“The most exciting and interesting hacking scandal ever” gushes Bruce Sterling in his article Blast Shack (2010) regarding the hacktivist – Julian Assagne.
A hacktivist as defined by Ludlow (2013) is in the simplest and broadest sense, “someone who uses technology hacking to effect social change.” Moreover, a whistleblower is a “person who provides information on a person or organisation who are engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity” and these, dear readers, are the people who will change the way in which we view both foreign and domestic government and institutions.
In Barlow’s 1996 Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace , he outlines a cyberworld that values expression, it is a world without sovereignty or rules and one that revels in individual freedom. But more importantly, is a world that needs to be treasured and nurtured as it is our last hope for truth in an increasingly secretive market.
WikiLeaks – later dubbed the Cablegate scandal – was launched in 2006 but soon gained international attention when in 2010, Australian Julian Assange along with his team exposed some “400,000 secret US military logs detailing its operations in Iraq” (Fildes, 2010) and continued to leak top-secret military files online. Whilst this seems unethical, he did not once violate the ethics of hackers which are: sharing information, no secrets, no authority and information freedom (Mitew, 2014).
But ethical questioning is not new, as another major political scandal which followed similar events was the Watergate Scandal from 1972 – 1974. This was where two American journalists worked collaboratively with individuals who stole information from the Democratic National Committee and launched one of the largest political scandals in modern history which ended with the forced resignation of President Nixon. Yet, it is remembered as one of the most intriguing and well regarded pieces of investigative journalism despite it not being ethically or morally sound.
Ethics and journalism are like peanut butter and jam. Some like it and follow the rules – one spread per piece of bread – whereas others are rebellious and put both on one side – gross. To me, Assange is a journalist as he is rebellious and as Simons (2011) declares, he follows the core practices of journalism which are to source information, curate, verify and edit information along with having an element of transparency. Simons believes that Assange qualifies, noting his recent acceptance of a Walkley Award and being the previous winner of the Martha Gellhorn prize for Journalism.
But Sterling (2010) – after gushing about Assange – notes him as “no more a ‘journalist’ than he is a crypto mathematician”. It is also a topic that infuriates some as seen here after I tweeted a link to Simons article. I suggest you bring the popcorn – it is quite something.
But by far the most resounding, eloquent and honest article was by Slavoj Žižek in the Guardian as he accredits whistleblowers and hacktivists as being the new age heroes as “his acts provided a factual foundation to our suspicions of being monitored and controlled” (Žižek, 2014). Moreover, he perfectly summarised the confusion that many individuals had towards WikiLeaks and other political scandals as being like an affair, “it is one thing to know in general, another to get concrete information…one can accept abstract knowledge, but pain arises when one gets the steamy details” (Žižek, 2014).
Whether you believe he is a criminal, a narcissist, an unethical monster or generally good guy who wanted to expose the lies that we have been fed, Julian Assange is a man of the future who pushed the boundaries and in some way succeeded. He is a hacktivist who did a necessary evil and as the Mentor of LoD concluded, “my crime is that of curiosity…my crime is that of outsmarting you” (Mitew, 2014).
Ludlow, P, 2013, ‘What is a ‘Hacktivist?”, New York Times, accessed 12 October, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/what-is-a-hacktivist/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
Mitew, 2014, ‘Digital resitiance: hacktivists, whistleblowers, #AfterSnowden’, University of Wollongong, week 10 lecture, accessed 12 October, http://prezi.com/hotqlxztvxdb/digc202-digital-resistance/
Simons, M, 2011, ‘Walkley Awards decide Julian Assange is a journalist’, Crikey, accessed 12 October, http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/11/28/walkley-awards-decide-julian-assange-is-a-journalist/
Sterling, B, 2010, ‘The Blast Shack’, Medium, accessed 12 October, https://medium.com/@bruces/the-blast-shack-f745f5fbeb1c
Žižek, S, 2014, ‘Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange: our new heroes’, Guardian, accessed 12 October, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/03/snowden-manning-assange-new-heroes