Yo friends, check your proverbial six (because you’re doing bad things)

Feminism is not a switch, nor is it a binary. You do not get to turn it off. You do not get to decide intersectionality is too cool for you.

Feminism is not a switch, nor is it a binary. You do not get to turn it off. You do not get to decide intersectionality is too cool for you.

It’s fair to say that my musical tastes don’t align with MTV. While I don’t mind pop, I also don’t seek it out, so the VMAs aren’t exactly a “thing” with me. I don’t watch them and I don’t care about them.

But considering the overwhelming clusterfuck that was my Twitter and Facebook feed last night — well — I feel like I might as well have watched them.

You see, apparently Miley Cyrus did some things. By “some things” I mean perform on stage, the way many other performers have. Except, of course, there was some sexuality thrown in.

The result is an endless tirade of bullshit being flung at Cyrus. She’s a slut. A whore. A good ol’ jezebel. Oh, and she’s ugly. And fat. And her butt is gross. As is the rest of her body.

There are problems with this. Let me list them.

1.

Other lady performers (Gaga, for example), can literally parade around nude (and semi-nude at award shows) and not an eyebrow is raised. But Miley — that’s different. Miley is supposed to be the virginal pop starlet, she’s supposed to be the good down home gal, playing country guitar and singing folksy songs about… shit, I don’t know, cows or something. But when she breaks this narrative — when she dares, as a 20-year-old woman, to show her sexuality (in a flamboyant way, no less!) she is decimated.

This young adult performer is, apparently, not supposed to be like that. She’s supposed to be a role model for young girls — and lord knows that the only thing they should learn about sexuality is that it’s for men and bad and no no no no no~

2.

What the fuck, feminist friends?

I’m going to be honest — I don’t really care about Cyrus at all. I don’t. I can’t. I did not care at all about any of this until I saw some of the responses my (otherwise) feminist friends were making — everything from “that shouldn’t be on TV!” to critiques of her body.

Why.

Why. Why. Why.

Instead of going after the potential cultural appropriation issues, instead of going after the system that might make Cyrus feel like she has to sexualize her act to make money, instead of talking about Robin Thicke, instead of talking about the dwindling musical relevance of MTV… we get this?

How does that logic work?

“Objectification is bad! But totes not if we don’t like the woman in question!”

Which brings me to…

3.

The sound of the entire ocean cascading over the heads of everyone both patting Justin Timberlake on the head while simultaneously tearing into Cyrus.

Yes, yes. NSYNC is back.

On one hand, you criticize a lady who — by her own agency — decided to do something sexual in a performance on an adult show on an adult network.

On the other, you forget that the group (of men) you are cheering literally made their names on sex. What, did you think NSYNC was totally about… like, what? JT sells what, exactly?

Did you think Giddy Up was about horses? Did you think Let’s Take a Ride was about a wonderful drive through the enchanted forest?

Did you think FutureSex was talking about, shit, god, can you see the problem — do I have to continue? Can we remember — during a certain Super Bowl appearance — who helped a nip to slip? Man, who did that controversy fall on? I bet it totally was evenl–

OH WAIT

4.

Finally, let’s just step aside for a moment and acknowledge that yes, there is potentially a problem if women feel that they are forced to sexualize themselves in order to “make it.” That is serious shit. That’s something to write about.

But, here’s the thing — when you are writing about it, when you are talking about it in a serious way — you don’t target the woman who is the victim of the complex. You target THE COMPLEX.

And if you handwave all of this away under the guise of “it’s just good fun! cultural touchstones!” then realize you are basically the guy in the back of the room saying “it’s just a joke!” or “it’s just a MEDIATYPEHERE!”

Likewise, if you critique Cyrus by calling her a whore/slut/pr0n*/whathaveyou, you are basically saying “hey, sexuality is bad unless it is on our terms*.” Also, slutshaming. That’s a thing.

Basically you’re part of the problem, stop it.

Or, for a more philosophical angle — take a lesson from Foucault. If everyone around you is screaming the same things, maybe you should consider why they are screaming those things, and understand the social methodology that makes you feel obligated to do the same.

* — Whatever conservative, straight, white cis-gendered male middle-America is comfortable with.

I hate apologizing for metal fans

I love metal. I love metal. The first time I heard Ghost of Perdition was a religious experience. When I played Man Made God for the first time, I… well, I didn’t stop playing it for weeks. I can remember the first time I heard Player One. I know exactly where I was, what I was doing, and what I felt.

Earlier this year my fiance brought me to what was, basically, my dream show. Katatonia and Opeth. VIP passes.

I met my favorite band before proceeding to headbang for four hours, losing my voice somewhere in the process. I felt light headed. I was in heaven. I will never forget that moment. It was perfect.

I love metal.

It’s the energy — but not quite. There’s more to it than that. It’s the spirit, the absolute release. Sometimes that goes in an evil direction. Sometimes, though, it can go in an incredibly positive one.

But you know what?

Metal fans kind of irk me.

Not all of them, mind you. I’ve met plenty of great metalheads in my life. I’ve had dudes stand behind me (and my fiance who had to take off her boots!) during a Devin Townsend show to protect us from flying bodies. I’ve met metalheads at college who have been incredible people, helping me out whenever I’ve needed it. And hell, the metal musicians I’ve met have been incredible. Opeth? Class act. That Devin Townsend show? I watched as Devin sat down on the stage after the show ended, talking to every fan that walked up to him.

I don’t even have to mention the numerous stories about the legends. Just say the name Dio, and you know what you’re in for.

But — despite all of that — there’s… well, those fans.

You know — the ones that always think they are more hardcore. That they are totally kvlt cuz’ they listen to black metal or deathgrind bands that are so obscure you’re fairly certain they might be made up.

The ones that immediately drop the “metal quiz” on you. Or — worse yet — the ones that claim that band X really isn’t metal, because… well, because, man.

The thing is, these guys don’t bother me. They really don’t. I’m not in high school. I don’t need someone to validate my musical taste.

No, I dislike them because they have turned “metal” into a tag that tends to mean “taste elitist.” In the past month I’ve had three people come up to me, talking about music. As soon as I let the metal flag fly (usually by casually mentioning I’m a fan — nothing obscene!) I get a stare, followed by a look of fear.

“Oh… well, I don’t listen to anything like that. You probably wouldn’t like my music that much.”

Usually it’s followed my nervous laughter. You can just tell they’re waiting for their musical taste to be cross-examined.

I have to immediately backpedal. I bring up the fact that I dig prog rock too (which sometimes elicits the same response!), and hey! underground rap is pretty cool, and the mainstream stuff can be pretty okay too! I usually casually mention that I like a lot of industrial stuff, and that I was on a pretty huge drum n’ bass kick for years. I even have Lady Gaga on my playlist!

At this point there’s usually a bit of relief. Which is good! After all, I love talking about music (hell, I can hardly go a day without linking something on Facebook)!

It’s just… I know why they have that reaction. I just wish they didn’t have to have it.

Certainly, metal isn’t the only “thing” with this problem. While metal fans are notoriously outspoken, virtually every other genre of music has its elitists. And then outside of music, you’ve got all the other forms of media, each with its own brand of asshole.

And yes, there are much worse cultural problems than music elitists. Certainly.

But shit, guys. It’d be nice to have one hobby that I didn’t have to apologize for.

Barriers to Entry: Socioeconomic Class and Gaming

During the Noel Brown controversy last week, Patrick Miller wrote a long, interesting response/open letter to Kotaku, gaming journalists, and his own community. The letter has been getting dissected by just about everyone, but one particular item seems to be getting ignored — one that has been on my mind since I read the article.

Simply put: socioeconomic class in gaming.

To back up the discussion a bit to start, there seems to be an idealistic notion of “gaming culture” that exists throughout the gaming world. Gaming is seen, more or less, as the ultimate meritocracy. That “quality” is something that has been the standard for arguing any issue of privilege within any gaming interest. I’m sure you’ve heard the response before:

“But that’s why gaming is great! Everyone gets treated that way! People just judge you based on how good you are at the game!”

While we could rip that argument apart all day — for various reasons — I’m going to key in on the largest assumption: that video games really are open to everyone.

WE ARE ALL EQUALS HERE
AND WE FIGHT FOR DOMINION TONIGHT
WE DON’T ASK COLOR, RACE OR CREED,
DEDICATED, FREE-FOR-ALL

-Machinae Supremacy, Republic of Gamers

The Assumption

Everyone can game. Everyone. Anyone with a controller is a gamer.

Of course, there’s already a problem — to be a gamer, one must have access.

Access is assumed to be infinite — to the world of gamers, access is assumed. From this perspective the only thing you need to be a gamer is the desire to be one. You know, anything you put your mind to and shit like that.

There’s a problem there:

Street Fighter and Street Fighter II became a worldwide sensation in the early ’90s in large part because these games offered the thrill of direct, one-on-one adversarial competition for a mere 25 cents. Over the years, this attracted quite a number of people who loved the excitement and stimulation of competing against friends and strangers in arcades. Since arcades mostly flourished in urban centers, and the barrier to entry was limited only by how many quarters you needed to save for laundry, the people who stuck around in the fighting game community typically tended to be young men of color. This stood in stark contrast to competitive PC games communities built around games like Quake, Counter-Strike and Starcraft; you invariably needed a $1200+ computer and a home Internet connection to to play those games.

Miller’s point is succinct — and likely obvious to some and completely invisible to others: games require money.

Yes, to be a “gamer,” one has to be able to game. You need access.

Class (and all the intersections of race, nationality, etc.) are going to impact this. How does someone who can’t even put food on the table afford an expensive gaming PC? How does someone struggling to get by afford a console plus a broadband connection — not to mention each game they must purchase?

For the privileged — those of us who have the means to purchase games at will — this is an invisible struggle. Yet, despite that, it’s one we entirely ignore. Realistically, there’s a fairly high barrier to entry when it comes to video games.

This isn’t a hobby like, say, soccer, basketball, skateboarding, or even reading (or writing). All of those things require a small “fee” to enter. If you live near a field — or even an open lot — you can potentially join the world of people who enjoy soccer. But if you want to become a gamer? You must have somewhat deep pockets, and if you don’t, then you don’t want to be a gamer.

The lyrics above from Machinae Supremacy seem to signal that video games don’t choose favorites based on race or creed, yet isn’t the financial barrier to entry a pretty damning counter to the video game meritocracy myth?

The Development of a Landscape

I don’t think I need to dip into a bag of statistics or papers to note how poverty impacts certain races more than others.

Likewise, I don’t think I need to dip into the same bag to find statistics on which groups play video games. Jump into a lobby anywhere and you’re likely to find a group of mostly white (and male) individuals. Likely, they’ll also be middle class.

This “open” landscape — the one that is welcoming to all — ends up being quite exclusive. The class dynamics presented within a group structure a community that further builds itself up.

While this has problems on the bottom floor — in individual gaming communities — it also has implications “higher” up. When we look at the critical landscape of those in the gaming world, we tend to see a pattern: the audience dictates the creators and the critics.

As is the case with most in-depth hobbies, the creators and critics tend to be individuals who grew up in the community. Therefore, there isn’t a whole lot of outside exposure. Developers who have moved from being players to creators likely have never experienced their “blind spot.” Likewise, critics (in both academia and otherwise — journalists included) who grew up in the same communities likely are ignorant to the inherent class issues surrounding gaming.

When Jason Schreier posted about Noel Brown, I don’t think he was being malicious. I simply think he was completely ignorant — how could he be expected to understand something he has (I assume) never been exposed to?

That isn’t an indictment, either. Class isn’t something we think about in gaming. We just assume (constantly) that everyone has the means to jump on in, but that clearly isn’t the case.

The Journalism Lock

It doesn’t just end there, though. The depth of class strikes even deeper in the development of the journalistic landscape.

When I decided to write about games a few years ago, I got immensely lucky — almost immediately after I started I was picked up by a site that was willing to pay me. And hey! The pay was good! Great!

Most gaming journos, however, are not so lucky.

While I could rant on (and on) about the nature of unpaid “internships” (especially in the gaming world), I don’t even really have to — even many “paid” positions in the world of gaming are, quite frankly, shit.

So say, for example, you’re a poor individual trying to write about games.

How do you do it?

If you want to make waves, you’ve got to be commenting on the latest games. Unless you work for an established site (which — more likely than not — you won’t, not in the beginning), you’re paying for those.

If you want to be relevant, you’ve got to attend the biggest events. E3. PAX Prime/East. GDC.

Do you have any idea of how expensive these things are? Do you really think you are going to get in for free? Do you think your place of employment is going to foot the bill?

The answer, more likely than not, is no.

If it isn’t obvious already, this is not a cheap hobby, and this is not a cheap profession to jump in on. How does the person who just barely made it to E3 feel about numbers like $399 and $499?

Of course, if you’re from a place of privilege, then all of this is invisible for you. Perhaps you’ll feel the burn in your wallet, but you will live with it. You’ll get by.

But if not?

Chipping Away at the Barrier

Realistically, I’m not quite sure there is a way to “solve” this problem. There’s no way to remove the barrier to entry. Consoles like the Ouya are a good step — as are things like bringing video games to libraries. But even then, there’s barriers to both of those things, too.

So we can’t. At least not now. At least not all at once.

What we can do, though, is stop acting like the barrier doesn’t exist. We need to ditch the meritocracy idea in regards to gaming. It isn’t there. It’s a facade.

Instead, we need to realize that — yes — socioeconomic factors impact our hobby, and they greatly impact the landscape. From the ground floor to the highest levels of “community,” the  ripples can be felt.

While gaming should be an inclusive hobby, it simply isn’t. While we should be striving to make it as open as we can, we can’t act like the optimistic, naive ideal is the reality. Doing so only increases the size of the blind spot that already hangs over gaming.

You know, something has really been bothering me

You know, something has really been bothering me these past few days. You see, unlike most individuals who spend a lot of time on the internet, I still have this little problem — I read the comments.

Never do that. It’s a bad idea.

But anyway, upon reading a lot of the comments regarding the DOMA/Prop 8 ruling, I’ve noticed a trend: individuals who post something along the lines of, “Hey! All these people are calling me a bigot because I don’t like gay marriage! I just don’t want gays to marry, okay? I don’t hate them! I’m not a bigot! Damn liberals!”

The cognitive dissonance is astounding — but it’s a trend, isn’t it?

Over the past few years I’ve noticed that a lot of conservatives have joined this mental movement in which they disconnect their beliefs from the consequences associated with them. Apparently it’s become something of a meme within conservative types — any time they are criticized with an accusation of bigotry, they hide behind a defensive wall of “no I’m not! That doesn’t exist!”

Perhaps more accurately, the belief seems to be that unless you express vehement rage toward a group, you are not a bigot.

Take Paula Deen, for example. I’ve had to endure a handful of individuals on Facebook defending her under the ideas that:

  • a). It happened years ago! (ignoring her current defense of her language) and
  • b). It’s “folksy” racism!

The thing is, if we can’t agree that a woman who admits to using slurs (and who believes it is acceptable to reconstruct an image of “Civil War society”) is at least somewhat racist, then we’re probably going to have a problem.

But I digress.

When it comes to homophobia (or general bigotry) it seems that people want to wash their hands of any wrongdoing — they want to believe they are a good person, and they know (even if they don’t accept it) that the “modern” narrative of a “good person” is one that is accepting — one that isn’t associated with bigotry.

At the same time these individuals can’t accept that they hold bigoted beliefs.

The thing is… if holding a bigoted belief doesn’t make you a bigot, then what does? What incredible stretch do we have to make to label and consider individuals bigots? Do we have to stretch to hate crimes? Is the binary that wide?

The discussion sort of loosely reminds me of the frequent arguments over “free speech” that appear all over the internet. Typically someone says something awful (usually a comedian, or some sort of celebrity), directing a slur toward some minority. The typical crowd yells at them, and then the *other* typical crowd pops up to defend them: it’s free speech! This is America! We can do what we want! DO YOU WANT TO CENSURE US?

Much as the above situation, the problem seems to be a disconnect — while most people don’t argue for censorship, they do argue for moderation — self censorship, if you will. The idea being, of course, that words have some sort of innate power (they do something) and that they have consequences.

What does this have to do with the above bigotry thing?

Well, consequences — people want to believe that they can disconnect themselves from society, that they can say and believe whatever they’d like (they can!). The problem is that these choices have consequences. You can’t run from them. We aren’t discussing opinions on your favorite soda, after all.

Holding a belief that is bigoted reinforced bigotry.

Of course, the immediate defense here is “well, I don’t want to be gay married!”

Which is absurd.

For one, it’s an opinion that isn’t asked for (as if there’s a gay mafia going around forcing gay marriage on people?), and it’s one that seems to sprout directly from a fear of gay marriage (which, uh, homophobia). It’s the idea that one feels like they have to speak up about something else it will destroy them.

Worse yet, it’s an opinion that is inherently problematic. After all, think about how problematic it would be to say “I don’t like interracial marriage.” What does that convey? Doesn’t that send a message?

It says a little more than “I’d prefer not to have one.” It says “I think something is inherently wrong with the concept.” It reveals an underlying prejudice, even if the speaker is unwilling to come out and say it.

But even then — I’m giving this opinion the benefit of the doubt, aren’t I? They aren’t saying “I don’t want one,” they are saying “this is wrong to me.”

And hell, that doesn’t need any discussion, does it? It’s just bigoted. It is a belief that holds a group of people to be lesser than another.

You can’t escape that. Going back to free speech, if you say something wrong — if you say a racist slur — you’re going to be labeled. You’re going to have sponsors drop you. You’re going to fade into obscurity.

If you say something, you’re going to have to accept the consequences. If the thing you’re saying is bigoted, then you are a bigot.

Victory, Not Vengeance

The meaning behind the name of the industrial/ebm band VNV Nation seemed fitting for today.

“Victory Not Vengeance”

The concept that we should achieve victory, but not for the sake of revenge. Justice, not a thirst for blood. Justice, of course, is not a damnable thing when it is carried out responsibly. When crimes are committed repercussions are natural and necessary to achieve a honorable society.

For a decade we’ve been chasing the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, desperately pouring money and lives into a search — presumably for justice. Yesterday, justice was served and Osama Bin Laden was killed at the hands of a US military team. The death of Osama is a symbolic statement more than anything else. A symbol for justice, for the intolerance of hatred and senseless violence.

Of course, that is what it should have meant.

The news has sparked a wave of jingoistic flag-waving unlike any other. People have literally taken to the streets, celebrating the death of another human being. While I understand why this is happening, I can’t feel comfortable with it. Almost as immediately as the news hit the masses, a sense of justice was morphed into a sense of vengeance. It was surreal to watch Phillies fans jump into chants of “U-S-A” at Citizen’s Bank Park. Seeing clips of it, I can’t help but feel as if I don’t recognize these people. Yes, Osama’s death is ultimately a positive — but to embrace it with pure celebration as if the death of a man is equal to winning the World Series? Does that not continue the hatred? This was not a sense of relief — that an enemy had fallen and a symbol of hatred had been buried. It was a zealous, cheerful exuberance.

As a country we have always tried to claim that we are “better than that.” That we are above the enemy. We are a land of justice, a land of freedom and prosperity, not savagery. When videos circulated around the media after 9/11 of people cheering, we judged them as lesser. This, of course, wasn’t because of the hate directed at us (or so we claimed) — it was because of the lack of respect shown to the dead. It was because it was zealotry and intolerance. It was a celebration of the death, something that has no place in a civilized society.

The difference here, is that we see one group as innocent and one group as the enemy. While there is no doubt truth to that statement, the hatred it has the potential to breed is dangerous — if not precisely the goal of Osama in the first place.

A quote from Salon’s David Sirota sums it up best:

This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory: He has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history — the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.

We shouldn’t roll over — and the fight against hatred (and terrorism) is a just one. However, we shouldn’t be consumed by it. We shouldn’t forget that we are fighting to end hatred, not to perpetuate it. The death of Osama should signal images of 9/11 in our minds. We should remember that this man was responsible for killing thousands, yet we should also remember that his death does not bring them back, nor does his death signal the end of terrorism.

In the end, the cycle continues. One man was not terrorism. One man was not an ideal.

I’ll add more to this later. Just wanted to scribble some thoughts down before class.

How will merit pay fix anything?

Apparently the latest buzz word fix for the education problem in this country (and more specifically, this state) is merit pay. While I was already familiar with the system, I decided to do some extra research into it. I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about the idea. In fact, I think it is actually a harmful proposal.

Merit pay, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, is basically a system that removes tenure in favor of a pay scale that goes up with some sort of measure of student performance. In other words, teachers get more money if the kids do well on tests.

Uh oh.

Straight off the bat, three questions spring to mind:

– Are tests a true measure of student performance?

– What about schools with naturally gifted students?

– How do you judge an untestable class?

To start, multiple-choice standardized tests are a poor way of monitoring student performance on many levels. First of all, if we base educational funding around test taking then all of a sudden classes become about answers and not about questions. Thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers are already encouraged to only focus on test material. As I mentioned in a previous post, kids are now learning specific dates instead of the significance behind them. While this material might help them earn an A on a test, it does not help them learn about the world around them.

It is feasible in today’s school system that a child can graduate with a high score and yet be completely clueless to what they’ve “learned.” It is possible to teach to a specific test, giving students only the information they need to pass a test instead of information they need to adequately understand a subject.

Schools with a naturally high level of talented students would also reap the benefits, while those without them would not. Not to mention, it was fully possible to game the system put in place by the NCLB Act. How would merit pay be any different? Talented students are typically placed in high level honors classes — specialized classes that teach additional information to students who enjoy the material. Of course, however, these classes are more challenging and thus students in them typically score lower than those in the regular classes. Likewise, disabled students typically are shifted to courses that help them focus on very specific areas. How is it possible to balance these out within the merit system? If you apply the same scale to everyone, it will favor eliminating honors and special education classes and if you try to weigh the system by giving “merited” teachers the honored classes, won’t you be punishing the teachers — not to mention the students? Even if you give them extra protection or slack at the higher (or lower) levels, isn’t that just pay-scale reinforced tenure, the specific thing merit pay is suppose to replace?

In addition — what about school districts in rich communities that arguably have access to better resources? Wouldn’t these districts be continuously rewarded regardless of teacher performance? I fear that such a system would create a counter-productive revolving door in under-performing, challenging districts yet it would set up an even worse system of tenure in some schools.

Finally, how do you judge a class such as music or creative writing? What about journalism? Or art? Or even physical fitness? Would these classes be turned into cut-and-dry multiple choice classes with all of the unmeasurable creativity sucked out? Or, worse, would they completely disappear?

I’m not quite sure what would happen to them. I worry that they would ultimately be phased out in favor of “testable” classes. After all, addressing this to New Jersey’s system specifically, Governor Christie has already said he wishes for schools to simply build students to find jobs. While I feel that this is one job of our school system, I simply do not think it is the only one. Schools shouldn’t just create worker bees, they should create vibrant, educated citizens that can respond to the world around them in a clear manner. They should be a home for the mind as well as a training ground.

I don’t have the answer for New Jersey’s school system, I’ll freely admit that. I do, however, know that this isn’t the answer. Neither was the butchering of our state’s education budget over the past year.

Merit pay might sound good on paper, but in my mind it is just unquestionably broken in practice. We don’t need another No Child Left Behind fiasco.

Why we need WikiLeaks (The NQL version)

The media has been buzzing lately with talk of WikiLeaks and it’s founder, Julian Assange. While the website has been mentioned by the media before with previous releases, it hasn’t been until the recent “Cablegate” leak that they’ve really seen any major attention. With this current leak, they’ve published roughly 500 US diplomatic cables so far, although they have plans to publish many more.

The media jumped on the story immediately — not reported what was actually in the cables, of course, but instead choosing to focus on a very different question: Is Julian Assange a terrorist?

Sound bites have been played on most of the major networks from various personalities. Some quotes focus around Assange being captured, assassinated or otherwise killed.

Yet very few seem to be focusing on the wires themselves. What do they contain? For starters:

Here’s a story about one that reveals the US was behind an airstrike that killed 21 children in Yemen.

Secret deal let Americans sidestep cluster bomb ban (specifically, on British soil)

“…the Saudis always want to ‘fight the Iranians to the last American…'”

Ambassador reports Sri Lanken President responsible for ‘alleged war crimes'”

…and this is just from me quickly browsing them (basically, surfing their facebook page — not even going to the direct site and sifting through them myself, one by one). Considering an extremely limited amount has been shared with us so far, I’d say that this is pretty significant news, especially to US citizens. Yet most of the “sources” I find regarding the leaks are outside of the border.

Shouldn’t things like an air strike that killed civilians be major news? Shouldn’t the way our diplomats over seas do their job be news?

Instead, we are being “asked” if WikiLeaks is a terrorist organization.

I wonder of the people that say “yes” would’ve said the same about the New York Times? Or if they would’ve considered Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo criminals?

It’s impossible not to draw a comparison between the Pentagon Papers and this leak. While the situations are different, both seemed to highlight government secrets, especially ones that were damning to those with something to lose. The Pentagon Papers pointed out civilian tragedies that were unknown to the American people, along with government dealings that were previously unknown. Cablegate does the same thing — though most of the papers do not directly contain information related to the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.

As anyone who has taken a class in journalism knows, the Supreme Court stood up for Ellsberg, stating that the freedom of the press trumps the secrecy of information when it is relevant. Does the information leaked here not have the same relevance? How about information leaked by WikiLeaks in the past, such as the infamous “collateral murder” video?

We need WikiLeaks because the government sometimes needs a watchdog. I understand the need for secrecy within the military and the government. Lives can be put at risk by some information. In WikiLeaks’ case, though, the information is not threatening lives. I honestly question if it is harming our diplomatic standing in the world. I doubt any other governments thought Americans looked up to them, and I certainly don’t think they expected any of it to be secret.

As citizens, we need to be informed of what is going on within our country. The sort of discourse that has sprung up from these documents certainly makes me wonder. I can’t honestly say that we would have gone to Iraq if an organization like WikiLeaks let loose that the CIA thought Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.

The fact is, quite simply, that information has the ability to make us more informed about the world around us. I would much rather live in a world of free data than one that is suffocated and censored. WikiLeaks is simply a publisher. A tool for the world to better understand itself.

Relevant links:

http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/

Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks

Oslo Freedom Forum: Julian Assange speaks

Note: I just sort of wanted to get my opinion out there. I’ll probably add to this soon.