Not-So Secret Service

If you want a secret, keep it to yourself. That, to me, is what the Wikileaks hullaballoo is all about. Because when you let the cat out of the bag, it might jump over the garden wall and into the Great Outside.

Julian Assange has only rushed in where Maltese personalities who set precedents for him to follow did not fear to tread.

Most of us remember the tumult that obtained when certain people clicked “send” on their contacts list without culling the contents first. Wikileaks was the new, improved version of this.

Sooner or later, this will be the stuff of a Hollywood film-script. Till then, each new counter-leak is met with incredulity, an attitude of “you could not make it up if you tried”.

Ever since this tale broke, the people’s courts have been asking whether Assange is guilty or not. However, not all of them are asking what of he ought to be judged, not least because to some people the final verdict depends upon whether or not he has raped two women.

Winona Ryder has recently been reminiscing about a young and unruly Mel Gibson. In a similar attention-grabbing manner, an as yet unnamed young lady has dug up a number of fishy-looking e-mails exchanged between her and Assange.

This motley collection of sarcasm and flirting is supposed to show that Assange has quite a few skeletons in his own cupboard, the inference being that it’s now payback time, and the implication being that since he is a Queenslander, he has quite a few kangaroos in his top paddock.

The story about the two women who are now crying rape does not sit too well with me, either. If I had mentioned a man by name on any social site, and said that he wanted to go to a seafood party, and asked for suggestions, would it not mean that I was fairly friendly with him?

If I wanted to play chess with a man, I would have stayed in the hotel foyer, where the guests could stand in awe of my prowess. But if I put myself in a compromising position, I cannot really complain that I have been compromised, have I? It does nto make sense to ask a lover to take STD tests ‘after’; not unless I have dirty laundry for which I want him to pay the dry-cleaning bill.

If I somehow found myself in a hotel room with this man, would it necessarily mean that he had forced me to be there? If I had gone this far, would I not have the courage to leave the room when the sex stopped being consensual? And – if I decide to remove all social sites posts that would seem to indicate how chummy I was with this man, the whole set-up begins to stink.

After having branded the leaking of the documents illegal, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, wiping egg off her face, has now formally announced that a Federal Police investigation into Wiki Leaks and Julian Assange indicates that no Australian Laws were broken by either Wikileaks Assange.

Panic does strange things to people, and we all know how many times the line between the politics of sex and the sexualisation of politics has disappeared. Three have been many cases when accusations of rape were all but laughed out of court because of so-called lack of evidence.

Human nature being what it is, most people are partial to a bit of gossip. When the boot is on the other foot, however, we do not want people to know what we’ve been up to, and when, where, and with whom.

Governments, elected by the aforementioned people, are pretty much the same. Sending honey traps to lure ministers into revealing secrets is all very well. But spies who infiltrate one’s country, in the style of the Charles Bronson film Telefon are unacceptable.

This is the double standard that has caused so much trouble for Assange. I would say that hew never imagined how his ego trip as a Knight in Shining Armour for all mankind would backfire, because he might not have gone ahead with his Mission.

Many of us have had an e-mail or a social site address hacked at one time or another; Wikileaks is this, on a massive scale. As individuals, we post notices of this on all our other sites, and send e-mails to all our friends, telling them our account has been compromised.

And yet we worry about whether the hacker is someone about whom we have spoken pejoratively to others, if we are wont to do that sort of thing. Our forbears tell us that if we shrug, the smell of sweat is bound to escape from our armpits or words to that effect.

A Government with a private foreign policy that differs a little – or a lot – from its public one has much to fear. So do diplomats who mock their superiors in private while toadying up to them in public. So do their minions who break the law under cover of their bosses’ diplomatic immunity. And so do those who play fast and loose with foreign men or women, thinking their partner at home will never find out, but boast about their liaisons with friends.

Anyone who has nothing to fear will definitely resent the invasion of privacy that comes when one’s account is hacked – but there is no fear of animosity or wishes for revenge from anyone, if all we do is lobby jokes and swap recipes and wholesome thoughts and quotations, back and forth with our friends.

But if we spend computer time tittle-tattling about which couples have broken up, which daughter of whose parents is pregnant and yet single, who has almost certainly had cosmetic surgery and which two people are probably having an affair, then we are on the defensive.

Invasion of privacy – whether this is done by intercepting mail, bugging telephones, or hacking into personal electronic mail, is always wrong. But nobody is more righteous than someone who has something to hide; and this is true collectively as well as individually.

Can a nation sue for invasion of privacy? Can an individual sue a nation for mental distress? Can an organisation call a class act against a single person?

We shall probably have to wait for the film version of this mix-up to find out the real answers.


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