I've been absolutely appalled at the double standards -- the screaming double standards -- on the story of Murdoch's hacking of public and private persons' cell phones and the hacking exploited by WikiLeaks.
It truly boggles the mind, how many people are plussing up the Google+ waves with puffed-up chests in indignation about what Murdoch's paper has been caught doing who were never, ever available to utter a word of criticism about WikiLeaks, doing the exact same thing (and, arguably, with more far-reaching damages to more people and governments around the world).
To my mind, they are very similar; hacking is wrong, unethical, and criminal in both cases and should be prosecuted, and yes, in both cases, there is not a direct relationship to actual hacking, but intermediaries are used. That doesn't sanitize it in either case.
What enables most of these lefty geeks and Internet-bred freaks to be unable even to compare these two very, very similar acts of criminality is that they maintain that WikiLeaks "doesn't hack".
Oh, no? Of course they hack. They have hacked in the past to get certain things, and they incite hacking, and exploit hacking. They are a very concerted operation dedicated to the instigation of hacking. That's what they do. They aren't a news operation and Assange is no journalist, not with his ideology of "the worse the better" for the US. As Floyd Abrams, the First Amendment lawyer, beautifully summarized it, Assange is a source, not a journalist. Full stop. A particularly fickle and manipulative and even smelly source, as Bill Keller has explained.
You could say Murdoch's News of the World didn't hack either, you know. They hired private investigators. The PIs do the dirty week reaching unscrupulous phone people or gaining access through social hacks or actual hacks. (In fact, most of it seems to have been accomplished by "blagging," i.e. dealing with rogue police and other officials willing to sell information). In the same way, WikiLeaks winks and nods and gets Anonymous to do the hacking -- dog-whistling to their hounds. Or they find fellow travellers like Manning. They don't have to buy and sell; they are ideologues and cultists and attrack fellow conspirators.
Now that the full Wired chat logs are in the news again, I have to say that they are getting a serious validation by Wired and Gawker and others. And these chat logs leave no ambiguity: despite his counsel's lies that he had no contact with Manning, these chat logs show Assange directly communication with Manning several times, and with Manning discussing him and with Lamo, the "rat" who squealed on him to the FBI, even asking why Manning seems to be doing Assange's bidding.
None of this may stand up in anything other than the court of public opinion, but the same people who say piously "WikiLeaks does not hack" will also say, not batting an eyelash (like some nerd just did on Google+) that "WikiLeaks is not even remotely connected to Anonymous." *Bursts out laughing*. Or that WikiLeaks has nothing to do with Manning. But of course they are intimately connected.
Yeah, right. That's why Anonymous is *still* to this day hacking and disabling the sites of Visa and Mastercard because it refuses to process payments to WikiLeaks. And that's why someone like Manning can come forward so easily to Assange -- it's not like they are disconnected. What, blagging by a rogue police officer to a sleazy journalist is terrible, a crime, an indictiment of the entire Western world and capitalist social system for the media? Yet a troubled soldier casually downloading a ton of files from a system already weakened by the wiki-cult, running to an anarchist collective of like-minded political extremists, that's ok? Because...why? Because "you have to fight the man"? Or what?
More seriously, what most of those arguing that these two have nothing to do with each other is a moral question, and a very heart-breaking one: the Murdoch journalists reportedly hired the private detectives to hack into a missing teenage girl's phone. She was later found dead. So that's a hugely emotional issue, obviously, and of course, the kind of mud-covered tabloid journalism that makes people scorn Murdoch and the yellow press.
It's awfully hard to get any critical distance on a story like that when it is in the fierce heat of outrage as it is in these recent days. But let's try.
First of all, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Murdoch journalists *deliberately* tried to cause the girl's family anguish. There's no evidence that they intentionally tried to foil police work, either. Yet these charges are made constantly in loud decibals in every forum, merely because they did something self-serving and stupid and unthinking -- they deleted some of the messages on the dead girl's phone to make room for more to come in.
Anguished relatives were calling and calling to see if she would come home. And seeing that messages deleted off the account, they were thinking she might be alive, although she was long dead. Horrible!
But that wasn't deliberate. The newspaper reporters were trying to get the story. It's sleazy, but it's not malicious. Perhaps they believed she was a runaway, and not missing. Perhaps they thought she was kidnapped and they might get a clue before the slower police would. I don't know. I haven't researched it and they don't seem to tell.
Yet you definitely don't see any of that malicious glee that you find with Anonymous when *they* harass the parents and friends of dead kids. Which is of course, something they are notorious for. Which is precisely why they are screaming the loudest in faux outrage at Murdoch, the mainstream press, claiming his journalists are guilty of doing what they do -- all in an effort to undermine the establishment media (and tabloid is still more establishment than WikiLeaks!) in their general anarchic and terrorist plan to sow mayhem and destruction.
I will never forget years ago first encountering the fiercely griefing creepy avatar An Hero in Second Life. He was an account of a b-tard who kept swooping down and harassing tenants in private moments or just as they walked around, swarming everywhere and maliciously enjoying people's suffering. He was banned everywhere and constantly abuse reported but the Lindens left him in the list for a long time. I didn't realize he was a meme-name at first until it was explained to me -- as you can read, this is the Internet name for a dead teenager taken from a sentimental poem about him. The boy committed suicide over another student stealing his i-pod -- a very modern tale.
Horridly, the 4channers (this is the site owned and operated by Chris Poole or "Moot" whom Fred Wilson and Ron Conway finance in the other venture called Canvas) went and bullied this boy's family. They called them and laughed at them and told them they'd got the ipod back.
4chan and ebaum and similar Anonymous offshoots have done this a number of times with the families of dead children. It's what they do. There are horrific accounts of this, documented in essays like the Wikipedia essay on Cyberbullying. When people recall these known and documented facts about 4chan and Anonymous, you'll often find people like the griefer-apologist professors saying oh, but they fight the Iranian or the Syrian regime. Um, ok. But they do this, too. And keep doing it. It's what they do. For the lulz.
This is deliberate harassing. Malicious attacking to make people hurt on purpose.
That's way, way different than rowdy tabloid reporters just trying to get messages, and deleting some unthinkingly of the consequences.
We're constantly told that this harmed the police investigation. Indeed it may have. But...what were those messages? If the News deleted them, were they really of news value? They were either the anguished calls of the family, or, something that is common in all these cases which you can read about on Wikipedia as well -- the sickos who call the number with things like job offers and greetings and whatnot -- there were a number of impersonators doing that and some of them were criminally charged. It's copycat sick stuff. So if the journalists' erased one of those messages, after presumably recording it, no harm no foul.
But...what *did* they erase? We never know. And we don't need to know. But what's clear is that this was not deliberate, in order to cause anguish, or stop police from doing their job; it was just careless and arrogant and wrong. Say, can anyone make moral distinctions like that anymore? I guess not, when they're busy whitewashing WikiLeaks and blackening Murdoch because he's old media, but mostly because he's a rich capitalist, one of those "Mr. Moneybags" that the LulzSec parodies.
The police were indeed hampered in their work if they thought the girl was still alive -- but if they were doing their job, they'd have to be following up any number of hypotheses. The seriousness of this act's *consequences* if not its *intent* may rightly bring criminal charges. But I don't find anyone worried about the chilling effect that the notion that you can be charged with "interfering with a police investigation of a crime" by *attempting to cover it* could have. And indeed it will. Like it does in countries like Kazakhstan where "interference with the secrecy of the investigation" is a severe offense leading to imprisonment of reporters.
And of course, there are all the other public figures. Now with cases like Gordon Brown, we're getting into truly exact moral equivalence because WikiLeaks pries open the private communications of public political figures just as well, and just as casually, and of course, in the end, more maliciously, as it comes with a theory, which is to cripple the US deliberately. At least the tabloid press has a notion of "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable" or the "public's right to know," although of course it feeds the public's prurience.
And ultimately, Murdoch is more of a gentleman than Assange; when caught doing something he wrong, he fell on his sword and closed his tabloid. You don't find the white-haired wonder doing that as he endlessly tries to self-justify.
The news business isn't such a lucrative affair these days, knocked for a loop by the Internet and smart phones, that even the left can't really speak of evil money-grudding newsmen -- you would think. But they do. So rabid is their aversion to the rich, the profit-making, the capitalist (except, of course, when the company is Google and the Mr. Moneybags is Larry Page) that they imagine that these tabloid types cravenly do everything just for money.
But at the level of those journalists, I think it's more about trying to hang on to their jobs -- and even back then when the story of the young girl's death took place, it was about getting ahead in their profession, such as it is, and being the best at what they do.
Ultimately, the Murdoch story is a story about unethical -- and possibly even criminal! -- hacking. And so is WikiLeaks. And so is Anonymous. Yet in those cases, there are legions of lefties ready to excuse and distract from the crimes of those Internet vandals and extremists. They won't make the same excuses for Murdoch merely because he is a capitalist. That's all.
Another way in which the protectors of WikiLeaks attempt to distract attention from the similarities in the two unethical acts of Murdoch's papers and WikiLeaks is by screeching, "But Murdoch hacked the phones of 9/11 victims!" They hope that sure-fire third-rail will get people absolutely white-hot livid in the remaining grief even after 10 years, and clinch the story.
Well, it doesn't. Hacking the phones of dead 9/11 victims is appalling and disgustingly sleazy; it's wrong and possibly even criminal. That doesn't somehow exonerate the hacking into the government files of the US, which is itself a 9/11 victim. Naturally, individual firemen and office workers are more emotionally vivid to us all (I live here) than the abstractions of "the Pentagon" or "the US" as a country, but there is still the fact that it is a victim of a crime against humanity. That's why crimes against humanity are called such when at the scale of 3000 people.
P.S., we don't know for a fact that there *was* a hacking into the 9/11 victims' phones; the story involves a corrupt former cop willing to sell the information -- but it's not clear he did or what was obtained.
The justification for WikiLeaks -- that there are two unjust wars, that, as some nit put it in a forums, "they reveal that the first world exploits the third world" (hardly the case, from WikiLeaks revelations) -- just doesn't stand up. Nothing we have learned from WikiLeaks in Cablegate ever justified the damage caused, and yes, people are harmed, and yes, they are endangered and don't worsen their situation by telling you about it.I've actually written about these cables far more than anyone else and actually studied them more than most, and I can validate that. There isn't the care with redacting out sources everyone imagines, my God, go and read them, that's easily established.
As for the revelations before Cablegate about Iraq, did it end the war, did it lead to justice? No. And not because that's the way of the wicked world, but because it's not a compelling story. Whatever crimes committed by the US in the invasion in the first place and the killing of civilians are dwarfed by the appalling death toll of civilians killed by terrorists, aided by Iran and Al Qaeda. WikiLeaks didn't work because it wasn't a just cause and it wasn't sincere and it was really not about righting wrongs, but about cultic self-aggrandizement.