Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Now, and Then

My, how things do change. The Fagin of foreign diplomats' credit-card numbers, La Hillary, now:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the leak of hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic documents is an attack not only on the United States but also the international community.

In her first public comments since the weekend release of the classified State Department cables, Clinton said Monday that online whistleblower Wikileaks acted illegally in posting the material.

She said the Obama administration was "aggressively pursuing" those responsible for the leak.

She said the leaks erode trust between nations. But Clinton also sa
id she was "confident" that U.S. partnerships would withstand the challenges posed by the latest revelations.
But, way back in the day, almost a whole year ago, then was then:
Now, in many respects, information has never been so free. There are more ways to spread more ideas to more people than at any moment in history. And even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable.

During his visit to China in November, for example, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet. In response to a question that was sent in over the internet, he defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens hold their own governments accountable, generates new ideas, encourages creativity and entrepreneurship. The United States belief in that ground truth is what brings me here today.

[ ... ]


In the last year, we’ve seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the internet. In Vietnam, access to popular social networking sites has suddenly disappeared. And last Friday in Egypt, 30 bloggers and activists were detained. One member of this group, Bassem Samir, who is thankfully no longer in prison, is with us today. So while it is clear that the spread of these technologies is transforming our world, it is still unclear how that transformation will affect the human rights and the human welfare of the world’s population.

On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. Now, this challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic.

[ ... ]

As I speak to you today, government censors somewhere are working furiously to erase my words from the records of history. But history itself has already condemned these tactics. Two months ago, I was in Germany to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The leaders gathered at that ceremony paid tribute to the courageous men and women on the far side of that barrier who made the case against oppression by circulating small pamphlets called samizdat. Now, these leaflets questioned the claims and intentions of dictatorships in the Eastern Bloc and many people paid dearly for distributing them. But their words helped pierce the concrete and concertina wire of the Iron Curtain.

[ ... ]

Some countries have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world’s networks. They’ve expunged words, names, and phrases from search engine results. They have violated the privacy of citizens who engage in non-violent political speech. These actions contravene the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which tells us that all people have the right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” With the spread of these restrictive practices, a new information curtain is descending across much of the world. And beyond this partition, viral videos and blog posts are becoming the samizdat of our day.

As in the dictatorships of the past, governments are targeting independent thinkers who use these tools. In the demonstrations that followed Iran’s presidential elections, grainy cell phone footage of a young woman’s bloody murder provided a digital indictment of the government’s brutality. We’ve seen reports that when Iranians living overseas posted online criticism of their nation’s leaders, their family members in Iran were singled out for retribution. And despite an intense campaign of government intimidation, brave citizen journalists in Iran continue using technology to show the world and their fellow citizens what is happening inside their country. In speaking out on behalf of their own human rights, the Iranian people have inspired the world. And their courage is redefining how technology is used to spread truth and expose injustice.
Good Lord. I could pretty much quote the whole wonderfully sincere speech here -- she just goes on and on -- but you get the idea.

My thanks Mr. John Naughton of The Guardian for bringing this to my attention, via Antiwar.com.

3 comments:

Mimi said...

This is priceless. It's almost impossible to believe she spoke these words. And how long ago was this--just eleven months? Good grief, doesn't ANYBODY in the mainstream media want to get some guts and challange?
Rhetorical question, of course.

akaGaGa said...

Aw, c'mon, Jim. We both know that the freedom rhetoric applies only when we're talking about other countries. It's the same principle used for war: when we invade a sovereign country, it's protecting the world from terrorists. When someone else does it, it's an illegal act of aggression.

Politicians aren't policy-makers or philosophers. They're just power-hungry spin doctors, and the best always say, "What we do is good. What the other guys do is bad."

As for MSM, Mimi? As Jim has stated many times, they're just another branch of the government, but I'll ask my own rhetorical question: will Americans ever wake up to these facts, or will they forever swallow the poison of national pride?

Jim Wetzel said...

Thanks, friends, for your thoughts. I think your questions are related, in a sense: ultimately, it doesn't matter whether anyone in the "real" media get some guts and challenge government hypocrisy, because most Americans, caught up in base nationalism, just don't want to hear it -- and will have no trouble in immediately "blowing off" anything that they are unlucky enough to hear.