Perhaps it’s a little meretricious to compare what happened with me and a New York publisher, to the Julian Assange/Wikileaks affair, yet there are some parallels. To me, among other things, the principle of freedom of speech was directly attacked, by the very people who are most supposed to defend it, in this case a prominent and respected American publisher. In that, perhaps you can begin to ‘see the universe in a grain of sand’, because, if so much in life is about leverage, I believe I also became the fulcrum for an internal power struggle, that has seen my publisher replaced, my ex promoted, and my editor made Publisher, and Vice President. What I felt, in that appalling battle, above all was the bullying tactics of corporations, ripe with their internal political fears, secrecy, concern for jobs and pockets of power, and the extraordinary arrogance of some too. If the individual is so damaged in all that, then something is gravely wrong, because the human is lost entirely. I am not saying there are not merits in a hardworking and talented editor achieving such a promotion, but the way it came about is awful. Is it wrong to compare leaks that might endanger lives, to the case of an individual career and livelihood wrecked, and simple fantasy books harmed, especially where I had to expose where I had gone wrong myself, in order to talk about it at all? Not entirely.
The point about any Whistleblower, and they usually have a very hard ride, because it’s easier to join the group and toe the line, not to mention being sometimes frightening, is that they often expose things that are wrong, and indeed detrimental to all our freedoms. America, viewed from many quarters, when it persecutes a British computer hacker who has a psychological problem, for instance, often uses a hammer to crack a nut, and completely loses respect in doing it. That big government attitude is often quickly picked up in the psyches of corporate bosses too, perhaps it’s those Presidential titles, who feel they can do pretty much anything they please, and disrespect even contracts, with the threat of throttling potential or achieved success.
There are so many things to be said about the inevitability of leaks taking place, and the need for them sometimes, that all real journalists and also politicians understand; about the stateless territory of the internet too, and about the true meaning of human and world freedom. A very good US commentator on Newsnight though, the night before last, stressed that if Assange has committed crimes, so be it, a legal process must take its course, which Assange does not seem to be trying to avoid. But that is not the same as trying to shut down Wikileaks itself, or in my case trying to shut down an author. Because if America takes up the foolish crusade that this is only an ‘attack’ on America, it may make itself the world enemy not the crusader, and ignores the fact that other documents reveal shady dealings in many areas, not least the relationship between Putin and Berlusconi. Remember Assange also won the Amnesty International Media Award. The Newsnight interviewee also made the crucial point though, that if Government tries to assault internet freedoms themselves, which may be good or bad, but are certainly a reality, and perhaps extra-judicially, then the very first people who will make use of the changing climate, are businesses and corporations. They often do not act with the same legal propriety and safeguards that can be the good side of responsible government, although the very core of any debate on modern government, is always where the lines blur between honest politicians, and big business interests. But what is the internet equivalent of those days when ambitious bankers were caught rooting in the dustbins of their rivals, engaging in a form of industrial espionage? From Trojans, to inbuilt obsolescence in systems, like the original electric lightbulb, companies are very capable of attacks and dodgy if not criminal practice. But perhaps what is ‘extra-judicial’ on the internet simply has not been defined, and justice is a territorial matter too. I am sure Julian Assange’s lawyers will argue it will be very hard for him to get a fair trial now, anyway. This is a watershed in so many ways, not least for publishers, themselves trying to access how to compete in new markets, define and defend their and their author’s voices, in the blizzard of information technology, and beyond the hunt for money, supposedly to defend what is truly valuable in culture, politics and society. To me it is usually the real protection of the individual, and very often that is about maximum transparency. DCD