The paper that follows will reflect upon WikiLeaks, an internet campaign that serves in the cause of obtaining and publishing classified media in various forms. Founded by Julian Assange, the organization democratizes information by way of its collapsing of the distinction between the ruling class and the ruled, horizontalizing the global balance of power and exposing any attendant corruption. As Estop remarks, “Julian Assange’s intent is to uncover the roots of power abuse, publicly exposing what is supposed to be the fabric of a hidden authoritarian regime underlying formal democracies”. However, the author argues that this unfolds as something of a utopian ideal that never fully realizes the prophesies of the underclass, where forms of power are simply re-interpreted and re-evaluated in different ways.
At its heart, WikiLeaks is a reactionary movement; it points the finger, establishes normative criteria for the appropriate exercising of power, and enters the competitive conversation with the attempted establishing of norms of its own. Its aims are, first and foremost, driven by the principle of noble subversion, being marked by a confident sense of the truth of its own ideals. It is funded by donations, where the public is called to transform its idle speculation on the state of the world into concrete action by way of financial support for WikiLeaks. The movement has, however, run into a number of difficulties, where banks and other financial services providers have blocked support for WikiLeaks, whom they regard as being a dangerous entity. Nonetheless, the perseverance of the movement and the widespread support for their endeavors have resulted in the successful transcendence of any such limitations.
WikiLeaks echoes an entire history of dialogue and conflict between oppressors and oppressed, where the phenomenon of ‘networked resistance’ has given rise to the neologism ‘Hacktivism’ . Combining the traditional concept of activism (as a praxis that unifies ideology with action) and the cyber-concept of hacking, the networked world is studied, entered into and broken apart with respect to its security. In general, the media content that is released by WikiLeaks comprises classified documents from various agencies, governments and organizations, with its intended audience being the world as such. However, it seems to rouse far-left enthusiasts for the horizontalization of power, doing much to tear down the structures of authority without offering anything real or coherent to replace them.
This is the problematic aspect of the movement, for it comprises a destructive force without any real creation in its wake. It idolizes a quasi-anarchic world-view, without responding to the question of government itself. The utopianism of this is quite self-evident, for it assumes that if the ruling authorities were exposed and rendered transparent in an absolute sense, there would suddenly emerge a spontaneous and universal spirit of co-operation, such that there would no longer exist the need for any secrets.
The Marxist underpinnings of a reaction against the bourgeoisie (here, any individual or set of individuals that has more power than others) is quite evident—as indeed is the ‘long on problem, short on solution’ nature of this particular form of rebellion against the elite. True, it has noble intentions in the perpetual war against hierarchical distinctions between man and man, but, like Marx and Engels (even if distinct in its overt ideologies), invites something of an unwashed rabble in support of it from behind the safety of computer screens. In the interim, its subversions play out in sometimes destructive ways on the real battleground that takes place in the offline world. Quite paradoxically, whilst waging war against power, is not, in fact, creating new power structures of its own?
- Cammaerts, Bart. “Networked Resistance: The Case of WikiLeaks.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 18.4 (2013): 420-436.
- Estop, Juan Domingo Sánchez. “WikiLeaks From Abbé Barruel to Jeremy Bentham and Beyond (A Short Introduction to the New Theories of Conspiracy and Transparency).” Cultural Studies and Critical Methodologies 14.1 (2014): 40-49.