Friday, December 31, 2010

WikiLeaks: Who Cares?

Ask someone you know to tell you what they know about WikiLeaks.  They'll probably mention Julian Assange and his sensational rape allegations.  Maybe they'll mention his controversial stance on freedom of information and government corruption.  They might even say they support him...or, they might say they think he's a danger to the country and needs to be put in jail.  It's possible they might even note that Bill Hader does a hilarious skit about him.   

The unaddressed issue for most, though, is what exactly do the WikiLeaks documents reveal?  Who can actually tell you a specific example of some truth the intercepted cables have shown the public that can now be put to good use?  It's not that the specific information from the leaked cables (and, previously, leaked war documents) are not out there.  The New York Times, among other major newspapers, has been reporting on it for months.  You can do a simple internet search and find all kinds of articles and information about what the cables have revealed.  Yet, my guess is that the vast majority of Americans simply do not care, and could not tell you what is in the documents.  Meanwhile, they can give you details about the sensational allegations swirling around Assange.

If Assange really wanted to get Americans fired up in support of his cause, he should have hacked into the Kardashian's family files.  He could have revealed some juicy text messages sent by Kim about her sisters.  Or, he could find racy photos saved on Justin Bieber's computer, which would certainly have placed him with round-the-clock coverage on HLN.  The thing is, Assange's fight for free information is something most Americans support.  We prove it with every Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Sandra Bullock scandal.  We seem to think we have a right to know what's in the text messages and voicemails and photos and videos sent and shared by people in the public eye.  When it comes to the government, most Americans would probably agree: we should know the details.  Especially if the details involve a sex scandal or scandalous cover-up of a campaign to kill dolphins.  But if it's only about politics in the middle east, or tensions between the U.S. and Russia, or political gamemanship over which strategy to use with North Korea, Americans (most of them) simply don't care.

Perhaps Assange could arrange a new reality show, "Real Housewives of London" where he can have various middle-aged plastic-bots that pass as women stage drama-filled arguments wherein they reveal the details found in the leaked cables.  Imagine a five-course dinner filled with emotional debates over whether or not Saudi Arabia really does believe Iran is a "snake" that deserves to have its "head cut off" or heated discussions about CIA drone attacks in Yemen.  Journalism and information that requires time and nuanced study to really understand is not sexy.  Fake reality shows featuring fame-mongering people with no discernible skills and talents IS.  Until Assange realizes this, his campaign will be discussed among intellectuals, and that's it.  There is no popular revolution coming, precisely because it won't be televised on Bravo or E!.

The time in which Americans cared about what our government is doing in the world has passed.  As long as we can turn on the TV and follow the drama of our favorite celebrities, we have no desire to know.  Just be sure to let us know if the WikiLeaks saga every involves animal cruelty or sex scandals.  In fact, I'm going to go set a google news alert right now... "Wikileaks...sex...puppies..."