The WikiLeaks story is dramatic on so many levels, with a character at center stage, Julian Assange, worthy of Shakespeare: accused of sexual impropriety and putting lives at risk, touting an idealistic mission of transforming global geopolitics by turning them inside-out, inspiring the creation of a hall of mirror-sites and spawning cyber-attacks on his behalf and counterattacks from all corners. I’m not sure which Act we’re in right now. I am sympathetic to many of the ostensible aims of WikiLeaks in terms of opening and framing a discussion about the actual motives of U.S. foreign policy, and/or making for a more accurate assessment of body counts, especially innocent civilian deaths, for instance, which may have been covered up in Afghanistan and so forth. But that’s not exactly what I’m interested in pursuing here. Rather, what I want to start to explore is this idea of transparency that has become part of our common parlance–at once meme, metaphor, value, tool, call to action, and presumption–and I want to initiate a conversation about its pervasiveness, its relationship to selfhood and privacy, as well as why we are (rightly, I think) so conflicted about it.
The conflict is this: transparency is desirable in many situations–when it comes to how charitable organizations spend donations, when it comes to what corporate lobbyist met with what senator and how many times, as well as what their voting record was. But things get a little stickier when it comes to the self. How many of us, for instance, want to live here?