WikiLeaks, Doing the Work of Totalitarianism

Theodore Dalrymple is skeptical of WikiLeaks‘ release of confidential American embassy cables. He warns that the whistleblowers are unwittingly doing the work of totalitarianism.

The idea behind WikiLeaks is that life should be an open book, that everything that is said and done should be immediately revealed to everybody, that there should be no secret agreements, deeds, or conversations. In the fanatically puritanical view of WikiLeaks, no one and no organization should have anything to hide. It is scarcely worth arguing against such a childish view of life.

What WikiLeaks will accomplish, Dalrymple predicts, is precisely the opposite of what it champions. “Far from making for a more open world, it could make for a much more closed one.”

Secrecy, or rather the possibility of secrecy, is not the enemy but the precondition of frankness. WikiLeaks will sow distrust and fear, indeed paranoia; people will be increasingly unwilling to express themselves openly in case what they say is taken down by their interlocutor and used in evidence against them, not necessarily by the interlocutor himself. This could happen not in the official sphere alone, but also in the private sphere, which it works to destroy. An Iron Curtain could descend, not just on Eastern Europe, but over the whole world. A reign of assumed virtue would be imposed, in which people would say only what they do not think and think only what they do not say.

Dissolving the distinction between public and private is characteristic, if not the outspoken aim, of any totalitarian regime. “Opening and reading other people’s e-mails is not different in principle from opening and reading other people’s letters,” argues Dalrymple. WikiLeaks has assumed the role of censor to the world, he believes, “a role that requires an astonishing moral grandiosity and arrogance to have assumed. Even if some evils are exposed by it, or some necessary truths aired, the end does not justify the means.”