While passing through Iowa over the weekend, Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) saluted whistleblowers like Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, and Daniel Ellsberg for “trying to bring transparency to the country.” Given that distrust of government is at an all-time high, it would appear that many Americans agree. But the real benefit that comes from whistleblowers and “hacktivism” is the possibility of revolutionary change in our perception, and the structure, of government.
It has been a while since “Cablegate” dominated the news, but I remember many in the mainstream media wanting Julian Assange tried for treason (even though he is not an American citizen). The rationale for these claims come from the idea that the disclosing or leaking of classified or sensitive government information poses a “threat to national security” or “endangers lives.”
But these claims are red herrings; there is absolutely no evidence that any of the information leaked by Wikileaks and Bradley Manning endangers American lives or threatens security. The Pentagon obviously was not threatened since it denied Assange’s request to redact any names that could be compromised.
By exposing the truth of what our government does, especially in foreign policy, modern whistleblowers, whether intentionally or unintentionally, are helping contribute to the radical but principled idea that lies at the core of a free society: That government should not be above the moral and universal laws that apply to private citizens.
When Manning leaked footage of U.S. helicopters gunning down Iraqi civilians, it should have troubled most Americans. But it also should make us pause and ask: If murder is wrong, why is it okay when government does it on a massive scale? If it is supposedly dangerous to keep an eye on government by revealing documents and information, then why is it justified for governments to use warrantless searches, install cameras everywhere, and use drones to keep an eye on us?
Revolutionizing the role and concept of government is what “hacktivism” and information leaking can potentially have the ability to do, and why it is so valuable and essential today. In a society that claims to value representative government that exists to protect our rights, how can government be exempt from the laws it imposes on us? Unmasking this ethical vacuum is the true strength and power of whistleblowers and is why they are so heavily demonized and prosecuted by those they are trying to expose.
In order for law and ethics to be just, they must be universally applicable to all in society. Since the beginning of civilization, societies have had many names for this principle, including the Golden Rule, “do unto others,” and the non-aggression principle.
But government claims for itself the sole right to violate this axiom. Counterfeiting, theft, and murder are all violations of the universal principle of private society, yet when government does them, they are called central banking, taxation, and war. These internal contradictions become exposed by whistleblowers who not only embarrass public officials, but also strike at the root of this incongruity.
Government is often cited as a benevolent protector, a “public servant” that represents and protects the people’s interests. What whistleblowers do is provide information that pokes holes in this largely illusory notion. When many examples of corruption are given to the people, it forces us to examine what the proper role of government is and wonder who exactly the servants really are.
This exposure can only lead to radical and beneficial change in how we view the provision of order, justice, and law. Can these indispensable components of civilization be supplied by voluntary associations instead of by coercion? According to the universal morality that governs private society, they can and must be.
Providing “transparency” to government policy is a good start, but the strength of whistleblowers and “hacktivism” lies in their ability to fundamentally transform government into institutions built on voluntary associations, contract, and consent. Thanks to Wikileaks, Manning, and many others, it’s only a matter of time.
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