Saturday, 18 December 2010

Premature celebrations

Well, I don't like to say I warned you, but I did (see "Losers...and Winners"). We've not yet won the Ashes after all. Saturday morning and England have lost 5 wickets and are a couple of hundred runs adrift. The commentators have already admitted defeat. Oh dear!

I suspect the celebration at the release on bail of Wikileaks' founder, Julian Assange, may also prove to be premature and short-lived. Could it have really been £200,000 bond for an alleged sexual assault case? I don't suppose we'll ever know the truth about the whole tangled web surrounding the leak of 3 million US diplomatic files through Wikileaks. To be honest, I don't think I buy the highly confidential and highly damaging claims - if it's true that they were unencrypted and circulated to tens of thousands of American civil servants. I listened to Assange's British lawyer last week and found his account very coherent - but then it would be, wouldn't it?

I have no doubt that various governments, and in particular our American friends, will be very annoyed and worried by the apparent ease with which the files were obtained, and their extent. It sounds as though the most sensitive information was redacted before publication, but even so, somewhere out there, someone has the unredacted files. I suppose there are some lessons for everyone. One is that the world wide web is, as Tim Berners Lee intended, a free flowing medium of information and is not really secure. I suspect that governments will tighten up their computer security, but, as Gary MacKinnon proved, a techy computer geek can hack even into the Pentagon computer system. So how about paper and pigeon post?

Another, which shouldn't surprise us, is that what governments tell us is what they want us to hear. The published extracts from the files give quite a different version of events from what's normally released via the media.

In November my favourite journalist sent me a  copy of Tolstoy's How much land does a man need? and other stories. She said she was interested in my reaction to his form of Christian anarchism. I've not yet finished it, but I'm enjoying it. I loved this sentence from Where Love is, God is: "You are in such  despair because you only want to live for your own happiness!"

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