Saturday, 11 December 2010

WikiLeaks has adapted its modus operandi in recent weeks in order to maximise the impact of the information it holds in its database, and to shift the focus of the story away from WikiLeaks itself back onto the information it holds.

Back in July, when the "Afghan war logs" - around 70,000 pages of data from a US military source - appeared, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was clearly not pleased with the way the media had chosen to cover the case. Impelled by US civil and military denunciations, which had as their point of focus the safety of US collaborators and soldiers operating in the field, the media began to shift the story from the contents of the logs back onto WikiLeaks, the organisation, itself.

In the case of the "US embassy cables" which have recently begun to come to light, the release has been far more measured. We're told that there are about 250,000 pages of data. Only about 1000 pages of that was released to the regular, select group of media outlets favoured by WikiLeaks, including The Guardian and the New York Times. In addition, some pages have been given to the Fairfax mastheads, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. This slow-release method is designed to ensure that the daily headline is pertinent to the information held by WikiLeaks.

But it's a close contest. The main story at the moment appears to be Julian Assange's incarceration on untested allegations in Sweden. A few days ago Assange presented himself at court in London in order to answer for himself. He is still being confined as his bail application was rejected.

So the new MO appears to have been advisedly adopted. So far, we've had stories about dozens of different things, from mining giant Rio Tinto's handling of the Stern Hu case in China to the behaviour of Shell in Nigeria. The drip feed is inexorable and the drama is compelling. Noone knows what story will appear tomorrow. Politicians are so scared that they've completely stopped commenting about WikiLeaks.

And supporters of WikiLeaks have come out in force. Several thousand people added a comment to an ABC story a couple of days ago in order to express their support for Assange. There have been protest rallies in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Respected members of the community have voiced their disagreement with the prime minister, Julia Gillard, who said WikiLeaks' activities were "illegal". And the Australian activist group Get Up! has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to buy advertising space in the New York Times in order to protest against American conservatives' calls for Assange's assassination.

In brief, WikiLeaks is the only story in town at the moment, with new headlines appearing every day. One notable story that hit the web yesterday focused on the promise of a new organisation, to be called OpenLeaks. This splinter group is being headed by disaffected members of WikiLeaks led by Daniel Domschelt-Berg (aka Daniel Schmidt). Even if WikiLeaks crashes and burns, there will be a phoenix to rise from the ashes and continue spreading information about things powerful people want to keep secret.

The heat goes on.

No comments: