Friday, December 10, 2010
Wikileaks and TMI: A Scholar's Perspective
I've been feeling guilty for not blogging about Wikileaks after the release of diplomatic cables (see my earlier post here). The problem is that the story is so rapidly evolving, and I've been so busy (it is, after all, THAT time of year), that I didn't want to weigh in and just duplicate the thoughts of others or sound off in a way that betrayed a lack of understanding of all the factual nuances of the case. I'll just have to content myself with providing a link to Daniel Drezner's piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which deals with some aspects of the brouhaha I've also been thinking (but not writing) about. I've been thinking about how journalists cope with the sudden dumping of thousands of pages of disjointed information (which, despite its volume, may not really be "ALL" of the information). What happens when you have too much information, rather than not enough? Does it make the role of a learned intermediary sorting through thousands of pages of raw data and putting them in context more important rather than less? Are journalists equipped to perform this role?
Drezner's piece recognizes the problem of TMI from a historian's perspective and worries about getting "caught out" by a document release that suddenly casts a different light on the intent of policymakers than one could glean from the events themselves. Drezner also considers what the Wikileaks controversy means for the future of government secrecy. He frets that government will significantly tighten the clamps information in the future in response to the controversy. On this point, I suspect his fears are misplaced. The Wikileaks controversy reveals that even if the government wishes to exercise more control over information in the future, it simply can't. [Admittedly, though, I still fail to see how Bradley Manning had access to so much information, apparently without much oversight (assuming those are the facts).]
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