It is the climactic scene. Dorothy and her friends stand before the great Wizard of Oz. Toto wanders off and yanks back a curtain to reveal a man busy manipulating levers. Whistles and smoke bombs go off, and the great Oz thunders: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”
The federal government, the military and the Library of Congress have all ordered those under their power not to look at the material published on the WikiLeaks website because it is illegal and looking would make them criminals. Meanwhile, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, is still jailed in Britain because his condom allegedly “malfunctioned” while having sex in Sweden with a woman with shady connections to anti-Castro Cubans and US intelligence.
This raises a very real question: How is the US approach to WikiLeaks any different from the tyrannical Chinese government’s crack down on websites publishing things Chinese leaders fear and want to control?
Despite all the “leader of the free world” propaganda hammered into us since first grade, are we really any different? As my dad liked to say, the Chinese were civilized when our WASP ancestors were living in trees. Is it time we stopped letting ourselves be deluded that we’re “exceptional” in the world?
The US government campaign to close down WikiLeaks uses the same tactics as the campaign by the Chinese to thwart its website enemies. They both rely on the intimidation of funding sources, they both publicly smear leaders of the criminalized website and they both use their nation’s legal system, since, in both China and the United States, the legal system has been designed by the powerful class of people most likely to be embarrassed by the revelations on “subversive” websites.
Here’s a novel idea: To make up for the undeserved Nobel Peace Prize given last year to Barack Obama and in line with the more appropriate Peace Prize given out this year to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, next year maybe the Nobel Committee should give the Peace Prize to Julian Assange. Especially if he’s in prison.
Samuel Huntington and US Decline
I’ve generally disdained historians like Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington, since both of them were used ad nauseum to bolster the imperial Bush Doctrine of preemptive military violence.
But the other day for 35-cents at a thrift shop I picked up Huntington’s 1996 magnum opus, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. While it has a testimonial on the back from the devil himself, Henry Kissinger, the book is important and more politically neutral than the list of its right-wing militarist worshippers suggest.