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Randy Alcorn: The Honest Truth about WikiLeaks

Governments, powerful institutions and corporations are a bigger threat to freedom than leaked documents

When WikiLeaks published thousands of confidential diplomatic communications it exposed the systematic mendacity, insincerity and hypocrisy of foreign diplomacy. But, was anyone really surprised by these revelations? They were more entertaining than shocking. Worldwide and throughout history, politicians and the ruling elite have practiced deception to manipulate the masses and each other.

Randy Alcorn
Randy Alcorn

Truth is so uncompromising, so indifferent to consequences, and, therefore, so rare. We all have secrets that we would rather not share with the world, but should institutions that involve and affect so much of society have a right to keep secrets, especially those that misrepresent and manipulate? Is the world better off living in lies or knowing the truth? With the growing use and application of the Internet, that question may be academic. The truth will out more now than ever. The more appropriate question may be, can we handle it?

The U.S. and other world governments are certainly having trouble handling it. They are furious with WikiLeaks and are quickly retaliating by bullying Web sites and Internet providers to remove the embarrassing diplomatic documents. WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange is the target of an international fatwa by infuriated governments. He is being accused of everything from rape to espionage.

Those folks who share their government’s condemnation of WikiLeaks believe that national security justifies the suppression of truth. They argue that the lives of citizens, spies and military personnel are jeopardized by exposing the truth. However, what endangers any nation’s citizens and troops is war, and America is fighting two very dubious wars now — one started by lies and both perpetuated with propaganda. It can be argued that the suppression of truth is more detrimental to human life than is the exposure of truth.

Confusing patriotism with government is one of the more effective tools used by governments to manipulate and mislead their citizens. Those who defend government skullduggery and censorship as practical realities necessary for national welfare are willing to live with lies, trust the liars, and consider both to be acts of patriotism. But, governments are no more trustworthy or entitled to sanctioned secrecy than are other institutions.

The Catholic Church actively sought to conceal the truth about its pedophiliac priests even as children continued to fall victim to sex abuse. With no apparent compunction, the church fights court decisions ordering it to release information regarding these heinous crimes. Would any reasonable person argue that this institution is entitled to keep its dirty secrets? Had WikiLeaks been around to expose the church how many children would have been spared, and this depravity ended?

How many big corporations have betrayed public trust and endangered the health, welfare and safety of employees, customers and society by and while concealing the truth? Toyota, Massey, BP, many large banks — the list could fill a metropolitan phone book.

Government, because it is bigger and more powerful than any other institutions, has a greater effect on society. It needs to be watched closely — one reason why free speech, e.g. a free press, was so important to America’s founding fathers, and one reason why tyrants’ first move is to curtail it. The publication of the Pentagon Papers exposed the truth about the Vietnam War and hastened the end of that tragic debacle. How many people died to maintain government subterfuge?

With the decline of newspapers and broadcast, Internet media like WikiLeaks provide the sunlight needed to keep the machinations of government visible. The new media appears less restrained and timid about exposing government than the old media.

Imagine a world where truth is unavoidable because lies and deceptions are quickly uncovered. How would nations and all institutions behave in such a world? Certainly, judgment would be more accurate.

If truth becomes unavoidable, we all better learn how to handle it.

— Santa Barbara political observer Randy Alcorn can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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