In previous posts, I dismissed WikiLeaks as not such a big deal. Well, that was obviously wrong. I argued that everybody already knew that – for example – Nicolas Sarkozy is vain or Russia is a brutal and corrupt place, so the cables did not add much to the sum of human knowledge.
But that was wrong on two counts. First, there is a difference between an idea being conventional wisdom in the media, and spelled out in a diplomatic cable – both in terms of authority and in terms of political impact. You can see that in the angry reactions to the leaks from everybody from Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to Kevin Rudd, the foreign minister of Australia. (Apparently Rudd is a “mistake-prone control freak”.) Second, with the arrest of Julian Assange on dubious-sounding sexual assault charges – and now the attack on Mastercard’s web-site, apparently by Assange supporters, the whole thing is shaping up into an unpredictable conflict between western governments and internet-based anarchists. Read more