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Funhouse Morality


This article accuses the anti-WikiLeakers of hypocrisy and/or double standards. It strikes me as a hall of two-way mirrors. What you see depends on where the light is shining. When we accuse an opponent of using situational ethics, we implicate our own use of “flexible standards”:

If "a single foreign national is rounded up and put in jail" because of the WikiLeaks disclosure -- even a "single one" -- then the entire WikiLeaks enterprise is proven to be a "disaster" and "Assange is a criminal" who "should be in jail."  That's quite a rigorous moral standard.  So let's apply it elsewhere:

What about the most destructive "anarchic exercise in 'freedom'" the planet has known for at least a generation:  the "human disaster" known as the attack on Iraq…

But be careful not to mention Obama’s orders for extra-judicial killings in Pakistan and Yemen, to pick one example. In the PoMo lefty world of moral relativism, hypocrisy is only bad when righties use it.

Another detail of import is the process by which secrets are kept and revealed. Decisions about which secrets to keep are made under a set of protocols by a large and complex organization (government). What to leak is decided by essentially one guy. If one has faith in governments to manage national economies and national health care, one must accept that the decisions about secretizing stuff are the product of conversation and deliberation. That’s how bureaucracies operate. They’re not “lone cowboy” operations like WikiLeaks seems to be.

The nature of bureaucracy inhibits the ability of any single personality to make rash decisions that might lead to unexpected suffering. Since WikiLeaks is not a bureaucracy, its ethics are more direct and personal. And therefore more likely subject to individual error or clouded judgment.

Not that bureaucratic judgments are free from error:

[Matt Yglesias is] certainly right when he says that "for a third time in a row, a WikiLeaks document dump has conclusively demonstrated that an awful lot of US government confidentiality is basically about nothing," but I'd quibble with his next observation:

There’s no scandal here and there’s no legitimate state secret. It’s just routine for the work done by public servants and public expense in the name of the public to be kept semi-hidden from the public for decades.

It is a "scandal" when the Government conceals things it is doing without any legitimate basis for that secrecy. Each and every document that is revealed by WikiLeaks which has been improperly classified -- whether because it's innocuous or because it is designed to hide wrongdoing -- is itself an improper act, a serious abuse of government secrecy powers.

Keep in mind that Salon is a favorite of my lefty acquaintances and that Matt Yglesias is, “a prominent voice in the liberal blogosphere.” Do you see the grand hypocrisy in the leftoid worldview? Government cannot be trusted—even when controlled by Democrats in the House, Senate and White House—but on essentially every issue that does not involve a fetus, we need them to meddle ever deeper in our lives.

The article continues:

Because we're supposed to have an open government -- a democracy -- everything the Government does is presumptively public, and can be legitimately concealed only with compelling justifications. That's not just some lofty, abstract theory; it's central to having anything resembling "consent of the governed."

But we have completely abandoned that principle; we've reversed it. Now, everything the Government does is presumptively secret; only the most ceremonial and empty gestures are made public. That abuse of secrecy powers is vast, deliberate, pervasive, dangerous and destructive.

I am in complete agreement that government rampantly abuses its powers. I say government, due to its incentives, is inherently immoral. Kind of like sending you kids to a day care run by “reformed” pedophiles. So I just don’t understand how people see the flawed nature of the state with one eye while looking to give it more power with the other. They’re living in a logical Funhouse.

H/T: Naked Capitalism