Should we judge the man or the issue?
The issues raised by Wikileaks are many and tangled. There is one set which is about transparency, whistleblowing and access to information. Those against transparency, often in the security services, cite arguments about the potential damage that knowing the truth could entail. Could it? Unfortunately we will never be able to know because the security services also say they do not want the whole truth to be revealed.
Then there is the set of issues about the sexual allegations against Julian Assange. Again it is difficult to know how much truth there is in these – partly because Assange himself will not submit to the Swedish legal process.
Suppose that the Swedish allegations are well-founded. How does that affect the transparency issues? It doesn’t. Does immoral behaviour in one area of life wholly discredit everything else that that person does? It doesn’t. Does delivering transparency automatically excuse sexual harassment? It doesn’t. But neither does one failing condemn everything that person has done.
So should we judge the man or the issue? Maybe we should judge both. But we should not let those judgements influence each other.
What about the corporate sector role in all this? Outside the media, this mainly seems to concern the financial sector which has joined forces through membership organisations such as Visa to deny Wikileaks its payment services. The best that can be said is that they started this blockade before the sexual allegations emerged. But why? Visa has issued no press releases on the topic.
And it does seem odd that the financial sector, which really hasn’t done it’s best to position itself as the world’s moral arbiter in recent years, should take this role upon itself.