This may be rather an unfashionable thing to say at the moment, but I’m getting a bit bored with this whole Wikileaks ‘cablegate’ business and rather wish that it would all go away for a while.
Much of the problem I have resides in the manner in which information that Wikileaks obtained from America’s underwear drawer is being released into the public domain. The steady drip-feed of leaked diplomatic cables to the press may well be great PR for Wikileaks itself, not to mention a boon to copywriters and newspaper editors, who’re more or less guaranteed a regular churnover of fresh copy for the next few months, but at the same time it all amounts to nothing more than a bunch of fairly lousy journalism.
What we’re getting, at least for the time being, is the occasional hint of an interesting item or two but no real narrative structure and no sense than anyone has put the time and effort into working with the leaked material to tease anything concrete out of it by way of coherent story.
Woodward and Bernstein it ain’t, nor does it come within a country mile of the Sunday Times’ near legendary Insight team at the height of its considerable journalistic powers.
Were Wikileaks a little less concerned with its public image and soliciting donations to finance its activities – which may or may not include the globetrotting lifestyle of its founder, Julian Assange, given its own lack of financial transparency – and a little more concerned with its journalistic endeavours then it might well have considered holding off on its ongoing, and fragmentary, diplomatic brain dump in favour of allowing its partners in the mainstream media the time to work the full archive to best effect and put some investigative muscle behind the best material that Wikileaks has to offer – assuming that it has anything that offers up the prospect of a significant story.
That’s the other major problem here, the lack of anything, so far, that could be genuinely considered revelatory.
We’re now 1800 or so cables into an archive that runs to more than 250,000 individual items and Wikileaks have yet to produce anything that remotely resembles a smoking gun. As a result there is already a palpable and growing sense of disappointment over in Conspiracyville at the lack of any significant dirt on the Israelis, notwithstanding the fact that anything genuinely juicy – if it did exist – would be classified at a far higher level than any of the material that Wikileaks has managed to secure.
“Where is the real dirt on Israel?” these conspiracy theorists – messaging back and forth in the blogosphere – are asking one another.
“The answer appears to be a secret deal struck between WikiLeaks’ … Assange … with Israeli officials, which ensured that all such documents were ‘removed’ before the rest were made public,” wrote Gordon Duff, an editor of the anti-war website Veterans Today, who frequently opines about what he believes is Israeli’s secret influence over world events.
Speaking to Haaretz, Duff added that “it sticks out like a sore thumb that WikiLeaks is obviously concocted by an intelligence agency. It’s a ham-handed action by Israel to do its public relations.”
I’m not even sure that I want to dignify that with a comment, even if it is somewhat indicative of where much of the genuinely obsessive interest in Wikileaks currently resides, hence the question put to Assange about UFOs in the Guardian’s online Q&A .
Mr Assange, have there ever been documents forwarded to you which deal with the topic of UFOs or extraterrestrials?
Many weirdos email us about UFOs or how they discovered that they were the anti-christ whilst talking with their ex-wife at a garden party over a pot-plant. However, as yet they have not satisfied two of our publishing rules.
1) that the documents not be self-authored;
2) that they be original.
However, it is worth noting that in yet-to-be-published parts of the cablegate archive there are indeed references to UFOs.
Assange’s rather mischievous comments left the role of party-pooper to the Guardian:
Despite what Julian Assange said in an online Q&A, there are no references to aliens in the cables. We searched for aliens and UFOs (“visitors” and “non-terrestrial officers” too, thanks, UFO-minded readers) without finding anyway. Assange may have been having fun. Second, there is nothing to suggest the 9/11 attacks were not carried out by 19 terrorists on four hijacked aeroplanes. An estimated 3m people had access to the cables pre-leak, so if there were a conspiracy in them it would need to be one that around 1% of all US citizens were in on.
Setting the conspiraloons firmly to one side, most of what has emerged from the archive of diplomatic cables has, thus far, all been a bit bear-shits-in-woods. It’s indicative of the lack of significant revelations that the Independent rates the three most important piece of information to emerge from the archives as having been the ‘news’ that the Saudis are no fans of Hezbollah and are getting a bit antsy at the possibility of Iran getting hold of nukes, while the Chinese have been getting a bit tetchy with the North Koreans, although not so much as regard the country as lying outside its immediate sphere of influence.
This is news of sorts, but nothing that should come as any great surprise to anyone who keeps an eye on foreign affairs. Seriouslyly, if you hadn’t long ago figured out that the Saudis would be less than enthusiatic about an Iranian nuclear programme then you really don’t know enough about the religious and political dynamics of the Middle East to be offering up any kind of comment on the subject.
If there’s any value to be gained from ‘Cablegate’ I suspect it will emerge over the long term, as more of the archive hits the public domain, allowing serious journalists to fill in the gaps and publish stories that have a coherent narrative and provide a few genuinely illuminating insights into the foreign policy concerns of the US and other major global and regional powers.
Until that happens, sad to say, most of the internet chatter about these cables is likely to be dominated by the people who shout the loudest with the least justification, and the least possible evidence to support their opinions. with Julian Assange taking the lead role as the patron saint of conspiracy theorists.