WikiLeaks hype about assault not world issues

Hayden Marx, Staff writer

Outside of the hyperbole, not much is being discussed about WikiLeaks. The 39-year-old Australian founder, Julian Assange, is at the center of the spin zone, but for the wrong reasons.

If recent articles are any indication, most people are more interested in the details of his personal life than the government secrets he is leaking. So, what hope is there for rational discussion?

Well, reason may be prevailing, and that is thanks to groups like Swedish Television who are looking deeper into the issue. They released a documentary called ‘WikiRebels’ to Youtube, which recaps the situation.

Locally, a panel of journalists and editors recently gathered at Madison College’s downtown campus to discuss the website. The event began with John Nichols, writer for The Nation, addressing the audience via video. He described WikiLeaks’ goal as not too dissimilar to his own as a journalist.

“I ask citizens of what their government is doing, what their governors are trying to do,” Nichols said. “That is what WikiLeaks is all about.”

WikiLeaks began posting classified documents on their site in 2006. They quickly generated controversy and outrage throughout most the world, except the United States. This was possibly because none of the documents had any direct connection to the United States.  All of that changed last year.

People in the United States took special notice when a 22-year-old American soldier named Bradley Manning allegedly released classified information on the Iraq war that contained a highly controversial material.

One video dubbed “Collateral Murder” shows United States soldiers firing on multiple people in Baghdad, two of which were Reuters journalists. The soldiers can be heard making light of the situation and even laughing at the slaughter.

The reaction to the video was mixed, which is pretty indicative to how many view WikiLeaks. To some this is proof of WikiLeaks’ importance to investigative journalism. In fact, WikiLeaks was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Others feel WikiLeaks is a threat to national security and may be putting American lives in danger. Some have gone as far as to say Assange should be assassinated.

Manning is said to be a maximum confinement detainee and faces 52 years in prison. There have also been reports that he is in solitary confinement.  Assange may face a similar fate. The United States is considering possible espionage charges against him. He is also facing charges of sexual assault on two women in Sweden.

Unfortunately, this has distracted some from the good that Assange has accomplished. Without WikiLeaks it is possible that no one would have learned of the incident in Iraq where it appeared to be a game to kill innocent people. Americans need to know what their government is doing because our government represents us as a whole whether we like it or not.  Accountability is impossible without transparency and Wikileaks has given us that transparency.

The hype about the type of individual Assange may or may not be isn’t important in the grand scheme of things. The fact that he gave us factual, important information and we choose to pay more attention to his character is preposterous.