WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency

WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency

by Micah L. Sifry
     
 

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The United States government is diligent—some might say to the point of obsession—in defending its borders against invaders. Now we are told a small, international band of renegades armed with nothing more than laptops presents the greatest threat to the U.S. regime since the close of the Cold War. WikiLeaks’ release of a massive trove of secret

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Overview

The United States government is diligent—some might say to the point of obsession—in defending its borders against invaders. Now we are told a small, international band of renegades armed with nothing more than laptops presents the greatest threat to the U.S. regime since the close of the Cold War. WikiLeaks’ release of a massive trove of secret official documents has riled politicians from across the spectrum. Even noted free-speech advocate Floyd Abrams blames WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for the certain defeat of federal shield-law legislation protecting journalists. Hyperbole, hysteria? Certainly. Welcome to the Age of Transparency.

But political analyst and writer Micah Sifry argues that WikiLeaks is not the whole story: It is a symptom, an indicator of an ongoing generational and philosophical struggle between older, closed systems, and the new open culture of the Internet. Despite Assange’s arrest, the publication of secret documents continues. As Sifry shows, this is part of a larger movement for greater governmental and corporate transparency: “When you combine connectivity with transparency—the ability for more people to see, share and shape what is going on around them—the result is a huge increase in social energy, which is being channeled in all kinds of directions.”

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While WikiLeaks is discussed at some length, Sifry (co-author of Is That a Politician in Your Pocket) is more interested in the big picture of government transparency that Julian Assange's organization has come to represent. Sifry declares that "secrecy and the hoarding of information are ending; openness and the sharing of information are coming," and begins by discussing the leaked Collateral Murder video showing U.S. Apache helicopters killing Iraqi civilians. Sifry undertakes a historical account of "networked politics," from Howard Dean's first online town hall meeting to the web presence of Barack Obama. He notes that there is a "growing pool of networked citizens who want to do more than just consume information, they want to help create it and shape it, too," and he examines these issues in a global context, telling the stories of people like Marko Rakar of the Croation blog Pollitika.com and Ory Okolloh of KenyanPundit.com, both working for more openness from their governments. Finally, Sifry calls out the Obama administration for failing to make good on campaign promises of greater transparency. "This is not a treatise," Sifry states early on, and he's right; it's an absorbing, comprehensive examination of one of the most vital issues of our time. (Mar.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582437798
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
03/15/2011
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
6.82(w) x 5.02(h) x 0.59(d)

Meet the Author

As the co-founder and curator of the Personal Democracy Forum (where Julian Assange has spoken twice), editor of its award-winning techPresident.com blog, and a senior technology adviser to the Sunlight Foundation, Micah L. Sifry is perfectly situated for this analysis, the first book-length discussion of WikiLeaks to appear in print. A former editor and writer at The Nation Magazine, he is the author of one book (Spoiling for a Fight, 2002), co-author of another (Is that a Politician in Your Pocket?, 2004) and co-editor of two anthologies: The Iraq War Reader (2003) and The Gulf War Reader (1991). He is also a member of the board of Consumers Union. His personal blog is at micah.sifry.com.

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