Sunday, 24 October 2010

Does Wikileaks Abuse Freedom Of Information?

Is knowing the plain truth (whatever we mean by that) always a good thing? The whole Wikileaks thing has got me thinking. On the face of it freedom of information seems like a very good idea. Think for more than a few moments about it and the topic becomes much more complicated.

Like most ideas the Wikileaks issue touches on the problem of intention. For example, if I was to ask you if cutting somebody with knife was a good idea, it would all depend on the intention of the person doing the cutting. A malignant intention would be doing it to harm me, like a mugger or a burglar, whereas a surgeon might be cutting me to save my life.

The same goes for knowing things. Sometimes it's in the best interests of everyone for people to be circumspect with the facts. In the classic case of  the woman asking her partner 'does my butt look big in this dress', it is not necessarily the case that speaking the 'truth' is an appropriate response. To me the founder of Wikileaks has a child-like and irresponsible attitude to the 'is my butt big' type of situation. He rationalizes the publication of all information as a good thing simply because he holds a catch all philosophy that making the information available is a good thing. This is naive because making information available has consequences and those consequences can harm other people. He is saying that free access to information trumps the effect it has. Surely this can't always be the case. There are bigger pictures to consider.

The question isn't between a world where there is no information versus a world where everything is available. Wisdom and judgments come into play. Telling your partner that her butt looks massive might be true and it might not be taken as polite, helpful, or conducive to a good on-going relationship.

You have to ask what is the motivation driving the fixation with such a simplistic stance to the provision of freely available information. What is going off in the head of the founder of Wikileaks? Why is the provision of information totally divorced from consequences regarded as a 'good idea'? It borders on a socio-pathic disregard for the impact of actions on others. Is there a case for a therapeutic intervention here? What might have happened if Wikileaks was around in the second world war? Would Wikileaks have felt it was appropriate to let the Nazis know about Radar installations? Enigma code breaking, the arrangements for D Day? I presume I'm OK saying these things because being free to express myself regardless of the embarrassment, risks for others or hurt it might create is OK. Surely I'm just being a true Wikileakerist?

Wikileaks is a concept that smacks of the half baked idealistic thinking of first year undergraduates. Naively idealistic and totally simplistic in its grasp of the systemic complexities it purports to address. Wikileaks is a gullible idea. Yes Wikileaks you have the right to know that your digital butt does look big in this.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

UK Government's Budget Cuts Hidden Agenda?

Mark Easton raises an interesting point about who will be affected by the UK government budget cuts. Implicit in his article is the fact that the budget cuts will result in profound social change with particular consequences for women.

Things don't just happen in the real world. Actions are predicated on underpinning philosophy. The inference in Mark Easton's article is plain. A conservative philosophical perspective of family life an the role of women in society (unless they are rich an financially independent) sees women better off performing a domestic role. There is nothing so practical as a good theory said Kurt Lewin.

They've also one the stakeholder analysis, who has power and interest. Cut back areas of major female employment because the political consequences can be managed. Plus we have the added bonus of more consistent female influence in younger years an that will improve anti social behaviour, families will be locked together due to fearful dependence on a male breadwinner, and hey ho we are back to where our social values ought to be.

The budget cuts are as much about social engineering as social prudence.