// Posted by Patrick on 02/26/2013 (7:28 PM)
An interesting question was brought up during class that compared the reactions of the public to people such as Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange in different time periods. Ellsberg was responsible for the leak of the Pentagon… Read more
An interesting question was brought up during class that compared the reactions of the public to people such as Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange in different time periods. Ellsberg was responsible for the leak of the Pentagon Papers, while Assange is the creator and public face of the highly controversial Wikileaks web page. In 1971 Ellsberg handed over copies of controversial and top secret documents that Ellsburg said, ”demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents, the violation of their oath and the violation of the oath of every one of their subordinates”. He gave them to the New York Times and they started publishing documents that proved that government officials were purposely concealing the truth about the Vietnam war and how bad the situation really was. This document was immensely important when it was published, as the Vietnam war was already a highly protested war these papers only added fuel to the fire. It is interesting to compare the impact of this leak to the impact of Wikileaks today. Wikileaks is a website that obtains official classified government documents from anonymous sources, with Julian Assange being the figure head of the website. Wikileaks claims to have millions of classified documents that it is waiting to release at a time of their choosing. Even though they claim to have mass amounts of classified material, interest in the site is dwindling.
Why is Wikileaks, with all its classified documents waiting to be published, not making a bigger impact in the world today? Compared to the pentagon papers Wikileaks is not as influential even though it contains multiple times the classified information that the pentagon papers had. I believe that this lack of interest in Wikileaks is due to a changing of culture. When the pentagon papers were published it was front page of all the newspapers of the time as this was the only way information was available to the public. I believe a lack of technology is actually the reason why the pentagon papers made such a massive impact. People did not have all the resources that are available today so when some new information was presented to the public they ate it up. This need for information from newspapers has changed as the digital world evolved. Now people are overrun with information, from email, internet, television, and social networks, people are constantly being fed information. I believe that because of this plethora of information available today the public is numb to internet leaks like the ones provided by Wikileaks.
It may seem counter intuitive to say that people receive less information today than they did in the time of the pentagon papers, and it may be. However I believe that people of this day and age pick and choose what information makes an impact on their lives. With pop culture expanding I believe that people are more interested in the latest trends and celebrity gossip then a government document that has little to no impact on their lives. Some argue that Wikileaks is not as influential as it could be due to the antics of Julian Assange, who is currently being accused of sexual assault. While this may have some impact on the website I believe the true reason behind a reduced interest is a numbing of the public to information, due the the sheer amount of information that is available right at their fingertips.