, Wikileaks has shown us exactly what our perspective has thrust upon the world. America has done a lot on the world stage, some of it good and some of it bad, but we always believed our government to be working in our best interests. Perhaps through naivety, I, like many other Americans, expected our government to ethically conduct itself on the world stage. But, I now realize that isn’t always true, and Wikileaks provided me with that reminder: America can be and has been unethical in many endeavors.
By its very nature, America runs off competition and greed. It’s a capitalist country, and greed is the driving force behind capitalism. But greed also leads people to do things they wouldn’t normally do; namely, unethical transgressions. When Bradley Manning leaked classified U.S. materials to Wikileaks, I doubt he knew what effect it would have on not just the U.S. but also the world. Indeed, my first impulse as an American is to accuse Manning of treason. However, after some thought, I don’t think his crime, if one could call it that, warrants such accusation. Manning provided information for which many have called to be released.
Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have a credibility problem. That is, what right or under what authority does Assange have to take classified U.S. materials and release them to the world? How can we trust Wikileaks? These are the questions driving critics of Wikileaks. Their opinion rests in the affirmation that Assange doesn’t have the right to do so, and his organization, only made famous through Manning’s leaks, doesn’t have a right to give access to classified materials and is far from credible.
Assange’s seemingly less-than reputable character has tarnished the image of Wikileaks. Now, instead of an organization making information, classified or not, available to the masses, Wikileaks has become the battered warhorse Assange trots out in his defense.
America is an imperialist nation, and perhaps what bothers many is that Wikileaks reminded us of that. Few countries have armed military bases all over the world. Our bases are everywhere, and our troops are everywhere. We are, in a sense, occupying other countries around the world under the guise of friendship.
Wikileaks reminded us of our imperialism, and its potential to lead our ethics astray. Wikileaks pounced on our desire for information and rewarded us with it, and we once again discovered America is far from an ethical nation and more imperialistic than we want to believe. It hurts to know the country you love betrayed the principles that earned your love.
Aristotle once wrote, "For though we love the truth and our friends, piety requires us to honor the truth first." We now know some truths that we didn’t know before Wikileaks, and we must honor those truths because they matter. Wikileaks’ future is uncertain. Assange’s future is uncertain. But, what isn’t uncertain is that the access to the truth in the 21st century will never be the same.
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