March 27th, 2010

Wikileaks: A Bulwark in the War for Your Mind

photo credit: Arenamontanus

Control the information, and you control the people.

This political truism is the hallmark of dictatorships throughout the world’s history. To maintain power over a group of people, it is necessary to deprive them of access to certain facts that might influence their actions in a manner that is inconsistent with the power-seeker’s plans. Thus, in corrupt governments it becomes necessary to erect entire departments full of spies, bureaucrats, and other information-manipulating tax leeches to shape events, public opinion, and policy to achieve a more palatable outcome.

In such an environment, whether one realizes it or not, each individual’s mind is the battlefront in a war of information—a never-ending series of scrimmages, where who wins is ultimately determined by one’s access to truth. If a government is engaged in an unpopular action, then its desire to see the action through requires gaining the public’s favor, whether by arguing for the action on its merits alone, or using deception and distraction to manipulate the person’s mind and produce a favorable opinion.

These things, sadly, are not relegated to third-world countries or brutal regimes of a by-gone era, but rather are a hallmark of our own federal government. The most recent example is a stark illustration of how a country supposedly “spreading democracy” and “bringing freedom” to other countries, while engaged in these types of activities, becomes eerily applicable to the situation in which Jesus Christ reacted to such lies in his own day: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”

Wikileaks, an organization whose sole purpose is to accept and publicize anonymous submissions and leaks of sensitive documents, has, since its December 2006 inception, been a thorn in the side of governments, corporations, and various other organizations. Its most recent publication is an internal, classified CIA report discussing how to rally support for the current military offensive in Afghanistan. Wikileaks’ staff prepared the following description of the document:

After the Dutch government fell on the issue of dutch troops in Afghanistan last month, the CIA became worried that similar events could happen in the countries that post the third and fourth largest troop contingents to the ISAF-mission. The proposed PR strategies focus on pressure points that have been identified within these countries. For France it is the sympathy of the public for Afghan refugees and women. For Germany it is the fear of the consequences of defeat (drugs, more refugees, terrorism) as well as for Germany’s standing in the NATO. The memo is an recipe for the targeted manipulation of public opinion in two NATO ally countries, written by the CIA. It is classified as Confidential / No Foreign Nationals.

The title of the first main section of text in the document is titled “Public Apathy Enables Leaders To Ignore Voters”. Note here that the desired action—a sustained commitment in the Afghanistan military engagement—is realized by capitalizing upon widespread apathy, not support. The report’s title, however, notes that “counting on apathy might not be enough”, and then goes to describe how to manipulate the public at large in order to develop support for the war.

Wikileaks published the document, alerting the world at large to the latest example of public manipulation in what is, sadly, a long series of similar undertakings by this government-created network of law-breaking spies. Naturally, the government does not like its conspiracies publicized for all to see, and it thus sees Wikileaks as a threat—so much so that in 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center prepared a secret report (obtained and published by Wikileaks) which deals entirely with the website in question. Part of this report states:

…the Web site could be used to post fabricated information; to post misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda; or to conduct perception management and influence operations designed to convey a negative message to those who view or retrieve information from the Web site.

As Glenn Greenwald puts it:

In other words, the Pentagon is furious that this exposing of its secrets might enable others to engage in exactly the type of “perception management” which the aforementioned CIA Report proposes the U.S. do with regard to the citizenry of our allied countries.

The father of modern propaganda himself, Edward Bernays, recognized the inordinate influence one can wield when controlling (and manipulating) information. His description casts a frightening light on what the shadowy dealings of our government imply:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate the organized habits and opinions of the masses constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of the country….It remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons….It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world. (Edward Bernays, via Quoty)

In order to organize the masses, though, a central point of moderation must exist to “control the message”. The government’s report on Wikileaks notes that “the governments of China, Israel, North Korea, Russia, Vietnam and Zimbabwe” have each worked to block access to Wikileaks by their citizens, or in some other way impede the organization’s operations. Intriguingly, our own federal government willingly joins this list of corrupt nation states—all because it desires to implement certain objectives that others are helping to expose.

In this way, Wikileaks serves as a bulwark in this war for our minds, for if we are to remain free, we must know things “as they really are.” Said Ezra Taft Benson:

The sad and shocking story of what has happened in America in recent years must be told. Our people must have the facts. There is safety in an informed public. There is real danger in a complacent, uninformed citizenry. This is our real danger today. Yes, the truth must be told even at the risk of destroying in large measure the influence of men who are widely respected and loved by the American people. The stakes are high. Freedom and survival is the issue. (Ezra Taft Benson, via Quoty)

Whether the disinfectant of sunlight is facilitated by Wikileaks, a whistleblower talking to a reporter, or through some other medium, our ability to wage this war against our own government and hold would-be conspirators accountable for their actions relies heavily upon available information. Father Lehi spoke of either acting or being acted upon—the former requiring agency (and, by extension, knowledge), and the latter implying bondage. To the extent that the American people are prevented from knowing what “their” government is doing in their name, they will be subjugated serfs of an elite, informed few.

16 Responses to “Wikileaks: A Bulwark in the War for Your Mind”

  1. Chris
    March 28, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    Cool blog. I’m just now checking out Wikileaks for the first time, and I’m impressed. Thanks for the informative article!

  2. Kelly W.
    March 28, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

    I was listening to a podcast just earlier in the week, and it stated that Wikilieaks has broken more stories in the last 3 years than the New York Times has in the past 30.

  3. Josh Williams
    March 28, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    I’ve never been disappointed when I’ve browsed by Wikileaks, occasionally this has lead to some really eye-popping reading. W.L. is really a testament to the basic inherent decency of most people.

  4. oldmama
    March 29, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    Thank you for the heads up; I’ll be looking at it–

  5. John C.
    March 29, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    Wikileaks has put up some ‘interesting’ Mormon material, too.

  6. Connor
    March 29, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    Indeed. I actually very much disagree with their publicizing the confidential information of private companies and organizations (provided that said information does not divulge any illegal activities, in which case I would support its publication).

  7. L. Brown
    March 30, 2010 at 6:18 am #

    So, how does one really know if what is exposed is the truth? Just wondering…can anyone write whatever about any “secret” government actions, etc.? I took a small browse through the website but I thought maybe it’d be better to just ask. It seems like some heavy duty stuff. Kewl stuff, but. Anyways, thanks Mr. Connor for the info, I always enjoy reading up on your opinions.

  8. Connor
    March 31, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    Here’s a good article by The Guardian on this subject.

  9. Mazal
    March 31, 2010 at 7:20 pm #

    Wikileaks rocks and so do you Connor. Thanks.

  10. Rock Waterman
    April 2, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    Connor, thanks for this! Somehow I didn’t know Wikileaks existed. It’s clearly one of the most important uses of the internet.

  11. Connor
    April 5, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    Here’s their latest project.

    The video they show is not for the faint of heart. For their efforts, the organization was rewarded with being surveilled, tracked, detained and questioned.

    Again, the video is difficult to watch. But it’s the reality your government does not want you to see—things “as they really are”, difficult though it may be to stomach.

  12. oldmama
    April 5, 2010 at 10:44 am #

    Thank you.

  13. SpecKK
    April 5, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    A copy of the LDS church handbook for lay ministry was put up on wikileaks a couple of years ago. Not exactly sensitive or secret information, but definitely subject to change and more procedural than official church position.

    Publicists and Propagandists often learn that ignoring wikileaks tends to be a better option than fighting them. Given their susceptibility to tainted information, Wikileaks could even be a tool for attacking rival organizations or governments. All you have to do is take something bribed out of a target government and re-spin it to make them look bad.

    Like everything else in the information war, trust must be earned and maintained, while skepticism is your best protection.

  14. Josh Williams
    April 6, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    Thanks for the link, Connor. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the news.

  15. Brad Carmack
    April 18, 2010 at 1:56 am #

    Wikileaks is a consequence bundle with some benefit sticks and some cost sticks. The benefit sticks are fairly substantial.

    A few months ago I saw the Church Handbook of Instructions Book 1 on wikileaks. I couldn’t find it a couple weeks ago, though. Know where i could access it by chance?

  16. Joshua Steimle
    November 29, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    People from all sides are clamoring for Wikileaks to be shut down. If the government obliges, this will be one more step towards clamping down on any sort of speech that is classified as “dangerous” by the US government. What will be shut down after Wikileaks?

    However, what if Wikileaks isn’t a victim in this play, but a complicit actor? Ask yourself, who are the people behind Wikileaks? Where did they work before? Who funded the organizations at which they worked? What circles were they involved in? Perhaps most importantly, why now? Why didn’t this happen during the Bush administration? Is it possible that Wikileaks was designed to give the government an excuse to clamp down, and they were waiting to get someone in power who would clamp down the way they want things clamped down?

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