I’m not going to analyze the ethical and journalistic implications of Julian Assange’s work. I confess that I sympathize in part with his ideology, at least the part that proclaims the need for transparency in diplomatic and government affairs. But in Cuba all the cables brought to light by Wikileaks have not been published; they’ve barely even made reference to those where the Cuban government comes out well. Hence, the need for an Internet connection to get an objective idea of the scope and objectives of the phenomenon headed by this Australian, now granted asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
I can, however, arrive at a couple of conclusion, at least with respect to the use being made of the “Assange Case” by the official Cuban press. As I don’t need the elusive fiber optic cable, nor an illegal satellite dish to watch the National News every day, this time I have all the elements I need to form an opinion.
The first thing that comes to mind is that a government that has made secrecy and silence a basic pillar of its power praises a hacker who represents the exact opposite. As if the overbearing mother who has locked her daughters in the house throws out a compliment to the libertine whose offspring are running all over the neighborhood.
The declassifier of memos is now applauded on our small screen by a system that has been careful not to leave any traces of its outrages on paper. The “Robin Hood of Information” himself — as some have called him — receives approval from the Sheriff who has locked us in the feudal castle of censorship. Something doesn’t fit, right? How is it possible that the promulgators of so many omissions now wave the flag of a man who promotes the exact opposite?
The sudden fascination of the Cuban media with the Wikileaks director can only be understood as a part of a shabby “anti-imperialism” where “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is always true. They even apply that maxim in cases where the means are obviously divorced from the ends, as is true for the information policy of Raul Castro’s government and the massive “leaks” promoted by Julian Assange.
But the absurdity reaches incalculable heights when the “Roundtable” TV program, known for its anti-journalism and complacency with power, presents this young man of 41 as a hero of the web. This is, without a doubt, the most contradictory thing I’ve seen lately… never mind that I live in a land of great paradoxes.
If right now a young State Security official declassified the total financial cost to the country of the operations focused on opponents and the repudiation rallies against the Ladies in White, what would happen? If tomorrow a doctor, motivated by personal and professional honesty, published the real number of people infected with dengue fever in Cuba, what would they do to him?
Let’s imagine a soldier — in the style of Bradley Manning — who leaked military memoranda between the governments in Havana and in Caracas. Would there be any clemency for him? And were it to be the case that someone revealed the true dimensions of Fidel Castro’s personal fortune, would they let us hear about it?
If a simple personal blog of opinions brings down the entire repressive apparatus against a citizen, it makes chills run down my spine to imagine what would happen to someone who created a page of leaks and declassifications.
But, let’s look at that; authoritarian regimes don’t leave their footprints on paper. Their archives rarely contain anything that compromises them because orders are given verbally and without witnesses. They are specialists in sending someone to kill their adversaries merely by the raise of an eyebrow, fomenting guerrilla actions across a whole continent by whispering a few phrases, deploying nuclear missiles in their territory under the impunity of silence, and postponing for 15 years the publication of the death toll suffered in a war on African soil.
But what these systems that are enemies of information are most skilled in, is detecting potential Julian Assanges within their own countries. They sniff them out from when they are young, when they ask questions here and poke around there, when they don’t go along with the pap that passes for news on official TV and try to investigate further.
They watch them from the minute they start to question what’s wrong and stick their noses into some thorny issues. And then they act quickly against them. Either buying them with some ephemeral privileges, or making their lives impossible so they’ll go into exile, or demonizing them so no one will believe them.
There is no way to become a Julian Assange in Cuba and stay alive, believe me.
23 August 2012