First of all, I have been reading over the blog that I kept in Ireland, and I see some pretty stark differences between the one that I wrote a year ago, and the one that I am writing now. Most people would imagine that with another year my writing would improve, but in reality, it seems that that particular set of abilities has atrophied. I am really good at speaking slowly, and making my language as simple as possible, but I have forgotten the little flourishes that makes English such a wonderful language. There was a time when I didn’t have to explain the nuances between different words, and just knew when I wanted to use gargantuan versus when I wanted to use monstrous, or huge, or any number of similar words. I feel like I am unable to utilize the words that I love the most, and I am realizing that one of the reasons why I love those words is because of how inaccessible they are. It goes beyond being a word nerd, I am a word snob, an English language elitist, and worst of all, I am an unapologetic one.
I feel like a large portion of my blogging in Turkey feels like annals, keeping records of the things that I have done, so I can process it later. I want more out of my writing than just the ability to simplify experiences into fun size chunks. Also when did mini and snack size become fun size? Moving on. I want to enjoy writing again, and I think that means that I have to stop feeling obligated to update. I have been mulling over a few things in my head for a while now, and that means that I am excited to write about them…
While I am usually uncomfortable asking Turkish people about their politics, I am asked about my own views on a very regular basis. Usually, I am asked about my opinions on the Obama administration, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 9/11. Over the past week or so, another topic keeps coming up in conversation. I am of course talking about Wikileaks. Just like in the United States, the Turkish newspapers pick and choose which articles they share with the public in order to push their own political bias. Some are definitely filled with anti-U.S. sentiment, while others use it as a method to question the current party in power. Some even go as far as to claim that it is a conspiracy created by Israel in an attempt to undermine Turkey. To be honest, I just didn’t know enough about wikileaks to form an opinion on the matter, and then it took me a while to feel comfortable articulating how I feel.
My first reaction the leaks was one of confusion and a little bit of an identity crisis. I have always considered myself to be on the far left of the political spectrum, and I am not used to being, for lack of a better term “out-lefted” by people that I respect. I, somewhat arrogantly I admit, have always seen myself as being at the very edge of rational leftist though, standing just far enough back from the abyss to avoid vertigo. Yet here I was, with a feeling in my gut that something didn’t feel right, and that a part of me couldn’t help but think that the leak was misguided.
The argument in favor of the leak centers around the fact that media in the modern world censors itself, with news directors choosing to cover events with a specific and continuous slant. By releasing all of the collected cables, Wikileaks wasn’t censoring itself for self-preservation, or giving itself the ability to present the truth as it saw fit. They criticize those that claim that the public shouldn’t be privy to the cables because they won’t understand their contents, and that it is the public that should decide which leaders are elected, and what should be considered acceptable behavior for the world’s super power.
I am a steadfast proponent of transparency, from campaign finance reform to pushing for a more responsible media, but to me, this isn’t journalism. Journalism is when somebody spends the time to create a well-researched and well-documented account of an event or series of events. There are serious problems with how the United States interacts with the rest of the world, but what good does it do to release these cables all at once? Issues surrounding Pakistan, Germany, and the Spanish government that came to light because of these cables are completely legitimate, but they get buried amongst the gossipy trash that people will choose to focus on instead. Some might say that Wikileaks is merely offering the tools for journalists, and does not attempt to make sense of the data themselves. Again, this feels like a cop out, and when there is so much damaging material that is of no consequence, it becomes harder for the good journalists to be heard. We should be focusing on policy and change, not on Gaddafi’s strange fascination with botox injections! To me, this feels like releasing confidential information for the sake of releasing confidential information, and not to improve the way that the United States conducts itself on the world stage.
I read the news from at least three different sources every day. I read political blogs and White House press releases, and I do not feel qualified to know the contents of some of these cables. I have absolutely no idea what goes on in the situation room, and my own opinions on potentially illegal actions abroad cannot be anywhere as valuable as those of the President and his advisors. Some of these sensitive cables only show the actions that were taken, and not what the alternatives were. The truth is, when presented with a shit situation, you have to choose the least shitty solution. I am not saying that we should turn a blind eye to these wrong-doings, but it is easy to make snap judgments without knowing the back story and the progression of events. This is what separates Wikileaks from journalism. A journalist tries to understand as much of the information as they can in depth as well as in breadth. Some might ask “well what happens if there are no journalists willing to do that?” Simple, you do it yourself. Wikileaks had an opportunity to make real changes in US policy, but they chose to go for the dramatic and easy route in the name of neutrality.