Wikileaks Doomed?

Julian Assange and his Wikileaks organization were certainly last year’s hottest sensation, at least when it came to the media realm, with Assange figuring closely in many “Man of the Year” calculations. Fine, but what of 2011? A certain Florian Rötzer, writing for the German website Telepolis (Wikileaks is still only dripping) offers an unconventional prognosis.

The starting-point to Rötzer’s thinking lies in his headline’s verb, tröpfeln: to drip. After all, it’s a veritable flood of a quarter-of-a-million classified cables that were supposed to be on offer – where are they? Granted, there have been a number of headline-making revelations, but you really would expect there to have been even more by now! Specifically, Rötzer’s cites “on average” (?) only 20 cables having been published, with the latest disclosure consisting of only two more coming public on 28 December.

Frankly, his figures seem a little funny to me, but that is only my personal hunch because it’s actually a bit difficult to meter in any dependable way the flow of Wikileaks revelations. The “source” Wikileaks website has been rather difficult to access, as it has been pursued from one top-level domain and URL to another by DDOS attacks. But that has never been the main publication means in any event; rather, the point from the beginning was to pass the documents to various high-profile media outlets (the New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, etc.) and let them publish them, of course after the editors at those publications had had the chance to look the materials over and edit them. And yes, this process was always envisioned to involve no sort of huge document-dump, but rather piece-by-piece transmission – I just wasn’t aware (and still halfway doubt) that it was happening at any sort of “dripping” pace.

In any case, that’s this Herr Rötzer’s assessment. It’s also the assessment of one John Young, who has run for some years now Cryptome, which looks to be an avant-la-lettre Wikileaks competitor site. That’s just so you’re aware of Young’s position and the attitudes that could flow from that . . . he points out that, at this rate, it’s going to take about 35 years to bring out all of Wikileaks’ classified State Department cables into public view, and basically dismisses the whole organization as nothing more than an “advertisement- and spending-vehicle for Assange.”

That’s more-or-less the conclusion Rötzer draws as well. If the revelations are just trickling out this way, that could very well reflect the parlous state of Wikileaks’ finances (since most worldwide credit cards and payment systems have stopped processing Wikileaks payments) as well as disintegrating internal morale (e.g. too little staff left to edit/process documents). What’s more, Assange is now apparently engaged in a get-a-book-written race with his estranged former colleague (and Openleaks founder -“coming soon!”) Daniel Domscheit-Berg; he who gets his book published first will presumably earn more from it, in addition to being able to set the terms of any debate.

Wikileaks: Ready to crumble, even without any outside help? Sorry, here I can only resort to the words of the great Doonesbury philosopher Roland Hedley III: “Time will tell.”

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