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World

by Jean-Emmanuel Ducoin

Secret(s)

Wikileaks, a fake scandal?

Translated Sunday 12 December 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Bill Scoble

L’Humanité’s chronicler takes a critical look at the event and, probing deeper than the media buzz, raises disturbing questions.

Wikileaks

« Being the only one to hold a particular secret would make even the most robust person sick, and one may even wonder whether there is any conscious being strong and bold enough to bear this solitary confrontation and survive….” Throughout his long and patient reflection on the existence – or non-existence- of consciousness through time, we wonder what Jankélévitch [1], he who disappeared twenty-five years ago, say of certain current turbulence — he, the renowned thinker about lies, moral life, earnestness, forgiveness? How, for example, would he have squared his metaphysics of “I know not what” and the “all but nothing” with the gigantic global buzz occasioned by the release by Wikileaks of diplomatic documents that “might have devastatingly harmful effects” (to quote the terms used last week in an annex of the Quai d’Orsay - the Foreign Office in Paris) by a diplomatic and legal counselor who has hung about quite a few chancelleries around the world. And who then added, with the mock serious air that old government hands will assume: “You know, young chap, for us it’s the greatest diplomatic disaster in history…To think that journalists collaborate in that global felony !” Your journalist of a diarist felt the breath of complicity brush against his frail shoulders, so to speak.

Networks

Since “to philosophize” means to take nothing for granted in the universe, let’s admit that the release of confidential US State Office documents by Wikileaks — the supposedly “research, political and social analysis” website — will not upset international relations and will not be an embarrassment to those who hold state secrets — as opposed to the mass of citizens who are kept in ignorance of their leaders’ great strategic choices. At least one thing is sure: in this global world of ours, where information depends less and less on the media and shoots at lightning speed across networks, the very notion of confidentiality is far from what it used to be. Hence the questions raised by some modern thinkers, for whom a kind of “participative Poujadism” [2] might well be the price to be paid for the information revolution. Are we now fully settled in the information society, with its attendant consequences, its risks and its possible perversions? Or are we now entering a society where absolutely anything can be deliberately divulged in the name of a so-called pseudo-egalitarianism that betrays secrets, a whim as naïve as it is improbable? Remember Jankélévitch: “If everything is permitted, then nothing is.”

Crime

But let’s come back for a while to our old sly diplomat. What does he really say when he has cooled off? This: “The essence of our foreign policy is our capacity to say things frankly to our foreign counterparts and to keep those exchanges out of the public sphere. This massive leak has just ruined this basic principle in diplomatic relations, and for a long time. “ Let’s make his legitimate questions ours for a while. Doesn’t Wikileaks remain an opaque organization with potentially controversial interests? Why was the information put on line both selected and redacted, and to what ends? Do those leaks advance transparency and democracy the least bit? Shall we have to get used to that latter-day Big Brother hanging close to our screens?

And lastly, two more questions: first, are we discovering the two-way mirror of those whose ambition is to dominate the world by force and by the most unashamed manipulations? Secondly: who profits from the crime? Forget the spate of questions, but to answer the second question, still another must be raised: since little that we did not know before has been revealed in those documents about the main heads of State and government: that Putin is brutal, Merkel insensitive, Berlusconi a Mafioso, our Nicoleon bossy are no scoops! Why does the only “relevant” information in those documents concern the Middle-East? Let’s not be gullible: for the US, chance sometimes arranges things very well, doesn’t it?

Karachi

Let’s now turn to those patented commentators who, program after program play their “critical” tune in defence of powers that are supposedly “violated”, though they are themselves often to be found in the alcoves where their feeling of self-importance originates… Will they be bold enough to defend the alleged author of those leaks, Bradley Manning, that brave soldier, a victim of so much discrimination and who, remember, has not been held for months on the grounds of revealing the hatred between Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad (!), but for broadcasting a video that showed a blunder of the US army in Iraq...

So then? Will those offended souls in the state rooms come to the defence of the brave ones and of all the forms of resistance? Besides…don’t the very same knaves of the servile media claim (and rightly so) an end to official secrets as concerns the Karachi files [3]. So we have the Agosta submarines, the Pakistani commissions, Lebanese retro-commission and so on? In matters of transparency, some people are definitely committed to strange balancing acts...

[1The French philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitch (1903-0985) who was nurtured on Greek, Judeo-Christian, and Russian culture; he developed in his works a reflection that some found disconcerting owing to the diversity of its images and references, and as elusive as its favourite themes of “I know not what”, and the “all but nothing”. An enemy of substantialism, his metaphysical, ethical and esthetic reflections mostly focus on the existential problem of duration and the instant.

Besides his philosophical works (from La Mauvaise Conscience (1933, Bad Faith) to Le Pardon (1967, Forgiveness), he published many works on music: Gabriel Fauré, ses mélodies, son esthétique (1938 G. F., his melodies, his esthetics), Maurice Ravel (1939), Debussy et le mystère (1949, D. and Mystery).

[2A populist brand of right-wing politics that originated towards the end of the French fourth Republic in Pierre Poujade’s Union for the defence of shopkeepers and craftsmen.

[3Investigations into the May 2002 terrorist attack in Karachi, in which 15 people (11 of them French) died? This secrecy led to strong suspicions that the attacks were planned in retaliation for the non-payment, following the election of President Chirac in 2002, of commissions on the sale of three French Agosta submarines to Pakistan that had been agreed on in September 1994 under the government of Balladur.


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