Short Paper on Wikileaks: Utilitarian View
How transparent to publicity is an international political arena? More general question is, should everything be revealed to everyone? One British journalist stated in article in Guardian: “Information wants to be free, but it just needs a little help. ” I think that this is a sort of statements that strongly polarizes the modern society. This ongoing dispute has found its milestone in creation of well-known journalistic initiative called Wikileaks. The heat around Wikileaks topic is still kept in social media.
It has been one of the headliners for many years, starting from 2006, when the group of activists registered the domain name of this notorious project, reason for this social turbulence. The story behind Wikileaks was turned into an action movie, making society actively engage into discussion. The story behind Wikileaks was turned into an action movie, making society actively engage into discussion. To set the starting point and expand our discussion, we should understand how the Wikileaks topic would be projected onto the scope of one of such systems of values.
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What is the utilitarian vision of free information? Definition of utilitarianism states that a proper or moral action is one that maximizes utility or happiness. In other words, utilitarian considers something is moral if the plurality benefits from it. Clearly one of the parties that benefits from disclosing classified information are regular people, not directly involved in anything published by Wikileaks. They had a chance to read the classified documentation, secret governmental conversations and backstage activity among politicians.
For example, Wikileaks published 779 secret materials relating to prisoners detained in the Guantanamo detention camp. In my opinion, majority of disclosed information did not surprise readers, but only confirmed their assumptions and suspicions. I don’t think learning about the secret conversation between American military and Saudi government concerning imminent military actions against Islamic Republic of Iran shocked a majority of people. But nonetheless, people were able to see the evidence of their assumptions.
Next question is, what is the proportion of those who were affected by Wikileaks’ actions and actually gained more than they lost? I think we are talking about a relatively miniscule part. Indeed, let’s say some company X has found out, through Wikileaks documents, that country Y is planning to forcefully buy its controlling share by sabotaging its board of directors. And days after that, Wikileaks posts the secret e-mail conversation, in which top managers of company X are favoring some employees because of their religious convictions. Wikileaks has given slaps on their wrists to both X and Y, and it probably hurts worse for one of them.
In other words, no one is insured from getting his or her secrets exposed – as the same British columnist said, “governments and corporations with dirty laundry should be afraid, very afraid. ” If we visualize it using directed graph, then there is a very small number of nodes with no incoming edges, meaning they at least did not lose anything on an absolute scale. But there is also another side of this issue. I think that not revealing almost a half of Wikileaks documents could hypothetically maximize utility for many parties.
As we know, people do not always react adequately to information from provoking mass media. Waves of protest movements and violence acts took places around the world after some compromising documents were published. Many governmental employees, journalists and other professionals could quit their jobs due to some ideology conflict. In my opinion, Wikileaks could contribute into exacerbating a disorder in third world countries, which could lead to unforeseen circumstances. Of course this is just my opinion, an exaggerated version of real reaction of society.
Nevertheless, it is realistic enough to be seriously considered. Finally, would it be appropriate to call Wikileaks’ actions proper from utilitarian point of view? To sum up our discussion, there were many of those who both suffered and gained from Wikileaks project. I assume that there are more parties who gained more than it suffered and few of those who had an absolute advantage from it. In short, I think overall utility amount isn’t very large, but high enough to pass the utilitarian bar and to be considered morally right from on utilitarian ethical framework.