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WikiLeaks, Stratfor and Fisher’s Joke

Max Fisher, an associated editor at The Atlantic recently wrote a piece called: “Stratfor Is a Joke and So Is WikiLeaks for Taking It Seriously.”

In this brilliant article by its equally brilliant author, Fisher argues that the release of around five million private emails by the infamous pro-transparency organization is snooze-worthy because Stratfor isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.  Fisher adds that the move by WikiLeaks was “probably a combination of naivete and desperation”.

To prove his point, Fisher wrote, WikiLeaks is declining rapidly, their finances are shrinking, their organization is disintegrating, and their credibility with his past media partners is mostly gone.

He adds that the hype over Stratfor itself was a result of the intelligence firm’s marketing campaign that apparently fooled Anonymous, wealthy clients, and a couple of reporters.

Let’s seriously look at these points he brought up and consider what the available facts are.

Is WikiLeaks declining rapidly?

Fisher does not really elaborate on this, he does however have a hyperlink that leads to an article written by Matthew Ingram for GigaOM (I’ve never heard of it myself ). Ingram is a Canadian award-winning journalist who previous wrote for the Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto. Ingram’s key proof of WikiLeaks decline is it’s partnership not with “respectable” British or US newspapers, rather it’s list of partners this time “includes outlets like Al Akhbar in Lebanon, Bivol in Bulgario and La Nacion in Coast Rica” and concludes, “Not exactly a who’s who of mainstream media sources, in order words.”

This is a position I’ve read repeatedly in a number American news agencies the last couple of days.

Look, this is quickly becoming a multi-polar world. The centers of power are shifting else where. Credibility isn’t defined automatically by being a “Western”…Do I really have to point this out?

It seems these Americans don’t understand that there exists other credible news agencies beyond the so-called ‘West’. I have to ask, even though I know the answer, has Fisher or Ingram ever read Al Akhbar? Have they taken the time to see the material within the newspaper in English and Arabic? Have they dealt with the journalists, editors, and other employees within the Lebanese newspaper? Or are they just assuming that because it’s not a British or American news agency, therefore it must terrible, flawed, and not worth anyone’s time?

Clearly, Fisher and Ingram has not been paying attention to the international media scene, because in places like India, Sweden, Turkey, Lebanon, and more the revelations coming out of the ‘Global Intelligence Files’ has been rocking those places. But I guess since they aren’t American or British it doesn’t matter…I think that says much about the inherent arrogance, racism, and sheer ignorance. Look, this is quickly becoming a multi-polar world. The centers of power are shifting else where. Credibility isn’t defined automatically by being a “Western”…Do I really have to point this out?

WikiLeaks is currently coordinating and working with over 25 international media organizations, from Australia to Argentina. The previous leaks involved the coordination of a handful of big names, or as in the word’s of Ingram, “the who’s who”. Does this really look like a sign that its declining? Are we going to ignore all other news organization because they aren’t branded well, or at least branded within the North America and Western Europe? What or who determines this value anyways, and how do they determine this? It wasn’t that long ago when Al Jazeera (apparently a ‘who’s who’ now) was not taken seriously by those real journalists in the West…

Let’s be frank here, the main of these supposedly reputable newspapers that Fisher and Ingram covet so much, particularly the New York Times, is really not all that cracked up to be. Glenn Greenwald, a a damn good writer for Salon, has consistently shown the problematic standards within the NYT and other “who’s who” in Western news agencies, especially in regards to reporting on PakistanAfghanistan, West Asia, and coverage of the Occupy Movement in America. Don’t get me started on how terrible these Western news agencies have been during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and even now in regards to coverage on Iran. Here is Glenn explaining why he supports what WikiLeaks does in an interview with Democracy Now. He notes (emphasis mine):

“Well, for one thing, I would point to the fact that, over the last year, the newsworthy scoops that have been generated by WikiLeaks exceed the number of newsworthy scoops of all other media outlets combined. It is virtually impossible to read a story, a news story, about any of the countries in the Middle East that are undergoing such turmoil, or U.S. military programs in Iraq or Afghanistan, without reference to documents that WikiLeaks has disclosed…So the amount of light that has been shed on the national security state, which has been operating under an extreme and dangerous level of secrecy for the last decade, at least, is inconceivable, that nobody could have thought that that level of transparency was possible.

And if you think that government secrecy is one of the gravest threats to how our governments function, that it’s the linchpin of abuse, then you ought to be welcoming transparency that WikiLeaks is bringing, especially if you’re a journalist who ostensibly is devoted to shining light on what the world’s most powerful factions are doing. And if the opposite is true, they’ve been the most hostile — these journalists have — in first calling for WikiLeaks’s prosecution and then in condemning them. And I think it gives the lie to the idea that they’re devoted to transparency and disclosure.”

What’s interesting is that both Ingram and Fisher link to articles by Foreign Policy and the New York Times that claim that WikiLeaks is declining to prove there point. I demand other sources because, like Greenwald pointed out above, there are major and legitimate issues with how these agencies view WikiLeaks, especially after much of its major leaks in 2010, which involved the US government.

What struck me is that so far WikiLeaks has only released 608 emails (at the time of this writing)out of a total of 5 million. How can one possibly make a judgment in the quality and value of the available information when only 0.0012 % of the entire material has been released? Is this the high standards of Western journalism that us in the non-West  world have been lectured about?

One thing I don’t get is Fisher’s point towards WikiLeaks shrinking fiances as another mark of its decline. Um, Fisher…it’s finances are declining because major credit card companies, like PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard are actively blocking the payments and not because people do not want to send in money. I guess that little tid-bit doesn’t really matter in your awesome journalistic standards.

The other argument that Fisher makes is that Stratfor itself is a joke. Well…gosh. If it was such a joke, why were their reports cited commonly in the Western press? Why were their members interviewed for insight in Bloomberg, CNN, and elsewhere? If they were such a joke, why was there intelligence sharing between Stratfor and a number of US and Israeli government/security agencies? And if Stratfor was a joke, why were major companies like Haliburton, Dow Chemicals, and others (include major weapons manufacturers and much much more) relying on the organizations for intelligence and questionable acts of financial corruption and spying? If Stratfor really was a joke, why has the US Marine Corps and other government military/security agencies looked towards Stratfor to teach them about intelligence?

Fisher’s genius answer to this was apparently Stratfor’s great marketing…Should I even bother explaining how silly that sounds. And suppose Fisher is right, that it all came down to some nifty marketing, isn’t that kind of problematic that major corporations and government agencies are throwing mucho cash at a firm that’s apparently “a joke”? And isn’t it problematic that major corporations are asking an intelligence firm, whether its a joke or not, to spy on activists?

What have the released emails (again remember only 600 have been released out of five million) show or even emphasize?

And there are still more to rife through.

There is nothing new in the reactions by news agencies in the US. This has been a typical reaction, so stale and boring, with every release that WikiLeaks has done. For the Fisher, and those of his ilk, in their “who’s who” ivory tower, these revelations may be meaningless. For the rest of the global community (which vastly outnumber the who’s who) and bear the brunt of expressions of Western political, military, and economic power, this is far from being a joking matter.


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