Monday, June 14, 2010

Roll over Osama, here's Julian!

A few weeks ago, I became aware of two articles on the internet, explaining how traditional ways of judging "quality" in published content are nowadays useless and new rules had taken over. The two papers were argueing that traditional quality standards like "correctness", "objectivity" and "craftmanship" had been replaced by modern values such as relevance (and being relevant often means being timely), experience (make content an experience with the help of technology) and distribution (drop names, set hashtags, build the distribution ability into your content, so it will be re-distributed and will appear everywhere). Of course, these new quality characteristics are only possible thanks to the multimedia capabilities of the all pervasive internet.

The points the two articles were making can certainly be contested. But one argument rang particularily true with me: objectivity brought to the audience by one single journalistic piece, by one single editor is a thing of the past. Digital audiences today are not relying on one newspaper, one tv channel, one gossip column. They consume many subjective pieces of information and want to construct their own objectivity.

Now here's a guy who's goal it is to give us a lot of subjectivity. His name is Julian Assange, he is the founder of Wikileaks and he has suddenly become the new No 1 Enemy of the State of the United States. Osama roll over, it is Julian's turn to be a threat to the system!

Wikileaks, which bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers, had already shocked the U.S. this spring by putting on the internet the so called "collateral murder" video, depicting an American helicopter crew in Iraq, shooting down at people in civilian clothes, killing among others a Reuters cameraman.

This very last week now, Assange is on the run and the Pentagon's sitting on edge. Word got out that Wikileaks may be on the verge of publishing a huge batch of secret State Department cables, an intelligence analyst on duty in Iraq had turned over to them. A lot of subjective material for an audience yearning for objectivity that has the U.S. political and military establishment frightened. The Americans are looking for Assange and would like to have his cooperation in this matter - a cooperation Assange is obviously not very anxious to be acquainted with. His only communication with the outer world regarding the affair was via Twitter, where Julian Assange (or someone else on his behalf) posted that "any signs of unacceptable behavior by the Pentagon or its agents towards this press will be viewed dimly."

Assange himself seems not to be a man of subjectivity. He has strong convictions about his mission and is ready to go quite a few miles - just as the governments he is trying to expose - to get his own objectivity of a story across. His messianic approach to whistleblowing has a lot of critics and many hunters.

It's not terrorists that really threaten states today - their attacks are a tactical pain, but not a strategic threat - it's people in cyberspace that make democrats and dictators alike nervous and sleepless. It is guns and bullets that kill people but it is information that kills governments!

So what are the chances of Julian Assange surviving the next few weeks. They are quite intact, I believe. After all, he is only up against the second power in the world. If Wikileaks would already publish the name of the team FIFA has chosen for becoming the new football World Champion, then Julian Assange would be in real troubles. FIFA is a huge global force and can move a lot of things; Sepp Blatter's men are everywhere and Assange could well risk - if caught - to be tortured to deaf - with Southafrican VUVUZELAS!