Arnold: Are the Internet’s Days Numbered? Assange’s Disappearance is Sign of the Times

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Fort Russ News’ Special Editor, Jafe Arnold, was recently interviewed on the situation surrounding Julian Assange and Wikileaks for Radio Sputnik’s Trendstorm program hosted by Andrew Korybko. The radio interview can be listened to here. Below we present the transcript of the interview for our readers. 

Andrew Korybko: How much influence does Wikileaks wield in shaping perceptions and driving debates in today’s interconnected social media world?

Jafe Arnold: Thanks for having me on Andrew. Really, I think that the influence of Wikileaks should not be underestimated. It is not only Assange or a website, and it is not even so much of a question of what Wikileaks leaks as what Wikileaks represents. In my opinion, we have to understand that Wikileaks is a unique response to a very dangerous trend in the West: that trend is the subordination of media, freedoms, and privacy to Western power strategies, foreign policies, and deep states. So, while Wikileaks’ detractors argue that it is undermining state sovereignty and security, it is crucial to remember that Wikileaks is actually  largely exposing how Western surveillance, military, and media operations themselves are the ones destroying states’ sovereignties and security around the world and stripping their own citizens of privacy and rights. All the liberal criticisms of Wikileaks alleging that it undermines democracy are distractions from what Wikileaks is and has done.

And what has Wikileaks done? It’s exposed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s exposed the utter corruption within the American political establishment, it’s exposed CIA espionage and infiltration of sovereign democracies, and most notably Wikileaks’ exposure of Hillary Clinton’s dealings was an influential factor in the 2016 US presidential elections.

And with this in mind, I think that Wikileaks, yes, absolutely does wield influence in shaping perceptions and driving debates. But I would qualify that Wikileaks is not so much of an answer, as it is a backlash or sign of the times. Wikileaks is confirming long-held suspicions that Washington and Western power centers have completely eschewed the liberal whims of democracy, transparency, and civil rights which they claim to have the right to force on all other countries. And in doing so, Wikileaks represents one particular, if you will, “hacktivist” wing of new media and citizen journalism. Could this hacktivism prove to be a double-edged sword and also hurt those states who are trying to defend their sovereignty against the West’s subversive operations? Absolutely. But that’s part of a bigger debate on cyberspace and sovereignty law which we are just now starting to facie in the 21st century amidst the massive paradigm shift with the decline of unipolarity and the rise of multipolarity.

For now, Wikileaks has been influential in finally discrediting mainstream Western media, exposing just how corrupt Western political establishments are, and exposing much of the hypocrisy behind Western foreign policy rhetoric. In this sense, I would say that Wikileaks is proving that we can’t address the challenges of 21st century international relations, we can’t effectively figure out cyberspace, sovereignty law, and rights and privacy in the 21st century without transcending the liberal and Atlanticist paradigm, which Wikileaks shown to be utterly corrupt. This is why Wikileaks is so important, in my opinion. It is part of new media, it is part of the transition to a new paradigm, it is driving debates in this direction, and the fact that Western governments, particularly Washington, have not been able to quell this threat shows just how caught off guard and in decline they really are.

Korybko: This is very interesting, Jafe, and you sure touch on a lot of important issues with this. Now, I want to ask you: what was cutting off Assange’s internet access supposed to accomplish, and how successful would you assess this tactic as being in that regard in light of everything which you’ve just explained?

Arnold: To be honest, I think that cutting off Assange’s internet was a kind of symbolic move. It was supposed to be a kind of warning to Assange that if his activism continues to be influential in shaping and exposing international relations, then he’ll be unplugged. But I think that this symbolism hurts the West, particularly the US, much more than it does Assange. To clarify, I say the West and in particular the US because it’s difficult to really consider Ecuador acting alone or independently here, especially since, like you said, the new Ecuadorian President has “coincidentally” reneged on the popular multipolarist project in Ecuador at the same time that the US has shifted new emphasis onto Latin America.

But to get back to my point, I think that this symbolic move is more indicative of the West’s predicament than it is fatal to Wikileaks. The US-led Western Atlanticist project has been in such decline that it’s gotten to the point that they feel the need to just pull the plug, to just shut off the internet. This is a warning to opponents of Atlanticism and proponents of new media across the globe to the tune of: if you go too far, we will just disconnect the internet. I think that this is a really, really crystal clear sign of the state in which the West finds itself and its increasing inability to handle media and information. They’re ready to just pull the plug on the internet if it goes too far against them in exposing their operations. This is also why I’d like to stress that it is extremely important that the states working on an alternative to declining unipolarity and those actors building multipolarity develop their own internets.

Korybko: You’ve just described some very scary symbolism that is really dystopian and is the true definition of totalitarianism. Now, Jafe, just to wrap everything up, you spoke about how Wikileaks is a decentralized network that doesn’t technically need Assange in order to continue functioning, so what effect – if any – do you think his possible extradition would have on its operations?

Arnold: Like I said in the beginning, I think that Wikileaks is not only Assange. It is part of a bigger process, it is decentralized like much of new media, and while any extradition of Assange would be a scandal, a really deplorable case of political repression, it’s too late to stop the ball from rolling by locking up one man. If anything, it would only show that Wikileaks and similar initiatives are not individuals, they are millions of people who are fed up with Western media disinformation and Western policies, who can’t all be locked up. And this is why the whole Wikileaks saga, in my opinion, really shows the corner which the West has backed itself into, and its inability to prevent the rise of new media or stop the world from moving away from the US-dominated order whose crimes, destruction, and decline Wikileaks is just one initiative to have exposed…

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