I had not known much about wikileaks before doing research for this article. I had never been much bothered about this talk of surveillance, and I considered it more a form of entertainment, like a fantasy that we are all living in a big-brother dystopia just like we all read about. I do remember the Vault 7 leaks, and I will say that I did not object to the leak. I do believe vulnerabilities are left in our devices for the purpose of surveillance, and it is probably better to be made aware of that. Like Edward Snowden said, we should at least know about those activities and decide if that is what we need as a state. I do not agree with such arguments of national security, I think that is just the go to angle for pushing greater control by the state. It is a certain way of viewing the world, that we are under constant threat of internal attacks, that lets the government push an agenda of greater control. Information is the most rich and plentiful new source of power, and our whole state ideology will gather around maintaining control of our information.
Still, I am ultimately an opponent of wikileaks. I think your second question, whether we can separate the message from the messenger, captures pretty well my hesitation towards them. I do not see them as a pure conduit for protected information, a well-intended messenger sending out a startling, but truthful, message. I don’t believe separating the message from the messenger, as you say, is ever possible. Derrida says a similar thing about a section in Ulysses detailing a postcard in the hands of someone other than its addressee. The letter without an addressee is a free-floating signifier, not grounded in its practical purpose, and thus poses an interpretative problem. How can we assess the worth and meaning of a message without knowing the intention of its delivery? The information released by wikileaks cannot be separated from their political purposes. I was already suspicious of Wikileaks’ intended mission (I did not buy for a second that they are a non-profit), but I read an article before our podcast that really made me start condemning them. It was called “Wikileaks has officially lost the moral high ground,” from Wired. They showed how Wikileaks has clearly been aligned with alt-right circles and Russian interests in their recent activity. It makes a lot of sense. Their shock-and-awe tactics and defiance of big-government fit well with the petulant, conspiring circles of the alt-right. Sensational and directionless as they were, it was only a matter of time before a radical political mission swoops Wikileaks up as some badge of fearless honesty.
I was at first willing to sympathize somewhat with Julian Assange’s intended mission. I thought whistleblowing itself could be beneficial as a way to critique the standard ideology of state security and government control. I am still not opposed to the activity, but I believe it is impossible to separate that whistleblowing from the political motives that either underly it or carry it away.