By Kelly Jean Cogswell
You'd think the Tea Partiers would be acclaiming WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, as their newest hero. What is he but the ultimate Buffy single-handedly taking on the global vampiric network of the U.S. government and the international banking industry, not to mention the autocrats of Africa and Eastern Europe?
By exposing how they operate, and sharing their inner workings with ordinary people, he may not be putting a stake in their dark pulsing hearts, but he's definitely inserting a splinter or two in their butts. All hail, Assange, defender of liberty and slayer of censorship.
But instead of congratulating Assange, our own Long Island Congressman Peter King, the incoming chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, told MyFox New York, that WikiLeaks should be declared a "foreign terrorist organization," and Assange prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Sarah Palin likewise called for Julian Assange to be pursued with "the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders." Bill O'Reilly called for Assange's execution as a traitor. Others are calling for the murder of his children and his lawyers.
All for what? Lifting the veil on diplomacy and confirming what we already largely knew? That Iran's Arab neighbors don't like the Persian country loaded up with nuclear warheads, diplomats lie a lot, and the U.S. has little leverage in the Middle East and Asia because, as Thomas Friedman put it in the New York Times, we're addicted to oil and Chinese credit? The only real surprise was the occasional proof of the competence of our foreign service, like the careful profile of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero.
Throughout Cablegate, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have behaved like responsible journalists, identifying and withholding documents that might truly compromise U.S. national security, not just embarrass the country. He even offered the U.S. government a chance to see them prior to publication, which the administration turned down--until the same offer came from The New York Times.
So what's the hoo-hah about? The internet is full of articles claiming the real story in Cablegate is not the cables, but the response to WikiLeaks itself and the seismic shift in media and the role of traditional outlets like The New York Times. Does all that insider trading leave them compromised, or does it give them special insight? Is that a fine line they can walk without falling off like a bunch of drunken slobs? Are they useless? Is the work of citizen bloggers and outsiders somehow truer, and more authentic?
We could ask the same questions about most of our major LGBT organizations which have grown further and further away from their outsider, activist roots. Though to be fair, if there's anything we've learned from the likes of Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers, it's that outsider status alone guarantees nothing. The left has as many wingnuts as the right. Activists immersed in a single issue in a single place, may lose sight of the big picture.
More to the point is the question of transparency and access. What sets Julian Assange apart is not his neutrality, but his openness. "This is what I think. Here are all my sources. Make up your own mind." He insists on the responsibility of the reader, of the individual citizen, and by offering them his evidence, empowers them to participate. This is the foundation of democracy, and something we could use more of.
Compare him to our unelected LGBT representatives that make backroom deals with politicians. Remember all the votes they thought they had with same-sex marriage in New York? Remember the 2008 election campaign, when Obama didn't throw us any crumbs in his platform, but our organizations still endorsed him after closed door meetings. "Trust us. He's in our corner." Are we partners in social change or not? Or have we just established one more ruling elite actively working to disenfranchise ordinary queers? Will our bigwigs continue getting screwed until they abandon the pleasant little thrill of secrecy?
I'm not saying national LGBT organizations should be ditched entirely. Assange handed over his treasure trove to the newspapers of record in the U.S, Britain, and Germany because they had the vast and knowledgeable personnel to sift through it. The difference is that he made sure we all had the same access.
The real challenge of WikiLeaks isn't to traditional media at all, but ideas of power and control that even the Tea Partiers want to preserve in case they can one day seize them. And Power lies in the difference between saying the emperor has no clothes, and actually posting his photo on Facebook so we can see the sagging naked flesh in all its repulsive decadence with the mole on the left shoulder blade and flaccid belly, all crowned by jaundiced eyes.