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Campus Media Response: WikiLeaks and the New Face of Nihilism

In an incisive piece in MIT’s The Tech, Keith Yost writes the following regarding the recent WikiLeaks scandal, in which tens of thousands of stolen classified American military and diplomatic documents were released on the Internet by the website’s operator, Julian Assange:

As he hides behind this reasoning, Assange has released the Social Security numbers of U.S. military personnel, opening them up to identity theft. He has revealed the names of Afghan civilians who collaborate with U.S. forces, a move that was greeted with joy by Taliban commanders, who quickly promised to hunt down and execute those named. He has betrayed the identities of human rights activists and journalists who, at great risk to themselves, passed information on their conditions to U.S. diplomats. In discussing one source, a diplomat pleads: “Please Protect,” and for good reason — with the informant’s identity now known, there is a serious risk that this the poor woman who trusted the United States will be whisked off to prison or worse.

Mr. Assange and his conspirators tell us they are part of a “New Journalism,” unmotivated by profit or partisanship (never mind their past attempts to auction off their finds or the unabashed ideological spin that accompanies their leaks). But the truth is that their motivation is as old as time itself; like small children playing with fires, fascinated with their own power to destroy, Assange and company are setting the world aflame merely to watch it burn. They are not crusaders for a better society. They are nihilists. They are anarchists. And they are enemies of the United States.

Yost is right. Some young people today are celebrating Julian Assange as a rebel who is bravely crusading against authoritarian institutions. In the past, WikiLeaks may have uncovered corrupt government practices worthy of public scrutiny. But Yost makes clear that the most recent revelations serve no positive purpose. Assange’s blasé indifference to the safety and lives of American servicemen and the Iraqi and Afghan citizens who support them gives the lie to the claim that he is motivated by a passion for peace and freedom.

Read the rest of Yost’s article for more about why we should condemn this act as destruction for the sake of destruction and what the Obama administration should do about this dangerous violation of American security interests.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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Valery Publius is the pen name of a teacher living in the American South.