WikiLeaks may have made a profound impact on the public consciousness by releasing classified documents, but one academic doubts the organization’s long-term ability to bring about “radical transparency.”
According to Professor Alasdair Roberts of Suffolk University, WikiLeaks created little more than an illusion of transparency – which could theoretically lull the public into thinking government accountability is achievable with a quick technological fix.
“That basic idea – leak, publish and wait for outrage – is an old idea,” Roberts claimed in a recent paper quoted by Miller-McCune.
“The premise of this recent episode was that new technologies were basically supercharging the process. It was easier to leak, easier to publish, and by implication, more likely to produce substantial policy change.”
However, says Roberts, in the grand scheme of things, the scope of recent leaks probably wasn’t all that
greater than pre-Internet leaks from sources like the Pentagon Papers.
“That’s [simply] getting distracted by the novelty of technology – look how big this leak is!” opined Roberts.
“But in the digital age, everything is big. And in particular, the stockpile of sensitive information held by government agencies is immense.”
The professor also emphasized that there was no such thing, even in our modern Internet-heavy information age, as the “instantaneous and complete revelation” of the truth.
“In its undigested form, information has no transformative power at all… [Plus], the notion was once this stuff gets out, the world will change radically – [well], that wasn’t the case. ”
Yet, Roberts acknowledged that mainstream analysis of WikiLeaks tended to focus on “the first inning,” rather than the game in its entirety.
“In fact, the game never ends,” he added.