It seems that the phenomenon of WikiLeaks is spreading to other countries, and inspiring digital denizons to take on corruption elsewhere. The newest example of this is a Russian political activitst named Alexei Navalny, who is crusading against the rampant corruption that has infected the center of the former Soviet Union. Tired of the Russian oligarchy, mobsters, and generally getting ripped off at every turn, this guy is quite popular with regular folks.
Personally, I’m hoping his actions spawn a counterpart in China next.
This recent development also speaks to the incorrect nature of a central assumption which has been made about this sort of thing by the mainstream old-school press, who still don’t understand “the interwebs”. Borders don’t matter anymore, and shutting down free speech isn’t as easy as eliminating one person anymore. The power of the web is it’s very distributed, decentralized nature. And some people still have to learn that you can either adapt to that reality, or be crushed by it.
Per the GOOD website:
Navalny was dubbed “Russia’s Erin Brokovich” by Time in March. He has a background in corporate law and has tried to expose opaque and suspicious dealings at companies including oil giant Gazprom and the state-owned bank VTB. He seems to use his status as a shareholder in some of these companies as a way of literally getting in the door.
It’s also interesting to contrast how this Navalny character is portrayed by our media, versus Assange. In the Time Magazine article, Navalny is characterized in an exceedingly positive light as an “erstwhile activist” and an “everyman” with “formidable energies” with “legions of admirers” who has taken a “smart, reasonable path” and who “loves to watch the powerful squirm.”
Meanwhile Julian Assange is called a rapist by everyone from the AP, to the Wall Street Journal, to the New York Times — even though he’s never even been accused of rape.
Huh. Guess his mistake was getting “truthy” about the wrong people.
It is particularly ironic for a formal new entity such as the New York Times to portray Assange in this way, considering Assange is merely doing the digital version of what the New York Times itself did almost 40 years ago when it published the Pentagon Papers. Only in real terms, what Assange and his group has done, is even a lesser form of that. Nothing Wikileaks has published was stamped “Top Secret”, merely “Secret” – a lesser classification status. The Pentagon Papers by contrast WERE Top Secret. Also Assange is not the leaker of the information, he is merely the publisher. But somehow, he’s less simply because his medium is digital?
I don’t know about you, but that particular arrogant feature of the mainstream press is wearing increasingly thin, especially when I’m actually getting more real news from the digital world, than I am from the old, monolithic and monopolistic news and information structures of corporate America. But I guess when they’re too lazy to develop a compelling business model to compete with upstarts like this in the digital realm, they resort to criticizing.
As Seneca said, “All cruelty springs from weakness.”