WikiLeaks does humanity a service

It’s amazing: WikiLeaks has just dumped over 91,000 classified documents from the Afghanistan war on the web. Just like that, we get an actual look at what’s been going on over there, unfiltered by the traditional media, and definitely not given a rosy patina by Fox News. Fox New is, of course, treating this as a serious blow to their worldview — which isn’t surprising, since reality does great damage to Fox. US Government sources also condemn the release, since it exposes the failures of militarism, and militarism is what the government and its profitable contractors have committed themselves to.

I think it’s wonderful. Truth is an essential part of accurately assessing the war.

And the war isn’t going well. There are tales of atrocities on both sides, civilians being murdered by both sides, backhanded deals by Pakistan with both the US and the Afghan insurgents, and an increasing number of attacks — we aren’t winning at all.

The other shocking bit about this revelation is that it wasn’t done by any of the established media organizations — it took a stateless, independent organization to actually break the barriers to information that other media companies respect. Now, of course, Spiegel, the Guardian, and the NY Times are doing a fine job of analyzing the deluge of information…but once upon a time, we might have expected investigative journalists to do that work. I guess it’s cheaper to hire a Judith Miller to massage government propaganda than to actually dig into the facts.

This sad fact about the news disappointed me.

Ask yourself: Why didn’t Wikileaks just publish the Afghanistan war logs and let journalists ’round the world have at them? Why hand them over to The New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel first? Because as Julien Assange, founder of Wikileaks, explained last October, if a big story is available to everyone equally, journalists will pass on it.

“It’s counterintuitive,” he said then. “You’d think the bigger and more important the document is, the more likely it will be reported on but that’s absolutely not true. It’s about supply and demand. Zero supply equals high demand, it has value. As soon as we release the material, the supply goes to infinity, so the perceived value goes to zero.”

I have a very low opinion of most journalists — it’s a career in disrepute, given the sad state of media affairs, especially with the pathetic state of television news. I glanced at some of the programming going on now, and most of what I saw were mannequins arguing over whether it was right to release these documents, rather than any substantive discussion of the horrors contained within them.

But I will say this: Julien Assange is a hero who is doing a great service to both rescue and revolutionize honest journalism.