21 Oct 2013

How whistleblowing went mainstream

Another day, another leak of information from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – this time detailing allegations that the National Security Agency spied on French mobile phone communications.


Having just watched two films on WikiLeaks – the excellent We Steal Secrets and the less-than-excellent Cumberbatch-fest The Fifth Estate – it struck me there’s an argument that traditional media has performed a neat piece of judo on its younger online rival.

After all, the Snowden leaks are exactly the kind of thing WikiLeaks made its name on – huge volumes of data on security subjects that can be released en masse and data mined by the crowd.

A few years back, it would have been a no-brainer for Snowden that WikiLeaks was the right forum for his expose.

The fact that it’s The Guardian, among other traditional media, which has published the revelations is partly, of course, a reflection of WikiLeaks’ diminished state since the self-imposed incarceration of its founder Julian Assange.

But it also shows how, whether through luck or design, The Guardian has acknowledged, absorbed, and moved beyond WikiLeaks. By offering to confer authority on WikiLeaks’ biggest stories – the Afghan war logs and diplomatic cables – The Guardian neatly cemented its position as a destination for whistleblowers.

Now, sources like Snowden head straight for The Guardian, rather than bothering with WikiLeaks. It seems the site’s USP – that leaks are publishing unedited – is less appealing than the clout offered by mainstream media.

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3 reader comments

  1. Arbed says:

    The “excellent” We Steal Secrets? Only someone who knows nothing of the facts about Wikileaks can say that.

    There really is no excuse for a documentary maker to interview a woman making allegations of sexual assault, juxtapose that interview with a photograph from the police forensic evidence file of the torn, “used” condom she handed to police, and then NOT tell his viewers that the forensic lab ALSO found that the condom in question didn’t have any DNA on it – not even hers. Clearly, she’s handed in fake evidence and, clearly, that must have been obvious to Alex Gibney when he read the police file during his research. Reputable filmmakers don’t do that, and Alex Gibney’s willingness to knowingly use false evidence in this film can only lead to the question “What else isn’t true in this movie?”

    Get the real facts here: http://wikileaks.org/IMG/html/gibney-transcript.html

  2. Marcus says:

    You say what else is true in the movie

    well that’s what movies are all about fiction, the problem with this bit of fiction it effect millions of males, look at the witch-hunt going on just now, about females saying they was raped ,abused 20 or so years ago. Its about money…fo the most part . ever hear of a man claiming rape against a woman or she assaulted me 20 years ago..

    look on some of the documentary’s on TV showing mostly females its called the Bouncers in South Wales.. looking at them it was not possible to tell how old they are..in any event the law it seems is being tailored by the media, they themselves are looking for fame..

  3. Marcus says:

    (National Security Agency spied on French mobile phone communications)

    So what’s new. You cannot walk down a street go in a store without some kind of surveillance

    its nothing to do with spies its to keep us the people under control, with rising inflation ,corrupt politics, MPs without the news papers publishing without whistle blowers.. we would be fed rubbish.
    Also the same people who are involved with running our fine country are for the most part very rich ..they can afford petrol.

    They don’t care about electricity prices, the wars created by politicians the lies they made up to frighten the population, anybody could be classed has a whistle blower.

    Try voicing your opinions..in places that matter ..and I am sure you will be on somebody’s list
    as I write…anyone of us could be a whistle blower..

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