Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Time Magazine's Cowardly Choice

Time's readers make the obvious choice for person of the year: Julian Assange. Time, instead, selects the Facebook guy. Who would have been a notable choice for 2009, mind you, when Facebook really hit its stride, but is only notable this year for having been the subject of a movie that he despises and believes is inaccurate.

But look at the symbolism of this. Time is utterly conventional, and absolutely dependent on government leaks. (Just like every other news source these days.) Everybody with any sense knows that Assange should have got the nod. Like him or hate him, he was a HUGE newsmaker over the past year. But the Time editors know that the government would absolutely lose their shit if Assange got the nod. They don't want him to be painted as a villain, they just want him and his organization to go the hell away. They want him tossed down the memory hole as soon as possible.

So, instead, we get Zuckerberg and his scary privacy-demolishing machine. One that, according to persistant rumors, has ties to American intelligence organizations. I don't know whether that's true or not—though certainly the stories about the hard-right early funding sources for Facebook are creepy—but it's undoubtedly true that Facebook collects a LOT of information about you and the sorts of things you like, and I have no doubt that the U.S. government would find that a useful resource, if they have access to it.

Certainly, this bit in their user agreement is creepy as hell:
We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services and other users of Facebook, to supplement your profile.
 But no matter what the truth of that is, the fact remains that Facebook is just about the opposite thing to a challenge to the established order. If anything, by being a single privacy-hating corporation that is trying to supplant the rest of the Internet and dictate what you can and cannot do on the Internet, it's big business and big government's wet dream.

So Time makes the safe, cowardly, government-friendly choice. The one that emphasizes taking secrets from the people, instead of sharing secrets with the people. Rather a bizarre position for journalists to take. Assuming that they're still really journalists in the first place. A hard assumption to make in 2010, and it's just getting harder.

Edit: Or, as a brilliant Twitter put it:
Mark Zuckerberg wants it utterly closed. Julian Assange wants it utterly open. #time chose Zuckerberg man of the year, its readers Assange.


  1. Anonymous8:43 PM

    Bite me. Assange is an enemy combatant who has gotten scores of allies killed. He should be extradited as an enemy combatant, tried before tribunal, and then shot. It's easier with the actual leaker, he committed treason. Death Penalty.

    There is rule of law for a reason. If this info needed to be out there, then pass legislation to declassify it. Both these chumps lives should be forfeit for getting so many of those who helped us at enormous risk, killed.

    Don't give us the shit about loving America, when everything you support damages America.

  2. Hmm. "Scores of allies killed." If "scores" are known, should be pretty easy to find the news stories, probably even with lists of names, to link to to prove the point. . . . Beuller? Beuller?

  3. Anonymous9:40 PM

    Nobody is here to spoonfeed you. Go read up on the folks helping us slaughtered after the Afghanistan release, AQ's jubilant releases indicating specifically that they persued the releases for telltales and then hunted these folks down and slaughtered them, facts confirmed by Allied forces in the weeks following when the bodies turned up in droves.

    Thanks, traitor and Assange.

  4. Not sure how I feel about Assange--proving something using targeted pieces of information is one thing, but just dumping raw data, is another--but I am sure that the Anonymous commenter has it exactly backward. If you make an allegation, you should have to back it with supporting data when challenged, not whine about spoon-feeding and offering more vague charges. (I heard the rumors and the allegations as well, but I never heard any confirmation of them from a reliable (non-biased, non-rightwing blog) source.) Put up or shut up...

  5. Anonymous10:11 PM

    Assange isn't perfect, but he's a Hero compared to any politician that has sold their soul and betrayed true democracy. Proto-fascists deem the damage done by secrecy and corruption as Assange's fault for helping patriot whistle-blowers expose the truth. Someone above wrote, "everything you support damages America"; Only if by America this person means the vested interests of a handful corporate fascists and their clingers-on.

    The rule of law only matter when the law is just, and American law is the law of Plutocracy, corporate feudalism and proto-fascism as seen in Germany just before the Nazis were elected. The US is not exceptional except in the amount and degree of delusion their media establishments has managed to program people with. American democracy is a joke. If the West keeps following the failed neo-lib American experiment we should all start learning to speak Mandarin and Cantonese.

  6. Nommy4:06 AM

    The governments start wars. If anyone is getting killed, it's not Wikileak's fault.

    So far though, I'm not aware of any deaths that Wikileaks have been responsible for.

    Truth will prevail!

  7. Nommy summed it up. Wikileaks didn't start the conflicts, and more lives have been lost due to the hamfisted nature of the prosecution of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq than WikiLeaks could ever be blamed for.

    (Which is, to date, approximately zero. Rhetoric aside, "U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date that the documents led to anyone's death.")

    As for the twaddle about "rule of law"...the entire problem here is an intelligence apparatus that clearly sees itself as above the law and above scrutiny. How on earth can the American public possibly know if the "rule of law" is being observed? Faith?