Wikileaks: Batshite or Batshit?
As I point out in this week’s tagline, batshite is batshit with an E.
I’m content to let batshit continue meaning what it does now–“too irrational to be dealt with sanely,” according to Wiktionary.
But part of this blog’s aim will be to reclaim the word batshite. Just by speaking it out loud you can tell it’s different. Try it. It tastes like distinction, doesn’t it?
I touched on the new definition in Thursday’s post. I’ll develop it here: someone who is batshite appears irrational from a conventional perspective but is really acting from self-preservation. Of course, to depart from tradition as radically as will be necessary to avoid the global catastrophes that threaten us, you’ll need to be a little crazy.
I figure Wikileaks is a good case study for exploring this difference. I doubt anyone would disagree this organization’s activities are radical. They’ve released “more classified documents than the rest of the world’s media combined” and pissed off the world’s most powerful nation.
But do their efforts serve both the members of Wikileaks and humanity as well as a whole? Or will they ultimately prove destructive? In other words: are they batshite or batshit?
Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, knew what it meant to put America’s secrets on the Internet. As Bruce Sterling points out, Assange has spent years crafting this part for himself. He just spent nine days in jail and now he’s under house arrest in England. Top U.S. officials have publicly called for his assassination. And he knows this is just the beginning. The U.S. will do everything it can to make an example of him.
When it comes to repressing information on the Internet, however, threats are powerless. Just ask the entertainment industry. With or without Julian Assange, Wikileaks is here to stay–and so are OpenLeaks, PirateLeaks, balkanleaks and all the other sites dedicated to exposing suppressed information.
Is this a good thing? Rob Beschizza suggests on Boing Boing that the advent of Wikileaks heralds a return to “classical Western liberal-democratic” ideals. He cites an article written by Noam Scheiber, who argues that in effect, Wikileaks imposes a tax on the ability of large organizations–be they governments or corporations–to coordinate internally. He predicts that over time, the risk of sensitive information getting leaked by one of several thousand employees will make employing so many people a liability. Meaning organizations are going to get a lot smaller: no more than a few hundred people, Scheiber thinks.
Large organizations are responsible for a lot of bad–pollution, war, etc.–so maybe we should be cheering.
But maybe not. Without the large-scale institutions possible today, who will provide healthcare? Who will oversee nuclear disarmament? Who will regulate volatile new technologies like nanotechnology and bioengineering? Who will prosecute criminals? Can we expect information technology to offer solutions to these as well, or should we be concerned?
In the 16th century Niccolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince, a book largely rejected by his contemporaries but which informs modern-day politics. In it, Machiavelli argues that in order to retain power it is crucial leaders have the ability to deceive the public. We expect next to perfection from our leaders, but our leaders are human. Is it possible for humans to hold significant political power without the ability to conceal their shortcomings? If not, what can we expect a world without political initiative to look like?
Here we are at the last paragraph. I don’t know about you, but I’m nowhere near ready to call Wikileaks either batshite or batshit. The ancient Greeks thought it was impossible to declare a person happy except after his or her death. Maybe the same thing goes for being batshite. Only history will be in a position to make a call on Wikileaks–providing there’s anyone left to write it.