Unjust Deserts

at 11:35 PM

A Norwegian lawmaker nominated Wikileaks for a Nobel Peace Prize. He claimed their website disclosures promoted world peace. A Berkeley City Commission honored Bradley Manning, the soldier who provided classified documents to WikiLeaks. 

This kind of recognition of WikiLeaks is ill-conceived. Although Manning and WikiLeaks' creator Julian Assange have been lauded as whistleblower and journalist, they are neither, and they do not deserve to be honored.
 
A whistleblower is someone in an organization who exposes its wrongdoing to an outside agent, like a hotline or a reporter.  Army private Bradley Manning, was not a whistleblower. He was not reporting on specific wrongdoing that he had personal knowledge of in his own agency, the Army. Quite the contrary: Manning just fished out -- willy-nilly -- thousands of confidential and classified documents. What he did was tantamount to emptying a file cabinet. That's not whistleblowing -- it's voyeurism. 
 
Much of the information was more embarrassing than revealing -- like documents showing US State Department personnel saying uncomplimentary and undiplomatic things in private about world leaders. Didn't we already know that about diplomats -- that they say one thing and may think another?  When Aunt Tillie comes to dinner in an outrageous outfit and we compliment her "pretty dress" that's called "being diplomatic."

The WikiLeak document exposure was not journalism, either.  Journalists do not just dump massive amounts of unrelated material in your lap. A journalist crafts a story whether online, on paper, or on air and presents perspectives and uses data to support them. Blogs do this, magazines do this, and NPR does it. Journalists' stories contribute to public understanding and dialogue. They organize evidence, clarify differences and articulate issues.

Some may find value in WikiLeaks' flood of exposed documents. But mostly it was a reckless data dump and Assange and his cohorts are no whistleblowers, no journalists and no heroes.

With a Perspective, I'm Roberta Ann Johnson.

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