Does Objectivity Matter Anymore?

Consider, if you would, Wikileaks, the oh-so-brave “strong and independent voice for global justice” we all know and try to love. While they’ve never been what any right-thinking person would call, say, possessed with an overwhelming degree of journalistic integrity, it used to be that they pretty much just published whatever people sent them, and let the “leaks” stand on their own merits (or, as is often the case, lack thereof).

Recently, though, they’ve started using their platform as a soapbox to editorialize rather more than used to be the case – a great example is the Cisco marketing material released yesterday. I mean, okay, you’ve got a video from Cisco crowing about how their products have appeared on-screen in various popular movies and television shows; assuming this is somehow noteworthy (I don’t think it is, but nevermind me) what do you title it? How about “Cisco Product Placement Video”? Can’t really find fault with that, can you? No. What Wikileaks chose, however, was ‘Product placement hell: Cisco “bribes” 24, CSI, House, Heroes, the Office, and more’.

Got inflammatory rhetoric?

The description goes well above-and-beyond, too, noting oh-so-helpfully:

Didn’t spot it before? Do what we do, if it is commercial media from the United States, just walk out or turn it off. These people are not your friends.

Mmkay, then.

That description, by the way, was written by Wikileaks themselves, as a quick check of the page’s edit history will show.

Now, defenders might suggest that the editorialization comes from the original “leakers” who submit these things, but my response is a very emphatic “nope”. You see, I have “leaked” several documents to Wikileaks over the last year, and in every instance, the description that appeared with the document or documents as published was dramatically different than what I’d submitted – not just edits for brevity or style, or anything benign like that – in one quite memorable instance the entirety of what I’d written was replaced with a fairly vitriolic, overtly political, and factually incorrect little diatribe, which indicates to me that this is a fairly systematic process among the Wikileaks cabal.

For me, it’s difficult to see how Wikileaks can reconcile their stance as “tellers of truth” (or a voice thereof) with their policy (de-facto or otherwise) of engaging in politically-unobjective editing.

They’ve quite obviously got some quite strong biases they’re making no effort whatsoever to hide or eliminate; given the disparity between their apparent mission statement and the axe(s) they’ve got to grind, can one trust them? Can one take them seriously anymore? Does it even matter to anyone?

I’m guessing the answer to all three questions is “no”.

(and , as a footnote, for what it’s worth, all the documents I published with Wikileaks – and I’m not going to identify which ones they were, or how many there were – were taken from public sites on the internet, and were not in any way “classified”, “censored”, or “opaque to the public record”, so I’m not putting myself in any danger by “coming out” as a “leaker”. If anyone cares, all the documents I submitted were published on Wikileaks; I didn’t request any particular delay in publication, and all made it to the website after roughly forty-eight hours. All documents, by the way, were released unaltered – that is, Wikileaks made no effort to remove potentially compromising metadata, et cetera. Just something to think about…)

Published in: Geekiness, General | on September 16th, 2009| 1 Comment »

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  1. On 9/17/2009 at 8:10 am Justin Said:

    Seems Wikileaks has been in trouble for this at least a couple of times now. Very interesting that your document descriptions have been changed. I read a story about Wikileaks Under Fire just yesterday where Wikileaks is critized for publishing a court ordered protected document (it’s a no-no apparently). A few of the comments on the site were not flattering to Wikileaks credibility because they did not check the background or investigate the document and their descriptions are inflammatory. Great article.