Download here, if you like.
Very interesting. I am glad more people are discussing wikileaks from an academic perspective, rather than just regurgitating the news.
I’ve been reading many of the cables myself and while certain events are interesting, the most fascinating part for me was a realization of how corrupt the system is at the core and how it corrupts everyone it touches. The United States targets prominent foreign individuals and once they start doing small favors in the name of diplomacy, this bond only goes stronger. For me this realization is enough to support wikileaks. The only way to minimize corruption and have relationships that benefit the public rather than corporations is to make all diplomacy public.
I think Ludlow’s essay (along with Z’s contributions) is very helpful in explicating the argument of Assange’s essays. But I think there’s a distinction which is implicit in Assange’s thought which isn’t getting enough attention at the moment. And in my opinion it’s rather crucial, because it may ultimately point to something of a blindspot in the Wikileaks strategy.
When Ludlow asks why conspiracies are bad, he answers in part:
“Assange also talk about such networks/conspiracies acting against “people’s will to truth, love and self-realization”, and here I can only speculate that he means members of the conspiracy are not acting for love of other individuals or for finding truth outside of the network but rather are acting for the survival of the conspiracy/network. ”
Actually, I think the assumption behind Assange’s remark rests on an intuitive grasp of Habermas’ distinction between “communicative” and “strategic” action. I need to briefly expand on this idea, so bear with me. Both communicative and strategic action involve the pursuit of goals which require social or coordinated action between multiple actors. But communicative action tries to achieve these goals through consensus, relying on rational arguments and genuine forms of co-operation. Strategic action, on the other hand, does not rely on consensus because it pursues goals which are only appear to be of benefit to the individual agent. This, however, raises the problem of how the strategic agent can achieve the co-ordination necessary to achieve their goals.
There are two types of social environment in which strategic agents operate. The first are social systems which are specifically designed (as it were) to co-ordinate the ego-centric pursuit of ends. These are the marketplace and democratic government. In both of these systems, agents can selfishly pursue profit or power and, under ideal conditions, the net result will (somewhat paradoxically) be beneficial to the whole of society: the pursuit of profit generates competition and innovation, while election campaigns and other “checks and balances” ensure that government is representational and that compromises between stake-holders achievable.
Assange, at least in the Forbes interview, made it clear that he is not against this kind of strategic action. Business is good, and making a profit is good, as long as the market is regulated to ensure that it functions to the benefit of society as a whole. We’ve seen, of course, that through regulatory capture and financial bubbles, etc. this isn’t always the case. Democratic governments are hardly immune to corruption either. And it seems to me that the (perhaps fundamental) role of conspiracies in subverting the operations of the market and of government is Assange’s main target.
But in order to understand how we can dismantle conspiracies in these cases, we have to consider the second social environment in which strategic agents operate. This is the realm usually reserved for specifically communicative forms of action: forums in which consensus and the social values of truth and justice are theoretically put before personal interest. These include areas such as the press, parliament, arenas of public debate, universities, scientific institutions, law courts, and so on. Now strategic agents can try to subvert the processes of communicative action in these areas either openly, by issuing threats and promises of material reward, or covertly through deception and manipulation.
Here is my worry. Leaks against conspiracies in the marketplace or in government can have two kinds of negative consequences for the conspirators. Assange focuses on only one of these: the fact that the distribution of once secret information weakens a conspiracy relative to other economic or political agents. (Ludlow does a great job of explicating how this works.) While this can certainly be effective, one should keep in mind that the end result may only be a transfer of power to a competing conspiracy. That however won’t improve the functioning of the marketplace or government vis-à-vis society. The other consequence is, I think, far more significant. And it occurs when leaked information is taken up by processes of communicative action in order to generate a rational consensus about the re-regulation of the dysfunctional social system. This re-regulation will ensure not just the dismantling of the conspiracy affected by the leak, but a change in the conditions of the system which will hopefully (even if only temporarily) weaken all conspiracies and reduce the opportunity for conspiratorial action. The reason this doesn’t necessarily happen, though, is that strategic actors are able to distort the mechanisms for reaching rational consensus. And in those circumstances, the power of leaks to repair broken social systems is much diminished.
I’m sure Assange and his partners are intuitively aware of this last point, which is perhaps why they’ve hedged their bets by forming an independent media organisation while cooperating with more established progressive news outlets. But getting information out into the public domain isn’t enough. Today, public opinion can all too easily be manipulated by modern governments, and the functioning of the press, academia and even the courts can be pressured by strategic agents to favour the interests of the few over the many. I hope somebody has a plan for dealing with this kind “colonisation,” as Habermas puts it, of communicative action by strategic interests. If not, then I fear that all the Wikileaks’ in the world won’t be able to bring about the kind of regulatory changes we so desperately need.
[…] exposed: Behind the witch-hunt of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange There Is Something To See Here Peter Ludlow on “The Political Philosophy of Julian Assange” Vatican reaction to WikiLeaks claims (LOLOL) WikiLeaks row: why Amazon’s desertion has […]
As an American I would just like to say that we are all not sheople… I don’t think that there is any harm in waiting to see what happens next… There seems to be a lot of misinformation being thrown around, and I believe that in the end, the people and corporations, who are doing wrong by the American public will be exposed… As this story unfolds,the thing that is most impressive to me is the clarity of thought of most of the world…at the same time I am embarrassed by the narrow mindedness of individuals who are held in high regard in the political arena in the USA…
No but most of the electorate are cudlips.
dumb cattle…look how the bovines have been distracted by the shiny of crotch-sniffing Assange.
Assanges arrest is part of HIS DESIGN.
One prime directive of WL is MAXIMIZE EXPOSURE.
Assange believes that will create other leakers.
Assange’s arrest activated his fifth column– wikimirrors and the chanese (Anonymous, the hacker community, cryptome and 4chan).
there are 20 new mirrors being created every hour.
Wikileaks is currently mirrored on 2130 sites (updated 2010-12-14 12:56 GMT)
Wikileaks is currently mirrored on 2130 sites (updated 2010-12-14 12:56 GMT)
The powerless hyperpower cannot turn it off.
It seems to be working as intended.
Assanges design is for America to turn into a police state on its way to non-linear system collapse from paranoia infection.
The judiciary is now our only hope.
im sick of the cudlips. my inclination is to let Americas house of cards burn down.
its what we deserve.
Assange himself has said that he is a lightening rod.
His arrest is kabuki-drama designed to activate his fifth column, wikimirrors and the chanese.
three things Aaron.
1. there is a beta-prototype field test of a closed information systems killer RUNNING RIGHT NAOW.
2. On observation it is WAI.
3. the powerless hypower cannot turn it off.
Let a thousand trails of carnage bloom in the Pasture of the Cudlips.
[…] assange’s theories December 14, 2010 bongiben Leave a comment Go to comments http://zunguzungu.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/peter-ludlow-on-the-political-philosophy-of-julian-assang… […]
[…] original here: Peter Ludlow on “The Political Philosophy of Julian Assange” Posted in: […]
Ludlow is a long-time channer supporter and colludes with 4chan regularly in Second Life.
Ludlow says this:
“Suppose that I am a reporter. I would like to have some hot news to report. You agree to give me the inside information, but you do so with the understanding that you and your network friends will act on your information before you give it to me and it becomes worthless when published. I get my scoop, and you get to control the conditions under which the information is made public. I, as reporter, am now unknowingly part of the conspiracy. I am participating in the conspiracy by respecting the secrets that the network wishes to keep, and releasing the secrets (and sometimes misinformation) only when it is in the interest of the network to do so. I have become a part of the network, and hence part of the conspiracy.”
That’s helpful for writing the U.S. indictment against Assange — and prosecution the New York Times. That was probably not his intention. Emergent behaviour is always something Ludlow will bite somebody else, not him.
Indeed, this entire bundle of thinky stuff is predicated on an ecstatic and nihilist enamoration of the concept of “emergent behaviour”. It celebrates the unconsciousness of code but also speaks to Dostoyevsky’s “Without God, anything is possible” (which I prefer to translate as, “Without God, anything goes.). It celebrates machin-generated phenomena out of control.
Ludlow spent years presiding over a griefing-incitement online paper, Alphaville Herald, joining 4chan in doing it for the lulz. That’s not philosophy; that’s vandalism. That’s an important background to understand in assessing his reification of “emergent behaviour”.
The board-and-nails is the social graph, and if we are going to make social graphs now conspiracies unless they are radically transparent, we’re going to sign up for the goofy “the Internet is consciousness struggling to be born” woo-woo that John Perry Barlow and others are flogging now on Twitter.
“Conspirators in the network may think they are working for the benefit of others (the individuals in the military/industrial/congressional complex may well think they are acting for the benefit of the American people, but this only so much self-deception); they are actually acting for the network.
Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.”
So while Mr. Impartial claims he is only reiterating Assange’s philosophy to understand it, he’s already taken sides by deciding that this conspiratorial, cloaked anarchist cooperative willing to dog-whistle to 4chan is “more open forms of governance” because they — very selectively, with the Guardian mainly — a few cables out of a bunch. Well, is it?
Don’t we get to ask why this open bunch isn’t publishing the entire 250,000?
Lest you think Ludlow is really scholarly here, and not taking sides, here’s what he concludes:
“In other words, leaks make it harder for the conspiracy to conduct its business and that is all to the good.”
But that’s because he’s decided he likes this conspiracy because the guy is cool. Oh, to be sure, he tacks on this:
“4) To what extent is Wikileaks itself a conspiracy? To this end, are there good conspiracies and bad conspiracies? Should we distinguish between conspiracies of the powerful and conspiracies of those who seek to level the playing field? At what point would a network like Wikileaks become too powerful?”
And here again Mr. Impartial Scholar shows his hand — he thinks that WikiLeaks is like Havel’s “power of the powerless” and “seeking to level the playing field”. Bollox. They are more powerful than any state now — it didn’t take much.
See if you are still happy having them as your government soon.
The way will have been paid by nihilist scholarship like Ludlow’s.
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