Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Not About Wikileaks

HBGary Federal, a private security firm, has been advising Bank of America how to respond to the threat of more data dumps from Wikileaks. Since the relevant memos from HBGary have themselves been leaked, we know that the recommended response is preemptive attack on Wikileak supporters including the Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald. One of HBGary’s bullet points reassures the bankers: “These are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them will chose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals.”

At the moment, I have nothing to add to the debate about Wikileaks; but I note the oddity that an important, if not central fact of American political life can appear in a private Power Point presentation as a truism and yet seldom be mentioned or commented upon in a public venue, presumably because this particular truism is, in fact, true. For many professions, prostituting one’s self is an integral part of the trade and counts as the prudence expected of an adult. Thus, American journalists, at least the sensible ones, only rock the boat as a bargaining maneuver. They have to represent themselves as a potential threat to the powers that be in order to satisfy their armour propre and command a higher price for their later good behavior. There is a place for honest reportage—Glenn Greenwald isn’t going to shut up—but the commercial niche for principled commentary is very narrow and generally doesn’t pay enough in an era in which professional people expect to be extremely affluent.