It seems appropriate, as we draw to the close of 2010, that we should be faced with a real Information Age conundrum. Do we, as members of the Viral Generation, continue to respect the traditions of secrecy and bureaucracy that our world governments are founded on, or do we push open the door to a world where no one’s secrets are safe, and everything is public knowledge.
Its a question that has far greater ramifications than most of us realize, and how we answer it now will effect the very heart of our society as we move farther into the computer age. The question of if the publication of Classified materials by WikiLeaks is a terrorist act that should be prosecuted internationally, or if it is a courageous act of defiance by a Constitutionally protected news outlet, has farther reaching ramifications than we can imagine.
On one side of the aisle, is the idea that our Government has a right to protect it secrets. We hold, in the US at least, that our government is only going to classify information because it needs to keep us safe from the danger that those documents going public could potentially cause. We’re all familiar with SciFi Movies that tell us, “The world isn’t ready to know about aliens.” Maybe they’re right. We probably aren’t but…
The other side of that is the truth finders. The Journalistic heroes of our pasts. America’s history is littered with possibly seditious, definitely felonious, high minded heroes that knew that the truth was more important than anything else. People like Hunter S. Thompson and the generation of Gonzo Journalists that followed him.
The problem we come to now, though, is how do we define protected press in the modern age? How do we determine what is protected by the first amendment as Freedom of the Press, and what is considered to be Espionage for the purpose of bringing down the government?
More importantly, how do we determine that line in the sand that says, these privacies must be protected and these secrets must be open?
Do we give an inch to WikiLeaks as Journalists defending the people of the world from Government Corruption and Tyranny, and in doing so, give up the mile that allows Facebook and Google to track our every move with giant laser powered satellites.