Friday, 3 December 2010

My View On Wikileaks Is Not One You Might Expect

Those of you who know me as a bleeding heart liberal and fully paid up Guardian subscriber might be surprised at my attitude to Wikileaks and might consider my views more at home in the Daily Mail. The members of the Twitterati that I follow might block me instantly if they were ever to read this.

Now I'm all in favour of whistle blowers. Many have risked life and limb, reputation and livelihoods to stop wrongdoing from being swept under the carpet and when Wikileaks is uncovering torture and corruption I'll back it to the hilt. But the current leak of the cables is not about whistle blowing it's about diplomacy - "dih-ploh-muh-see - skill in managing negotiations, handling people, etc., so that there is little or no ill will; tact". And whilst Julian Assange might be rubbing his hands in glee at the results of his opening of Pandora's box, I for one, am unhappy with it.

Let's consider a couple of scenarios. In my time in business I had to meet people from all walks of life. Some I liked and mentioned them favourably on my blog. Others I maybe liked less but I didn't blog to that effect, I merely held my tongue. The following is fictitious but imagine a large industry dinner. I'm seated alongside an important customer who spends tens of thousands with my business every year. For the entire evening he spouts racist, homophobic and anti-semitic views that I hate with all my heart and soul. The correct thing to do would be to renounce him to the table as a despicable bigot but I have to spare a few thoughts for others. I denounce him to the table and lose my business their biggest customer, the knock on effect is that a factory floor worker or maybe several workers lose their jobs and their kids go short and maybe the same happens in a supplier's business when I have to cut back my orders with them. So it would be madness for me to do the right thing. I go back to the office write up a report of the event mentioning the foul views of the customer and file it away. What would be the point of releasing my opinions to the world? There would be no point other than to undermine my business and jeopardise jobs.

Or perhaps my wife has invited her brother to stay for Christmas. he's going to bring his new Thai mail order bride who I think I might once have seen in a pretty undignified position on the internet, along with his spoilt brat children and their yappy, flea ridden dog.Do I upset my wife and insult her family when they turn up at the front door in the snow? No. But I might drop an email to friends to the effect that Christmas has been cancelled this year, together with a humourous explanation why.

My best friend's mother turns up to my daughter's wedding looking like mutton dressed as lamb. What do I say? "You look beautiful" - obviously. It's all about diplomacy. And that's where I think Wikileaks has made a big mistake. There may well be some important nuggets of information in those millions of files that should be given a public airing and anything encouraging war or violence should be condemned. Although the fact that a prominent public figure has the manners of a pig or a penchant for nubile blondes might well be something worth noting on file for the benefit of colleagues, diplomacy dictates that it is information that should be kept between friends. By publishing thoughtlessly and indiscriminately, Assange has done the freedom of speech lobby a huge disservice. I don't approve of the site being taken down but I do feel that Wikileaks has done democracy and diplomacy no favours.

Ok that's my view. Let him who is prepared to have his every opinion on everything and everyone aired in public, cast the first stone.