People are always quick to espouse the idea that history repeats itself. Many historians will use this mantra as the reason why learning history is important. They will pull examples of same events occurring throughout different eras and show how all events are cyclical. It’s easy to put puzzle pieces together In the world of technology, where innovation and change happen with exponential speed, history seems to repeat itself every few years. Yet no one seems to learn from the mistakes of the past, everyone still seems to fight innovations, and sheer logic seems to fall by the wayside until changes have already occurred and revolution is underway.
A great example of organizations fighting an unstoppable change is the recent history of the music industry. Every time there has been an innovation in the field of music distribution the “Industry Executives” have fought tooth and nail. This happened with the introduction of tapes, then CDs, and with a final climax (of current times) with file sharing and Napster.
I understand that it is easy for me, as an outside observer, to be extremely critical of how the music industry as a whole has responded to the changing scene over the past few decades. It is so easy for music consumers to demand that the Record Industry Association of America change their entire business model to stay up to date with current times. Yet change is hard, and when entrepreneurs become rich and powerful, it’s difficult to give up the formula that brought them wealth in the first place. Their positions blind them to the changing world around them.
Wikileaks is currently changing the way in which people receive news and information, much like Napster influenced the way people obtained and discovered music. And, much like Napster, this has rattled the cages of those producing the cables and information that Wikileaks is sharing so freely.
It is impossible to deny the long term ramifications of Wikileak’s actions, regardless of the arguments on the legalities of publicly releasing confidential cables. People all over the world have become suddenly aware of the realities of a secret political world; a world that, until now, has simply been assumed but never tangible. Once you leave the cave, there is no going back. The moment the first group of cables were released, all government action suddenly had a face that people could see, touch, and read. There was no longer any speculation about what High Ranking US Official A thought about High Raking Foreign Official B. There is now a cable to read.
The damage has been done. The world’s eyes have been opened. Yet the governments actions in attacking Wikileaks seem strikingly like the failed efforts of the Music Industry as they struggled to destroy Napster.
I think the most important thing to realize is that Julian Assange is simply a mascot. He is a face. Shutting down Napster did not stop music piracy and the arrest of Mr. Assange will not stop the leaking of any diplomatic cables. It is no secret that Julian Assange has a large network of people, in all realms of life and power, supporting and assisting the wikileaks cause. He is simply the face of a much larger organization.
As we all witnessed this week, shutting down Wikileaks caused the immediate creation of hundreds of Wikileaks mirrors. Just as shutting down Napster caused the creation of a number of piracy replicas such as Limewire. And shutting down Limewire caused an almost instant release of Limewire: Pirate Edition.
Attacking the perceived source of the “leak” does not solve any problems. Much like DDOS-ing companies such as Visa and Mastercard does not cause any more damage than egging your principal’s house after you were suspended. Much like touching the tip of someone’s penis during a TSA scan doesn’t find explosives hidden in their rectum. It’s all for show.
If the government wants to plug the leaks, with long term solutions, they need to stop flailing their personified arms wildly in the air in an attempt to knock over anything related to Wikileaks. Instead, they need to accept that their private information is now public, reestablish relationships with any countries that might not trust them anymore, and create a new and more secure form of interoffice communication.
We need to learn from the failed actions of other people who have been in similar situations. While the scale may be different (leaked diplomacy cables being slightly more important than an illegally downloaded song) the principals are the same. Making the same mistakes is nothing but wasted effort.
- Project Glass: Exactly How Powerful is Eye Contact?
- Wikileaks Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
- The Richest People in America