from the hmmmm dept
Amidst the reporting and fervor over the email hack of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, there has been something of a recent discussion that has begun over the ethics of circulating what is in that hacked cache. Some within the media itself have worried about about reporting either too much on the hacked emails, or even at all in some cases, with still others going for a more nuanced position of encouraging the reporting of information in the public interest while leaving all the personal stuff in the emails undisclosed to whatever degree is possible.
I don’t fault anyone for reporting real news, whatever the source, but circulating stuff from hacked emails just b/c it amuses you is gross.— Julian Sanchez (@normative) October 19, 2016
It's not difficult to see the wisdom and morality in some of this, particularly when one witnesses the glee the Clinton campaign's political opponents have taken in circulating internal communications within the campaign that have no real public value other than serving as a point-and-laugh target for the most partisan among us. And it seems as though some in the GOP have in mind that there are certainly people on the other side of the aisle that would take the same joy in all of this, if the shoe were on the other hacked foot, as it were. Marco Rubio, for instance, recently released a statement indicating that anything published by WikiLeaks was out of bounds, as far as he was concerned.
"Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow, it could be us," Rubio said in a statement. "I will not discuss any issue that has become public solely on the basis of WikiLeaks," added Rubio, who is up for re-election. "As our intelligence agencies have said, these leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process, and I will not indulge in it."
Frankly, it's refreshing to see a major political partisan actually understand that when you open up every option on the table to attack the political opponent, that can come back and bite you in the ass. But how wise is this particular stance, actually? It appears to rely on two premises: that Russia is behind the email hack and that WikiLeaks is a bad organization for releasing the information it releases. Note that Rubio doesn't say that this particular email hack is out of bounds, but rather that any issue raised as a result of a WikiLeaks release is. That's a hefty barrel of sand in which to put one's head in such a proactive fashion, and it presupposes that WikiLeaks' releases in the past, present, and future have not involved anything of the public interest which politicians and public servants should be talking about and/or addressing.
Time Magazine once said WikiLeaks "could become the most important journalistic tool since the Freedom of Information Act." Why? Well, because the value in WikiLeaks is that it knows far fewer boundaries than the general media and is willing to release information that would otherwise not see the light of day. That it tends to do so en masse rather than with careful curation is a potential downside, certainly, but would Rubio and these others really have the public not know about the killing of journalists in Iraq, the Chinese arrests of Tibetan dissidents, the Peru oil scandal, and the rest? WikiLeaks is not explicitly anti-American, after all, and it has released information that is absolutely in the public interest and has caused discussions of political importance within our country that would have otherwise been impossible.
Put another way, it's quite easy for Rubio to take this stance in the wake of an email hack that represents a fairly routine political scandal. What has been uncovered in the Podesta leaks is not unimportant, but it also isn't earth-shattering. What if the hack and WikiLeaks leak had instead uncovered that Hillary Clinton had made a specific agreement with the Chinese government to offer them favors in exchange for illegal campaign contributions? Would Rubio's stance hold true, despite the overwhelming importance of such information to American voters. It's hard to imagine that it would.
So, a nuanced approach to what should be reported on the WikiLeaks release makes all the sense in the world. Let's have that discussion. But putting a blanket over any information generated by WikiLeaks as an organization isn't just dumb, it's cutting out an important source of public good from the masses.