The recent release by WikiLeaks of nearly 300,000 US diplomatic cables has exposed not just how the US views and deals with the rest of the world but also the conceit of journalists who think that they and they alone should be the purveyors of information.
While I grant that sifting through the documents can be quite daunting, to argue that WikiLeaks should not have dumped all those documents simply because the ordinary person will not have the time nor the inclination nor the capacity to go through them is just BS. Such an argument should not trump the basic principle behind the recent WikiLeaks releases: that there is a need to shine a light on how the most powerful country on Earth does its business in other parts of the world.
Should it matter that people won’t have the time nor the intellectual capacity to sift through the documents? It shouldn’t, because the idea is transparency. The idea is for governments to know that not all that they do will remain locked away in some archive. The idea is for these governments to always have it in the back of their minds that each time they deal with dictators and mass murderers, they will be exposed.
The matter about WikiLeaks failing to redact the names of sources whose life could be in danger for talking to US diplomats is another matter, of course. Could WikiLeaks have partnered with more news organizations to do what The New York Times, The Guardian and the others have done with these documents in the past? Is Julian Assange too conceited and arrogant himself not to have entertained the idea, let alone pursued it?
Still, this recent document dump should not dissuade WikiLeaks from doing more of what it does. As to the journalists who feel that what they say and think are the only thing that matters, the challenge for them is to jump in and sift through the documents. They should write about what was exposed in those cables and put them in context. As journalists, that’s the best — and the least — that they can do right now. They cannot afford to just stand there and bitch about WikiLeaks and the fact that, once again, the anti-secrecy organization has triumphed.