Film & Discussion: Wiki Rebels
Producers: Bosse Lindquist and Jesper Huor
In WikiRebels, we learn about the early hacker life of Julian Assange, and his later decision to form an organization where whistleblowers can anonymously pass information that documents crime and immorality. His stated goal is to expose injustice, and nothing exemplifies this more than the leaked film entitled “Collateral Murder.”
Published in April of 2010, the military video drew global attention for the callous reaction of the US soldiers who shot unarmed civilians in Baghdad in 2007, even killing a father who happened upon the murder scene while driving his children to school. WikiRebels shows other films released by WikiLeaks, and catalogs the most significant leaks since its 2006 inception, including the Iceland banking scandal, Kenya corruption and death squads, and toxic dumping in Cote D’Ivoire.
Assange’s stated hope was that alternative media would disseminate the leaks – amounting to over a million documents to date – in a way that would drive positive change. In the film (and in various interviews), he expressed disappointment that alternative media has mostly been unable to adequately analyze and synthesize the data contained in the massive data dumps. So, the whistleblower organization turned to corporate media, with its deep pockets. The Guardian (UK), Der Spiegel (Germany) and the New York Times (US) brokered a deal to publish their analysis of the documents at the same time.
Though this controversy is not mentioned in the rough cut of WikiRebels, such a move launched widespread suspicion that the group is part of a carefully contrived psychological operation. I discount this in Criminalizing Whistleblowers: Wikileaks and America’s SHIELD Legislation. Speculation about the source of the documents is much easier than analyzing the thousands of released documents.
One independent news source, IndyBay.org, reports that Assange accepted payment from Israel to delete any U.S. diplomatic cables that portray Israel poorly (as if anything could mar its reputation any worse than it already is). The source of this information, however, is Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former disgruntled employee of WikiLeaks.
WikiRebels gives Domscheit-Berg plenty of face time to present his views on WikiLeaks, and to voice his complaints about Assange. The most salient complaint might be the decision to release tens of thousands of documents at once, instead of a slower and more careful release, “to grow the project.” Domscheit-Berg promises to start a new whistleblower site that will pass leaked material to the media, apparently in an amount and at a rate that he believes the public can digest.
The film clearly makes the point that, regardless of the controversies, the WikiLeaks disclosures benefit democracy. One web comment articulates this most succinctly: “Secrecy is the cloak behind which too many crimes are hidden these days.”
Even Domscheit-Berg admits, “What I really learned in the last three years is that a difference can be made bottom up, and not only top down.”
At the end of WikiRebels, Iceland TV journalist, Kristinn Hrafnsson concludes, “Democracy without transparency is not democracy.”
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