This week we were asked to take a look at the documentary “We Steal Secrets: the story of WikiLeaks.” I have to admit that prior to viewing the film I had heard of Wikileaks, but had never really spent time or a great deal of effort paying much attention to it. After watching the documentary I realize how in the dark I was. The documentary is centered around Julian Assange the creator and editor of the website. In 2010 WikiLeaks leaked thousands of government files onto the web for the world to see. The files came from various whistle-blowers, but the story really features the files shared by American Miliary Personnel, Bradley Manning. The documentary follows the unfolding of the leaks and the effect it had on both Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.
As I was watching the film I found that as the plot unfolded my sympathies really flip flopped throughout. In the beginning, I was somewhat drawn to the portrayal of Assange. His convictions seemed to be rooted in the desire for the public to have information and for the “secrets” of the government and the world, not be kept from their citizens. One could draw connections between what Assange was doing to the ideas we have been talking about in class regarding the internet giving voice to the masses, rather than simply listening to only a few sources that would generally come from mainstream media. Today we have a desire to know and share more because the availability of information has increased.
Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/8495857@N04/5902254764/”>horrigans</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
Considering what the implications are for society of this film has been very eye-opening for me. Truly, I’m torn. On one hand I feel that information should be available to the public. As a citizen don’t I have the right to know what my government does on my behalf? Even as a new government takes power in our country I have a bitter aftertaste of the previous government, one that it seemed to be hiding secrets and deception at every point. The new government claims that it will be more transparent to Canadians but I wonder to what extent “should” a government be transparent. As a citizen, “lifting the veil” so to speak of what the government does or has done has never really been know to it’s citizens. Maybe there are somethings that should be kept from the public as secrets of the government. It is hard to make a decision either way because we really can’t know the effect of total disclosure will have on various aspects of society. Likely there have been secrets kept all along. When some of the files were leaked, Assange really couldn’t guarantee, nor do I think he had much interest in protecting those that the files could effect. Maybe there are “secrets” that need to be kept in order for the government to properly function. What is for certain is that as a society we will be faced with more and more information that we may have never before had access too. What we do with that information and the implications of such are still to be determined.
When thinking about the content of the documentary in terms of classroom implications I am drawn to the story line of Bradley Manning. Manning is portrayed in the documentary as a somewhat lost individual, plagued with confusion about his own identity as well as his personal obligation to doing what he believed needed to be done. I guess it reminds me of the conversations in class around digital footprints and young people dealing with the implications of “putting themselves out there” more than perhaps they realize. Then facing the consequences of doing so, once the information extends beyond what they intended. Similarly, to the story of Amanda Todd that others in the class watched. But I think that the message that we can learn from Bradley Manning is that at some point we might stubble across something that we need to say or something that will give us attention, but there is a consequence to stepping into that spotlight.